If I could give new writers any advice, it would be to believe in yourself. I didn’t, and it cost me decades of time I could have been writing.
Other people in my life believed in me. When I turned sixteen, Dad gave me a book on writing. Don, my husband, lovingly badgered me to write throughout our marriage. Before my best friend, Carol, passed away, she wrote me a goodbye letter predicting that someday I would write for Guideposts magazine. After her death, I received Guideposts in the mail. Her parting gift to me was an annual subscription.
In 2018 Don forwarded me information about the WriterCon conference to be held over Labor Day weekend. He has sent me information about writing retreats and conferences throughout the years, so I barely glanced at it before coming up with a handful of excuses, but they sounded lame even to me. Finally–I agreed to go.
The first day of the conference intimidated me. The instructors and attendees were friendly, but I heard snatches of conversations about published works and agents and previous conferences. Was I the only one who had never published anything? Many people recognized each other. I sat towards the back in each session, trying to absorb as much information as I could while scribbling furiously in my notebook. The schedule was packed with several classes going on in different rooms at the same time each hour.
That first night I came home both exhausted and exhilarated. I got the schedule out of my notebook to view the classes for the next day and make my final decisions about what to attend. I circled the ones that caught my eye and went to sleep.
About 4 a.m. I woke up. Something I saw on the schedule tickled my brain. I grabbed the paperwork again and scanned it. A class on writing for Guideposts was on the list. How did I miss that? I crossed off the class that I originally planned to take and circled Guideposts instead. The instructions said to bring a pitch. I fell asleep thinking of pitches, then woke up again at 5 a.m. and sat up in bed. I had a pitch! I knew I’d forget it if I went back to sleep so I rushed to my laptop and typed it out.
During the Guideposts class, I summoned up the courage to raise my hand and make my pitch. Jim Hinch, a senior editor at Guideposts, seemed intrigued. He asked me a few follow-up-questions and he must have liked my answers. He asked me to email him when the conference was over and remind him of my pitch.
My story, “Caring for a Difficult Parent,” about the difficulties of caring for my mother with Alzheimer’s, was published in the April 2019 issue. Guideposts did a photo shoot and a follow up video. The video ended up being the most watched Guideposts video of 2019. The editor was so supportive and really helped build my confidence. He told me I was a natural writer, just the kind that the Guideposts editors liked, because it made their jobs easier. It’s one thing to have your family tell you that you have a talent, but when a professional tells you that, it starts to sink in.
Soon after my first story was published, the senior editor shared my contact information with the Guideposts online editor and the editor of Strength and Grace. Almost a year after publishing my first story, Guideposts has published seven additional pieces online and Strength and Grace has accepted eight devotionals to be published in the 2020 bi-monthly editions.
It’s amazing. Due to the loving push of friends and relatives, a writing conference and the encouragement of an editor, my writing career has taken off. There’s no stopping me now. I believe.