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  • Writer's pictureSofiya Pasternack

A Real Life Update | The Home Stretch

Content Warning: cancer (leukemia)

(I don't have it, this is not a cancer announcement post)

Back in 2017, several pretty big things happened in my life.

Foremost, my dad passed away from cancer a week after my birthday. It was a long time coming (he'd been sick for years and didn't ever see an oncologist), and usually when we talked on the phone, I'd yell at him about his particular type of leukemia and how it was very treatable and if he'd just give treatment a chance, it might extend his functional life by several years.

Well... he didn't listen to me.

And when it finally came down to the end, I did what any ICU nurse would do, and I made sure he didn't linger. That sounds ominous. I did not smother him with a pillow or anything. But I had frank conversations with the hospice nurse practitioner (NP) who was covering his case, and she helped my siblings and I say goodbye. My dad loved to play the guitar, so my brother sat by his bedside and played songs for him as he died. The last song my brother played for him was this one:

I helped my brother set up my dad's funeral, and all the kids went to his house and cleaned up as much stuff as we could, and we spent some quality time together because we all live far apart from each other and we don't see each other as much as we should.

Then I went back home, back to the neurotrauma ICU, back to writing. I don't dwell. I have to keep moving.

I applied for Pitch Wars, and I applied for graduate school.


Pitch Wars

Pitch Wars back then was in late summer/early fall (I don't remember dates exactly). I worked night shifts in the neurotrauma ICU, and in the scant quiet moments between codes and new patients and routine ventricular drain care and hanging new medications, I was revising what would eventually become ANYA AND THE DRAGON.

Back then, Pitch Wars ended in November or thereabouts. Near Thanksgiving. I remember this date distinctly, because the agent who would go on to represent me, Rena Rossner, said she liked my manuscript and wanted to chat. It was Thanksgiving Day, and she said we didn't have to talk that day if I was busy, and even thought I was up to my elbow in a turkey's butt, I said OH I'M NOT BUSY.

So we talked and she offered me rep, and I danced a happy dance all day long as I emailed the other agents who had my full manuscript, and I informed them that I'd been offered rep and they better hurry if they want to offer, too.

In early December 2017, I signed with Rena!! In January 2018, I started working with her on my manuscript to get it ready for submission to editors.


Grad School

I loved working my ICU night shift, but my brain didn't. I never seemed to recover from the overnights. I gained a lot of weight. I developed sleep and memory problems. I never felt fully awake. The last six months of my ICU time is a blur in my mind. It wasn't great.

So I moved to an outpatient clinic at the cancer hospital near my house (shorter commute but worse parking). I managed about 150 patients in the multiple myeloma clinic there. I was on the phone with tiny clinics out in rural Utah, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. I hate making phone calls. But it was a 9-5 Monday to Friday no weekends job, and my poor exhausted night shift brain started to recover on a daytime schedule.

I applied for graduate nursing school in December 2017. The terminal degree for nurses is called a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which follows the specialty that nurse went into. My acronym will be PMHDNP, which stands for Psychiatric/Mental Health Doctor of Nursing Practice.

I was an obnoxious overachiever in my undergrad, so I had a pretty strong application package for the program. In January 2018, I found out I'd made it past the first barrier and had secured an interview with the program faculty, which would take place in March.


The Anniversary

I found out I'd gotten accepted to the PMHDNP program in mid-April. Woohoo! I'd begin class in August of that year, and I had a few months to get things in order, buy books, and gird up my loins for grad school.

Rena and I revised my manuscript, and it went out on submission to editors in April 2018. It didn't stay on submission very long, so by early May, I had a solid offer from HMH, which we took.

I'd gotten a full scholarship for the entire grad program (A BLESSING), so I informed my supervisor at the myeloma clinic that some time in June would be my last day working. We were going to visit my brother-in-law's family in Peru in June, so I figured the two weeks of vacation would be a good time to end my tenure at the clinic.

On May 22nd, Rena emailed me to ask for the author photo I wanted HMH to use in the deal announcement, which would be that Thursday, and I excitedly sent her my least-derpy photo.

On May 24th, my deal was announced, and I spent the entire day making clinic phone calls, and stealing moments between patient care to reply with "thank yous" to every congratulatory tweet and email I got.

I left work at 5pm, got into my car, and my brother sent a group text to all the siblings. It was an audio file of the song he'd played for my dad before he died.

And I absolutely lost it.

I sat in my car in the clinic parking lot for at least 20 minutes and sobbed. Ugly sobbed. Just. Hysterical crying.

It was an emotional night. I made it through. But... yeah. It was hard.

So here we are, almost three years later. I made it through graduate school. I debuted a novel. I published its sequel during a pandemic. I wrote a total of five manuscripts during that grad school time. And in a little over a month, I'll put on my clown costume regalia and prance across a stage to get hooded and get my diploma.

But in that month, I have a thesis to finish. And friends, I'm very tired. So I've been neglecting a lot of my social media, and also this website. Sorry about that! But I hope you all understand.

Once I graduate, expect a ridiculous amount of posts and website tinkering! I hope you're all doing swell.


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meet sofiya!

Sofiya Pasternack is a mental health professional, the highly-distractible author of Jewish MG and YA fantasy, and prone to oversharing gross medical stories.

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