Step on a Crack with Jill Byrne (2009)

Publisher: Wheatmark


Jill Byrne contacted me in 2003 to ask if I would co-author her life story. Jill had recently attended a summer writing workshop at the University of Iowa. When Jill mentioned her interest in finding a co-author, the workshop instructor Kate Gleeson, suggested me. The rest is history.

Just over ten years ago Jill escaped a lifetime of depression, became medication free, and began a life that was finally "wonderfully normal." This awakening came not by accident, but through years of her refusal to give in to a medical profession that seemed to want to keep here under its thumb. Step On A Crack reaches out to the 44 million people who suffer the debilitation of depression. There is a fine line between surviving mental illnesses and flourishing. With a lot of work, Jill crossed the line and is eager to encourage others with the news they too, can cross their lines and find a life of fulfillment. 

A major turning point in Jill's recovery came when she mapped out her strategy on several legal pads of paper. She spread the pads out before her, like keys on a piano. Each "key" had her thoughts on a topic that was crucial to her mental health. In retrospect, she composed a "song" that set her free when she played it on her therapeutic piano. Jill's mother was an accomplished pianist. Since Jill inherited none of her mother's musical talents and received far too little of her love, it is ironic that a musical metaphor helped set her free. 

Step On A Crack shares Jill's unique story of hope and determination. It is an inspirational self-recovery book for anyone who yearns to put the music back into his or her life. 


I looked down at the cracked and dirty sidewalk. "Where is it?" I said softly to myself as I walked slowly forward. In a few steps I found it - the sidewalk panel that had a large jagged crack. It was still there. The crack I used to step on wondering if doing so might break Frances' back. 

I had spent much of my lifetime reeling from the influence of my mother. I knew she cared, but she cared and controlled too much. She smothered me in fact. You would have thought she would have noticed what she did - after my first divorce, after my anorexia nervosa, through my years of depression, during my years in therapy, or after my second divorce. But no. She was too unpredictable, too critical, too preoccupied. 

Ten years ago, shortly before Frances died, the pieces of my life, which had been broken and scattered for so many years, finally began to reassemble. Through my persistence and hard work, I finally attained a life of contentment and satisfaction. As shadows fell on the house on 217 North Mississippi - where it all began - I got in my car to drive away. In the wind that whispered through the Pecan leaves, did I hear Frances' well-pitched voice? If so, I couldn't make out her words. But I believed she was saying that she was pleased with me. Yes, it was finally time for her to tell me so.