I often mention in writing posts that I knew I wanted to be a writer from a very young age. I knew that once I became an adult, I'd graduate from writing stories cross-legged on my bed in black and white notebooks to writing stories for those glossy magazines I saw at the newsstand or were spread across the coffee table in my Livingroom.
I know now, that had I not been so passionate and dedicated to achieving my writing dream, it may have continued to simmer on a back burner in my life, and I would have stayed in the shadows, writing in notebooks for my eyes only. If that had been the case, I would have wished for a fairy godmother, herself an accomplished writer, who sensed something greater in the words I penned, to have tapped me on my shoulders and said hopefully something like this, " Dear one, you have a gift but you'll never know how far and how wide you can go if you keep hiding your gift under a rock. So I have come to help you step out of the shadows."
As we enter a new dawn and a new day, after such a tumultuous year, as we usher in healing and hope with our newly elected President, Joe Biden, and our first woman and woman of color Vice President, Kamala Harris, I feel even more motivated as a writer and excited about where my writing will take me. I'm also excited and committed to motivating other writers; friends, family members, and acquaintances I've met through writing, who've expressed their desire to step out of the shadows. I've decided to be their fairy godmother, reminding them that filling journals and notebooks is a starting point for all writers and is indeed cathartic and shouldn't be abandoned, but that they have stories that have outgrown those perfectly lined notebook pages they tuck away in their nightstands at night. They have stories the world needs to hear, that will make you cry, laugh out loud, and teach you how to make lemonade when life gives you its tartest lemons. They have a gift that shouldn't be hidden under a rock.
Two examples of that are; A good friend of mine writes poetry and bares her soul in her journal about growing up as a foster child and about being a single mother. My sister writes about surviving domestic abuse and has stacks of notebooks filled with stories about how she finally untangled herself from a cycle of abuse and healed. I've encouraged both my friend and my sister to go to the next level with their writing and submit their true-life stories to magazines and anthologies, most recently to one of the Chicken Soup for The Soul Anthologies. It was a proud moment for not only both of them, but also myself, when they wrote and submitted a story to the Chicken Soup for The Soul editors.
Helping other writers step out of the shadows does my heart good. It doesn't leave me feeling overextended or cause me to neglect my own writing projects, for I don't have to spend hours walking them through each step. I give them basic information, such as to make sure they follow the writer's guidelines, and how to format a manuscript, to get started. Mainly I try to inspire them to cross over the bridge to all the great opportunities waiting for writers on the other side. Who knows, my friend who writes poetry may one day be reciting her poem as poet laureate as eloquently as Amanda Gorman recited her powerful poem, "The Hill We Climb," as the first youth poet laureate and youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.
So on this new dawn I'd like to share a few things I plan on doing to help novice writers step out of the shadows and into the light:
1. Offer encouragement without pressure. Just because someone has expressed their desire to publish doesn't mean they are ready to do so when you feel they are, or when you have a magazine in sight that would be the perfect home for their story. They may need time to mentally prepare for sharing their innermost thoughts with an audience and opening themselves up for possible judgement, criticism or rejection. I will let them know they have a story to tell that will inspire and resonate with others on a similar journey and that I hope they will share it soon because I believe in them and their ability to tell a great story.
2. Gift them writing books as presents. Books such as, "The Elements of Style," by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, "On Writing: A memoir of the Craft," by Stephen King, "Bird by Bird," by Anne Lamott, and "Writing Down the Bones," by Natalie Goldberg, and the latest edition of, "The Writer's Market," to name a few.
3. Give them a subscription or information about writing magazines they can subscribe to such as, Poets & Writers Magazine, Writer's Digest, The Writer, or Creative Nonfiction Magazine.
4. Recommend writing websites, or online courses, many which can be found on WOW, that help writers hone their skills and build their storytelling strengths.
5. Let them know that the best advice I can offer them, is to write, to write everyday if only for a few minutes, and not worry about the editor or skeptic sitting on their shoulder. Let them know to unabashedly get their story written, and come back to edit later for submission. The more they write, the better they will get, and the more confidence they will have when it comes to sharing their work.