Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Writer's Life For Me

by Valerie J. Steimle

I have never considered myself a very good writer. I never liked reading as a child and slept through English classes in junior high. It was just not my thing. But when I was 12 years old, I attended a church youth group workshop on journal writing. I wrote in my journal all the time. Little did I realize it would be the beginning of my writing career.

After college, I married my sweetheart and we started a family. I continued to write in journals and by then I had finished four of them. I didn’t think much of my writing until I was pregnant with my fifth child. The school district where we were living had decided to implement year-round school and there were a large number of parents that were opposed to it. With pen in hand I started to write petitions and a speech I was to present to the Board of Education. I put a lot of emotion and passion into it and discovered that it was very therapeutic. I knew writing in my journal would help me to feel better at times but this was different. Other people would be reading what I wrote and my feeling for writing changed. With the power of the pen, I had the chance to change people’s minds about what was going on in the school district. I could rally the parents together for our cause and possibly change the school district’s mind about year-round school. That experience gave me a sense of empowerment and I wanted to keep writing.

I started writing more. I wrote what I knew about best, which was the family. I wrote page after page of family stories, antidotes and wisdom I had learned over the years. Now that I had all this writing, what was I to do with it? After Caleb was born I felt a strong prompting to keep writing. We moved across country from California to Alabama and I still felt the need. I then decided to divide up my writing by subject matter and submit the writings as articles in a column for the local paper. The editor liked what I wrote and asked me to add more researched information, and my first column, "Where the Heart Is," was born. I only had 10 pieces published when a new publisher bought out the local paper and my editor quit. Unfortunately, the new editor did not like what I had to say and decided against publishing my column. This was a frustrating setback and I had to start all over again.

Did I give up? No. Did I keep on writing? Yes. I continued writing my column in hopes of finding a market. I got to article number sixty, and after submitting my articles to every market and small paper on the East coast, I decided to ditch the column idea and publish the whole sixty essays in a book myself. If the book was as successful as the feedback from my column, I would be very happy. I knew people liked reading about families and how important they were, and I also felt strongly that I should share what I had to say. I found the best time for me to write was at night when everyone was asleep. I could concentrate on what I needed to say and it was quiet.

Then a friend of mine told me about a writer’s group she belonged to on the internet. It was an all women’s group whose members also belonged to my church. We all had the same ideals and beliefs and we all supported each other with our writings. This is the American Night Writers Association, the writer's group whose founder started this blog. I could submit something for critique and they gave honest, helpful opinions on how I could improve what I wrote. I also did the same for them. The culmination of belonging to this group came when I was able to attend a retreat up in the mountains of Arizona for a weekend. Twenty-five of the one hundred members showed up with laptops and writings to share, and boy, did we share! It was the best time I ever had with a group of women writers. We listened to workshops and critiqued each others' writings without hurting feelings, and I left there with the motivation to finish all of my writing projects. Belonging to a writer’s group is so helpful in keeping to your long term goal of getting published. Being motivated by a real live person as opposed to reading about being successful can give you the big push you really need; especially when you are blocked or discouraged.

I continue to write all the time and it has been seventeen years since I started writing that petition. There are challenges (like raising nine children) that take up my time but I persevere. Persistence is a great tool for writers and the payback is well worth the effort. I now have 2 nonfiction books published with many articles syndicated all over the internet. I write for two ezines regularly and have had numerous press releases published in local newspapers. I wrote 9 children’s picture book stories and I’m pursuing an agent for publication. I love writing and I love the publishing world and I can honestly say that it has all gone back to that journal writing I started so long ago.

4 comments:

  1. And it's thanks to Valerie that I found out about ANWA. I think I can count you in the I-write-for-the-passion group.

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  2. The retreat was fun, wasn't it, Valerie! I loved meeting you there. Thanks for the insights and sharing your thoughts on writing. You give me hope!

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  3. Will you be coming to the retreat again this summer? I've been thinking about it, and your hoo-rah has made me even more determined. Maybe if you do and I do, we can meet.

    It's great to read about your dedication--especially to journaling. Your family will bless you for that one day.

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  4. I don't know if I can attend the retreat this summer but maybe next. My daughter now lives in Queen's Creek so I will come every year starting in 2008. Very exciting. I would like to meet you, Liz.
    I am the passionate one, I think. One of those things.

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