By Christina Ledesma
La Habra Journal
La Habra author Kristin Bryant opened the door to her home where she lives with her husband Kurt and their two sons Jake, 5, and Kaden, 2. Wearing a smile with her new buzz-cut hair, like any normal day she was home with Kaden playing in the living room with trucks, colorful blocks and the iPad her mother gave her to keep her occupied during her four-hour chemotherapy treatments.
Bryant is what most will call a “supermom.” She is a stay-at-home mom, high school teacher and her first novel “The Others” will be published in August.
Bryant, who received her undergraduate degree from Bringham Young University and her master’s degree in education from Cal State University, Fullerton, has been teaching high school online courses in AP psychology and anthropology for the past five years.
“It is nice to have that creative outlet of teaching. It’s always nice to be able to be a stay at home mom but still do what you went to school to do,” she said. “You know if you invest six years of post high school education into something it’s nice to be able to use it. I have a creative outlet that way and enjoy working with students who for whatever reason are not served by their local public schools.”
Bryant wasn’t always interested in creative writing, but she felt from being a stay-at-home mom that there was an element of creativity missing from her life.
She tried a few different creative outlets like cake decorating classes with her sister-in-law. However, something hit her one day while she was folding her laundry.
“I had an idea come to me and I thought ‘well that would maybe be interesting’ and I talked to my parent’s about it and they said ‘ah that would be interesting you should write a book about it,” Bryant explained. So she did.
Bryant’s novel is a science fiction story with a Christian religious twist.
“It’s about another world coming to earth to find evidence of their savior because he lived here and not there,” Bryant said.
Bryant wrote the story geared at young teens. As an educator, Bryant said that she has seen the quality of writing decreased and she wishes that more teens would read. The influence to write her novel was also to create a story that had appropriate content for teenagers.
Bryant said that she has read many books about pop teen culture because of the age group that she teaches. She found that some of the books had inappropriate content and did not hold up to her standards of what she thinks teenagers should be reading. Bryant decided to give it a try and started to write her novel.
“Why not try and put my effort into something,” she said.
At the time Bryant only had her first son and she found time to write at night when he was sleeping and while her husband was going to school.
“I found it was something that I really enjoyed doing. It was again that outlet for creativity or just a way to stretch myself” she said. “It is nice to do something that stretches yourself as a person when you got little kids at home. I just decided to go for it. And it kind of spiraled from there.”
Bryant got most of her ideas for her novel while walking with her son and dog in La Habra Heights. Bryant said that before she had an iPhone; she would take a pen, sticky notes and her iPod with her and listened to music that made her think about the characters that she was writing about. She would have her dog lassoed on to the stroller, with her son inside and would stop on the side of the road to write down her ideas.
“Now I just take my iPhone. The houses are so beautiful and there are gorgeous trails,” Bryant said. “It was nice to kind of get out of suburbia for a second and walk those gorgeous homes. When I walk up there all I think about is my book or where I had different inspirations for different characters. I’m grateful for La Habra Heights for just having those open spaces and those winding roads. It’s kind of like being out in the country and its two minutes away.”
It took Bryant a year to write her novel. She then started sending it out to different publishers, but received a lot of rejection notices. So she decided to rewrite the story, which took her another year.
She then spent a third year looking for the right publisher and redefined who her audience was.
Finally she found a publisher who was interested in her work. “I looked for the ones who were interested in my story,” Bryant said.
Bryant listed all the songs and artist’s that she listened to while writing her book on her website. She pays tribute to all the artist’s who helped her develop her characters. Bryant said that there were many lessons that she learned along the way. During her writing process she joined mom’s writing groups, wrote on her blog and read publisher’s blogs for helpful tips.
“It’s been a growing experience. It kind of carried me through a lot of things not just the diagnosis. You know all sorts of things; something to be proud of, something to define me as a person outside of being a mom, a wife and a worker. It’s something completely different” said Bryant.
Shortly after Bryant found a publisher for her novel, her life took a different direction when she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer.
Bryant’s first thought was one of acceptance and gratitude that it was her.
“I’m so grateful that it’s not one of my kids, I’m so grateful that it’s not my husband because he’s got to work,” she explained. “I am perfectly set up to go through this. I work from home, I have my mother-in-law right there, my mom lives close enough, I have great friends, and multiple sister-in-laws living in La Habra, my church is so supportive they bring in meals. There is no one better set up for it. And I have a great prognosis so how can you be anything but completely grateful for what you have.”
Bryant discovered the lump when she did her own self breast examination. She said she knew that it was time to check.
“I had a feeling that something was wrong and I felt very prompted to go looking for something.”
Bryant’s cancer was quick growing and very aggressive. Her doctor told her that if she would have found the lump in her breast a few months later the cancer would have spread. Bryant said that she is very grateful because it could have been worse.
“I’m only 32, that’s really young for something like this. But it does speak to how important it is for every woman to be really vigilant looking for something like this. It had nothing to do with genetics or anything it was kind of bad luck,” she said.
Bryant will continue to have six rounds of chemo in four in half months. After her chemo treatment she will have radiation five times a week for five weeks and hopes to be done with the treatment by October, and finished with her chest reconstruction by the New Year.
Bryant will be finished with her chemo treatment in August, her book will also be out that month and she will be celebrating her tenth anniversary with her husband all in the same month.
Bryant explained that with everything that she is going through during her treatment it’s nice to have her novel as a positive distraction.
“I’m so excited that I have it because now it gives me something to look forward to. Through all of this other stuff it gives me something exciting that I get to look towards through all the chemo, and through the hair loss, and through the surgery.”
While battling breast cancer Bryant said what has carried her through is her positive attitude and faith. Having a positive attitude and being devoted to her faith has had a huge impact on Bryant’s recovery.
“You can’t under estimate the power of positive thinking. You can’t. I think my body has responded much better because I haven’t given myself the chance to even go to the what if. You have to be really positive and the most important thing is that you have to find your faith, whatever that means for that person.”
In the future, Bryant plans on writing a sequel to her novel once her battle with cancer is over and her first novel is received well and sells. She would also like to make her writing career her primary job.
Through this experience, Bryant has learned that dreams do come true and goals can be met if you work really hard for them. And she treats her diagnosis the same way and continues to work hard and push through.
“Walking away from this, I just want people to know how doable getting through both the diagnosis and writing are. It calls for the right attitude and a little hard work,” she explained with a smile.
“Thomas Edison has a really good quote its ‘Opportunities are missed by most people because it’s usually dressed in overalls and looks like work’ and I love that because I feel like so many people miss opportunities because it just seems too difficult,” she adds. “But if I can do something like this it’s doable for anybody.”