My Charlie and My Journey To Illustration

copyright 2012 charlie eve ryan

Several months ago when I started this blog I had already had a pen name, Charlie Eve. I was using it for my children’s writing.  When I first came up with my pen name, I had used a combination of my children’s names. My oldest little one’s middle name Eve and my second daughter’s first name, Charlie. We were already blessed with my first daughter at the time and Charlie wasn’t born yet, but we knew that would be her name and I loved the idea of having my children’s names attached to my life as a writer.  After a long time trying to conceive, I found out in April of 2010 that I was pregnant and expecting another little girl. Here was my Charlie and we were overjoyed.

We didn’t know it at the time, but soon our lives would take a very hard turn for the worst.  I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix and began fighting to save my Charlie girl at 18 weeks of pregnancy.  I spent two weeks in the hospital on my head, doing everything possible to save her life and keep her with us.  I lost and my sweet Charlie Noelle was born premature at 20 weeks old.  She was beautiful in every way and I could feel her heart beating under my finger tip.  I held her close and kept her warm.  She lived and died in my arms that night.  When I lost her, a part of me went with her.  I can’t hug her or kiss her chubby cheeks. All I have are my words, my artwork and the endless amount of love that I send out into the world for her.  I draw and I write and I draw some more and wrapped up in all those words and drawings is a mama with a very broken heart who is trying to heal.

But, the words that echo most in my heart are the words I wrote to her shortly after her passing. It was my eulogy letter to her and here is a small part of it.

“In the moments when the pain of losing you overwhelms me, I think of the love we share and those sweet precious hours that I held you close to my chest, and felt your heart beating against my finger as I stroked your beautiful, sweet face. It’s the kind of love that warms me up from the inside out and lit a fire in my soul so bright that neither time nor distance can ever put out its flame.

I love you baby girl, I will always miss you and I will always ache for you. Please watch over your sister for us, she needs you. I know someday we will be together again and until then, I promise to live my life full of hope and wonder, with passion in my heart and a fire in my soul. The way I imagine you would have lived your life.”

It is these words, this promise and Charlie’s short, beautiful life that led me to not only pursue my career as a children’s writer, but to also do the one thing I was most afraid of trying and that was becoming a children’s book illustrator.  I began studying, writing and drawing everyday.  This was no longer a hobby.  I took it seriously, made it into a business and loved every minute of it and still do.  Like motherhood, it is something I dreamed about since I was a young girl and I am lucky enough to be living my dream and I don’t plan on ever letting go.

Mixed with all the sadness of losing her, is something very special.  I am grateful.  Grateful for every one of my children’s belly laughs, sticky fingers and their sweet, chubby arms around my neck.  I am grateful for my hubby’s warm hands and quick humor.  I am grateful for my family, my friends and my life.  Because of Charlie, I am a better wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, writer and artist.  I don’t live with fear in my heart and I have the courage to do the unexpected and take risks that I never would have dared reach for in the past.  It takes courage to chase after a dream and to live a full life and I’m using all of mine on this one and I won’t waste one drop.  I hope to teach that to my children someday.

But mostly, I am thankful. Thankful for that brief moment in time when I got to hold an angel, my angel, my Charlie.

Since losing our daughter, we were lucky enough to get pregnant again and with lots of bedrest, prayers and a cerclage, we welcomed our beautiful son into the world.  He was a month early, but very healthy.  For a long time I didn’t use my pen name because the sadness overwhelmed me and it was hard to write, hard to say, everything about losing Charlie was hard.  But, now I find it comforting and I am honored to wear her name and the names of all of my children.   My kids are a hoot and a half.  They are kind, gentle, funny and loving.   These are all traits I hope will shine through in my work.  I have a funny, affectionate husband, who loves me and our kids and shows it everyday without fail.

My life is blessed beyond measure. So from here on out, this blog, my work and everything writing and illustrator related will be done under my new pen name, Charlie Eve Ryan. It’s nice to meet you all again. I hope to live up to my promise to Charlie and paint the world with humor, hope and wonder.

Do you use a pen name, if so who or what inspired it?

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16 thoughts on “My Charlie and My Journey To Illustration

  1. This is a beautiful post. I am sorry for your loss, but glad that you are writing and drawing.

    I don’t use a pen name, but as I write in more genres than just children’s, I have been thinking that I might need to use a pen name to distinguish between my adult writing and my writing for children.

  2. Your story is so so touching! It brought me to tears. Are you considering to write a children’s version of it? I can imagine such a book would be helpful for older siblings, to understand what is happening to them and their relatives when a young infant passes away. And to see the strength one can apparently gain afterwards; you are so brave and strong.
    I do use a pen name but I am not ready yet to share the details, maybe I will be brave like you one day. It has to do with a place that is very dear to me.
    Thank you for your inspiring story!

  3. Such a touching story, thank you so much for sharing! It is so neat to see where people’s courage comes from to really follow their dreams. I am very proud of you, you are so talented. Have a great weekend!

  4. This is one of the most beautiful blog posts I have ever read. You are an incredibly brave, amazing, inspiring woman, and one your daughter (and all of your children) should be proud of. It’s posts like these that make me want to strive to do and be better in every area of my life. I have no doubt you will succeed in this career.

  5. I have been very honoured over the past few months to share a illustration class with you. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I’m sure your little Charlie is incredibly proud of her mama and all you’ve accomplished in such a short space of time. What a wonderful tribute to your baby angel.

  6. Oh Kerie – thank you for sharing these words from your heart. It is a parents’ journey to walk the road of trust. Trust that everything is for something that we may never understand fully. Kudos to you for the way you channeled your love and not only came out with something for you but also a beautiful son!

  7. Beautiful, moving post. Thank you for being willing to share to such depth with us.

    I will use a penname for my adult fiction, to keep my genres separate. It’s a derivation from my great-grandmother’s maiden name.

  8. A mother’s love is never diminished by death, and the joy of a life is celebrated by our response to life. Your desire to take risks and to do the unexpected in honor of Charlie will keep her life and memory alive! Someday you may be able to share Charlie’s story to comfort others. May God Bless you Kerie.

  9. You are an very brave, compassionate, inspiring woman, and one your family must be proud of. I love your pen name and all it embodies and believe this tribute to your children will inspire your craft. This is a beautiful post, Thank you, Kerie. To the realization of your dreams!

  10. I’ve got that big frog in my throat, holding back tears and making it difficult to find words. You have written of your journey so beautifully I am stunned. Love, deep love, incredible inner strength and a light, bouyant hope emanates from it! Thank you Kerie. To the moon!

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