From the time I scribbled in the back of my blue pressed cardboard notebook in the fifth grade, penning a childish attempt at a novel, I knew I wanted to be an author.

It took a number of decades, a lot of living, more words than I can count, and endless efforts to make the leap.

My dream and goal was always to write a novel but it was always something I would do someday.

One day, with twin toddlers, I realized if I didn't try to write a novel then, I might never do it. I didn't want to look back as an old woman with regret because I never did. My dad always taught me that there's no such word as can't so at the craziest time ever, I started writing a novel. I wore out a word processor in pursuit of the dream and then I wrote another.

That would eventually become my first accepted novel, Kinfolk, that was accepted by Champagne Books in 2010 and came out in both paperback and as an eBook in 2011. By then, I already had some other titles out.

My last two full length novels debuted in 2017 - Canaan's Land (World Castle Publishing) in January that year and Still Waters Run Deeper (Evernight Publishing) in October.

In November, my world and life shifted when my husband had the first of four surgeries. The first took place the day before Thanksgiving and the last in May 2018. Although the surgeries were related to back issues, the fact that he also had Parkinson's factored into his recovery. By then, I worked full-time at the Neosho Daily. I kept hope alive that we'd get back to the place we had been before that first surgery through five hospitals and eventually a long-term care facility. I put my writing career on hold to focus on Roy and our family. I still wrote, with his encouragement but not as much.

After he died in early 2019, it took time to find a new path in life. I worked on fits and starts but nothing really worked until this year.

Now, I am well into writing a new novel, which has no working title, and recently had a Christmas idea I'm calling Scrooge and Marlee. I hope to finish it in time to submit for the holiday season by August 1, then I will return to the other.

Being a widow has been a journey and I'm still making it, one day at a time. But although I may no longer be a wife, I am still a writer and writers write. I'm back at the keyboard in my scant spare time and there should be at least one title out late this year.

After all, like my dad always said there's no such word as can't - so I can and I will.

-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the community editor for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also an author.