Thursday, May 6, 2010

Let's Get Started

You can be a writer. In this blog, I’ll interview authors, give writing tips, list conferences, research books, and find links to other writer’s blogs. I’ll even throw in a few personal tidbits like the information below on how I got started.

As a senior in high school, an A+ on a story assignment encouraged me. I wanted to write, but other things got in the way – college, marriage, children. I composed newsletters, Christmas letters, invitation poetry and a children’s story. In my 50s I told my husband I’d like to enroll in the Institute of Children’s Writers beginning class.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked, with good reason, I might add. I majored in education with a minor in English. After having children, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Besides childcare, I sewed, read, taught religion, gave tours in art museums, volunteered in classrooms and PTAs, decorated our house, made crafts and wrote for homeowners and newcomers newsletters. Now I wanted to write for “real” publication.

Needless to say, I took the correspondence class, joined SCBWI, critique groups and took workshops in the three states where we lived before my husband early retired and we returned to Colorado. At that time I had one publication of a puzzle in a children’s magazine.

My new critique group took me under their wing. After a few years and several rejections, two of us attended a writer’s retreat at the Franciscan Center in Colorado Springs. I listened carefully to every workshop presenter. But, with each new speaker and activity, I began to question. What makes me think I can write? Why am I here? Am I too old to begin? Do I belong?

The second night before dinner, I walked to Mass with my friend, knelt and contemplated again my questions, adding a few more in my prayer. Am I wasting my time? Or the time of others? Do I have something to say and the talent to say it? Just give me a sign, Lord.

The priest opened his sermon with a familiar story. A woman was asked, "What's the worse four-letter word your child can say?"
"Can't," she responded. She never wanted her children to face something and think it impossible.

The priest explained, “It is impossible for us to feed five thousand with five loaves and two fish or build a mountain or pluck a star from the sky. However, with hard work and perseverance ‘can't’ need not be a part of our vocabulary.”

With each of his additional examples, I recognized the sign. "Thank you, Lord," I whispered.

After that spiritual nudge I could hardly wait to get home to my computer. I buried myself in my office, ignored house dust and unvacuumed carpets and fixed quick easy dinners. I wrote not one but SIX articles and mailed them off to various magazines.

A month later in December, our bundle of mail contained a return envelope from one of the magazines. Tearing open the letter, I read not a rejection but my first acceptance of an article. Not even a week passed before a second sale arrived and a third followed within a short period. On Christmas Eve, I received a special gift - a fourth notice of an acceptance.

My writing doesn’t pay our bills. But, it is my source of pride and accomplishment. Still, I remind myself that “can’t” need not be a part of my vocabulary. I submit articles often with acceptances as well as rejections. Now I concentrate on my children’s books. I pray for a children’s book contract. It will come.


  1. Perfecting the art of writing, passion and perseverance doth a successful writer make!

  2. Helen, you are sooo correct. Unfortunately this post got out of line when I corrected something.