Sharing writing basics at a workshop
I often mention the phrase writing journey on this blog. So, to close out the week, I am going to post an essay I wrote for a contest awhile back. It didn't win but it did allow me see the long path I traversed to become a published writer.
A Delayed Writing Journey
By Nancy Julien Kopp
As a child in the 1940’s, I dreamed of writing stories like those I loved to read. I excelled in my English classes, soaked up everything the teachers offered. During high school helping out at home and working to save money for college left me little extra time to pursue my writing passion. Later, I told myself.
When I said I’d like to work in advertising, my father squashed the idea with only a few words. “That’s not a job for a woman. You couldn’t do it.” I deflated like a pin-pricked balloon. I’d been taught not to argue with my elders, but inside, I made a vow that I’d show him what a woman could do. I had no doubts that a woman could write advertising copy but I pursued a teaching career instead, something Dad would approve of.
Once I started teaching, my extra hours were devoted to lesson plans, projects for my students, dating and routine tasks. Even so, I still loved words and read as often as my busy schedule allowed but didn’t place my foot on that writing path.
Marriage came next, more teaching, then motherhood and supporting my husband in his career. The writing dream remained in the recesses of my busy mind. Someday I’d tell myself, I’ll write stories for children. It was a goal I’d set, although I never mentioned it to anyone else.
I had a full and satisfying life as a stay-at-home mom. Even so, I dreamed of writing.
Once our children were independent, my husband, Ken, took a job in a small town hundreds of miles away from where we’d raised our family. Once there, I found myself friendless, bored, and depressed.
I did all the copy work for the Education department in the local hospital, spending one afternoon every week alone in a small room with only a huge copy machine for company. I’d signed on as a volunteer hoping to meet other women but that plan didn’t come to fruition.
I learned there would be a Holiday Coffee for hospital volunteers, a perfect opportunity to meet others. Chairs were arranged in several circles. Great for conversation, I thought. Balancing my coffee and plate carefully, I sat down next to three chatting women. They took one look at me and pulled their chairs into another, already-full, circle, leaving me alone, humiliated and miserable. I soon left for home not realizing the experience would trigger a big change in my life.
That evening, we sat at the dinner table, neither of us talking. Finally, Ken said, “What’s wrong? You haven’t said a word since we sat down. That’s not like you.”
I erupted like a long-simmering volcano. “I have nothing to talk about. I don’t go anywhere! I don’t see anyone! I don’t talk to anyone!”
As soon as the words spewed forth, regret enveloped me. It wasn’t Ken’s fault. He liked his new job. The problem was all my own.
Flipping through a magazine the afternoon after my rant, I spied an ad that told me I could learn to write for children through a correspondence course. A tiny spark of interest flickered as I turned the page and then returned to the ad two more times. I talked it over with Ken that evening, checked the school’s credentials the next day and enrolled. Why not? What did I have to lose?
I hoped a challenge like this might help me enjoy life more. I knew I couldn’t continue on in the same mode much longer. Maybe the time had come to pursue my writing dream. Thirty-five years earlier, my dad had said a woman couldn’t work in advertising but he’d never nixed other kinds of writing. No guilt for me!
I finished the course in record time with great enthusiasm, wrote multiple stories geared to middle grade children, the age group I’d taught so many years earlier. Before long, Ken’s bank was purchased and they transferred him to the main bank in a larger community. I joined a small writing critique group where I found support and learned more about the craft. I sold a story and was hooked for life. Now, my life felt full again.
I branched out, trying fiction for adults and turned out some pretty clichéd, lame tales. I attempted poetry and some were not half bad. Next, I delved into creative non-fiction and many pieces were published at non-paying ezines and then magazines and finally anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Guideposts. I soon realized that my strength lay in creative nonfiction.
Being one who likes variety in life, I wrote some articles on the craft of writing that were published. I joined an online critique group and then another one when the first folded. I gained knowledge about our craft, confidence in myself as a writer and some lifetime writer friends. My writing journey proved a continuous and satisfying process.
I started a blog several years ago about my writing world with the intent of encouraging other writers and found that I loved posting five days a week about a subject dear to my heart. Somehow, the old teacher in me never died, and my blog, Writer Granny’s World, allowed me to teach through the written word.
Lately, I’ve been selling children’s stories again and am revising a juvenile novel but creative nonfiction, personal essays, poems and articles on the craft of writing add variety to my work.
This second act of my existence proved to be an important part of my writing journey. With it comes great pleasure as I string words together to create a new story or poem. The loneliness and rejection I felt in that small town encouraged me to accept a personal challenge to change my life and also satisfy a longing to write.
Because I started in my mid-fifties, I needed to run on my writing journey but exercise is good for the heart and my soul, too. I wish my dad had lived long enough to see what a determined woman can do.