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My Journey to Becoming a Writer

If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know that I belong to four writers’ groups and am heavily involved with two of them. I hope to spend more time with other two soon, but I attend when I’m able.

Last night I attended the monthly Joplin Writers’ Guild meeting. I always enjoy the meetings and leave feeling validated and inspired. I was visiting with our president after the meeting about how long we’ve both been members and the people we’ve seen come and go over the years. Through that conversation, I started to remember what it was like when I first joined ten years ago.

I had been downsized by the company from which I’d planned to retire, and it forced me to reevaluate my life. I hadn’t written anything other than short pieces for the company newsletter in over 20 years. I sat down with a pen and piece of notebook paper one of the kids gave me and made a list of things that really mattered to me.

My dream of becoming a writer was high on the list, but I was so rusty that I didn’t know where to begin. I called my sister, who had been telling me about this writers’ group she had joined the previous year, and asked if I could join her for the next meeting. She was happy to let me tag along.

I walked into the meeting room with my head down and my eyes on the floor. I only talked to my sister until the meeting started. My social anxiety still ruled me at that point, and I was terrified.

Once the meeting was called to order, everyone went around the table, introduced themselves, and talked about what they’d been writing. I told the group about my poem, which had been published while I was in college many years before. It was my only publishing credit at that time. I explained I hold a degree in English, but I’d been letting things stop me from writing for far too long.

There was a man at the table with a pile of books in front of him. He told us all how one book was released a few days prior. He was speaking to a historical society about another book. Yet another book had won an award, and he was working on a new manuscript. That man inspired me beyond measure. I joined the Guild that night.

Over the years, I’ve come to consider him my friend, and he continues to inspire me. I’ve bought his books for family, friends, and myself. I’ve attended a few of his book signings and learned a great deal about what it takes to be an author. His name is Larry Wood, and I encourage you to check out some of his books, especially if you enjoy reading about Ozarks history.

Over the years, I became more comfortable with the other members and began participating in discussions. I entered some of our contests and was shocked to win 1st Place one year. That win gave me the confidence to take more and more baby steps until I was running. I became a leader in the Joplin Writers’ Guild and served as an officer for eight years. I attended classes, seminars, lectures, webinars, workshops, and conferences.

I branched out and joined another group, the Ozarks Writers League. I currently serve as president of that great organization. It’s a great group, and I learn valuable lessons with every conference I attend. This group gave me encouragement to pitch my book to two publishers last year. I never dreamed of such a thing ten years ago. I just wanted to share my words with other people.

I was attending a writers retreat and talking to some other authors when I learned about another group called Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers. They held a workshop in Springfield, which is where they meet once a month, and a friend and I attended. It was enlightening. I left the workshop armed with more knowledge and renewed enthusiasm. I’ve been a member for a little over a year and love the energy and wisdom this group shares with me.

I learned about another group called Ozarks Romance Authors from my friend, Terry Zahniser McDermid. She writes sweet romance. I recommend her books if you love heart-warming stories.

Romance is the genre I write the most, but I didn’t know there was a group of romance authors within driving distance. They meet in Springfield. I joined that group last fall, and they are so much fun! I learned more about my genre in one meeting than I had learned in ten years of studying on my own.

Terry is a great inspiration to me. She has been writing for nearly her entire life. I attended a class she taught called Writing for Publication a few years ago. It was a night class, so I could attend without missing any work. She changed my life when she told the class, “No one is going to fall out of the sky and beg to publish your work. You must submit it to them.”

It’s obvious, yes. What you need to understand is that many authors are held back by fear. I was afraid someone would steal my work. It’s a common fear. Terry soothed those fears. She made us understand that we must take risks in order to achieve any success. I don’t know where I would be in my writing journey without her and the many other writers who have helped me along the way.

What’s your dream? What are you doing to make it come true?

Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! If you’ve enjoyed my little seeds of wisdom and joy, please subscribe to Ozarks Maven, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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