Her small hands and compact frame belie the enormous experience contained in Annette Januzzi Wick. At the age of 34, Wick lost the love of her life, Devin, to leukemia. Since then she has worked countless hours to chronicle her experiences in I'll Be in the Car, a memoir recently published by the Loveland resident.
"First and foremost," Wick explains over a glass of wine, "I want readers to know that they're not alone if they've been through a similar situation."
From her husband's initial presentation of symptoms through a move to the Pacific Northwest for experimental treatment with their young son and ultimately a journey back to the Tristate to try to rebuild her life, Wick's sojourn is interspersed with picturesque descriptions of the beaches and small towns on the Oregon coast and the struggles to maintain a life and an identity for herself while living with her husband's cancer.
"I also wanted to provide an education of sorts for people who have never lost someone to cancer," she says, "so that they have a better understanding and more compassion if it does come into their lives."
A smile sneaks across her face. "And I hope readers will appreciate the Oregon Coast and come to love it the way I do."
Though her journey is a personal one, Wick has found that her readers can relate.
"Loss is a universal story," she says.
"We all struggle with something that's missing, or something we've lost."
As she recounts in the book, sitting in hospital hallways afforded Wick plenty of time to keep a journal and write letters home to her family in Ohio. She started a tradition of writing one letter per day to keep her mother and other loved ones informed. Her mother saved the letters, which, along with her journals from the time, formed the backbone of the story.
"The experience of (Devin's illness) created the book," she says, taking another sip. "It forced us into an unnatural, foreign world that felt worthwhile to share with others. I looked at the experience as a whole and thought, 'Well, there's a story there. There's a beginning and an end, a whole lot of stuff in between.' "
Wick honed her skills in the halls of Women Writing for (a) Change, a feminist creative writing center that encourages the use of writing in community as an important creative, spiritual and therapeutic practice. According to Wick, telling her story was the easy part; the challenge came in getting it published.
"The writing was ... feelings and descriptions of a place and time," she says. "But packaging it together for readers and publishers was hard. How do you condense a lifetime into an elevator pitch? It's a love story, a coming-of-age story for a young woman ... there are so many different stories in one book, and that made it hard to capture in one sentence what it's all about. It's a really intimate portrait of a marriage and a death."
The intimacy caused the first-time author to lose a little sleep at night.
"The week before the book was released, I was out of my mind. 'What's my mom going to think? What is Davis (Wick's son) going to think?' " she laughs. "But I think the honesty is what readers will appreciate the most."
For now, Wick is just happy that the publishing process is behind her and that others will finally get to read her story, get to know Devin, Davis and a life with and beyond cancer.
"(Devin) will always be my first inspiration," she says. "He always told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do. We all need that one person in our life who believes in us."
Annette Wick will read from and sign I'll Be in the Car at 2 p.m. Saturday at Borders Booksellers in Mason.