Astrid came to me one winter day at work. I was perusing the database and the name Astrid caught my attention. I heard the inaudible words: That’s the name of your character. I looked around. Where did THAT come from? It was as mystical as it sounds. One minute I was aggravated by some work situation, the next minute I had a fully formed character in my head.
With the encouragement of a friend, I started exploring who this Astrid might be and what sort of story might come from her.
For a few days I wrote random things—I inserted Astrid into a fictional version of my current life. Then a few days after my 40th birthday, my car broke down amidst a rush hour commute. I was in the farthest left lane and suddenly lost acceleration. I calmly moved my car through a line of cars and made it to the right hand shoulder without causing a wreck.
Everything about the moment felt desolate: it was the coldest day of the New Year so far; I was separated now and couldn’t call my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I called AAA and my go-to, T. While I waited for help to arrive, I shivered and contemplated how vulnerable this moment felt and how much better it would feel if I had some working knowledge of what was happening under my hood.
A few days later as I was exploring Astrid’s story, I heard her say, I’m going to become a mechanic. I had no idea how I was going to make that happen or why this current writer in an office setting would become a mechanic. She told me to trust her, and I did. For the next seven months, Astrid’s story poured out of me and the writing was a balm during my most difficult days…
Now, I’m happy to introduce Astrid to the world in short excerpts from early drafts of her story. The 80,000 words I wrote were my effort to understand who Astrid is and what life had thrown her way. It would take longer for me to realize that thematically speaking, I’d written my own story.
Name: Astrid Thomas Cole
Occupation: English teacher
Hometown: Wheaton, Kansas
Family: Phoebe, grandmother; Derrick, older brother
Losses: mother died when she was two, brokenhearted dad fled family life leaving them with his mom, husband killed in cycling accident six months after her wedding.