Friday, September 20, 2013

I Can Write a Book? I Can Write a Book!

By Susan Hardy



I've loved writing for as long as I can remember. I excelled in English and literature classes, and have always written from the heart. Maybe it's because I have always enjoyed reading. Growing up with a less than stellar childhood, reading was an escape from my father's abuse. Every night, in my tiny little room, I was transported into the exciting adventures of Nancy Drew, the imaginative world of Ray Bradbury, and the eerie depths of Edgar Allen Poe. As I got older and my husband was off on TDY's, I enjoyed Danielle Steel and Patricia Cornwall. And I have always loved the romantic classics in the genre of Jane Eyre, Little Women, and Pride and Prejudice. These days, however, after the devastating loss of my beloved son, I'm devouring books on suicide survival and the journey of life on the "other side". I'm still looking for answers. And being alone in that quest—after my husband of thirty-seven years abandoned the marriage—has not been easy. But I always know that my son continues to encourage me (as he always did) to follow my dreams of entrepreneurship and authorship.

Now, I can't help but feel that through adversity writing has become a purpose for the remaining days of my life. I am compelled to write my story of unwitting life with a sociopath. It needs to be cathartic, but mostly the intention is to help prevent even one woman from stumbling down that same path. When I am strong enough, it is imperative to write my son's story, as well, and give meaning to his all-too-brief and anguished life. He will tell me when the time is right. And there could even be a third book hiding in this old brain of mine! One never knows.

As a giant step in my pursuit of authorship, I recently attended my very first Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I was told about PPW by a dear friend who has been a published author for many years. I was able to attend one monthly meeting, but I found it noisy and daunting. They were speaking a language I had never heard before. A myriad of "insider" terms left me feeling perhaps this was not the place for me, after all. Or was I just missing something? But it was at that same meeting that I learned about the opportunity to win a scholarship to the PPWC one-day workshops. I mentioned it to my writer friend, and she said it would be an excellent opportunity for me to get my feet wet in the frustrating world of getting published.  She further explained that a full three-day conference, to a novice, would feel like "trying to take a drink from a fire hose." An accurate, albeit extreme, analogy.

So, feeling I had nothing to lose, I took a leap of faith and submitted my scholarship entry, quite literally, at the eleventh hour. I could not have imagined that I would actually be awarded that scholarship! I was thrilled to receive an e-mail notifying me that I been chosen to receive this year's scholarship. And I had even been awarded my first choice workshops! I couldn't wait. I felt like a five-year-old on the first day of school! I took confirmation of the award and a notebook of my writings, and nervously entered a whole new world.

My first workshop was "Truth and Consequences: The Pleasures and Perils of Writing Memoir, Personal Essay and Creative Nonfiction," presented by Katherine Eastburn. I could not have asked for a better initiation into the world of writing. Her presentation was warm and personable, informative and experienced. She made me feel as if I was in a one-on-one mentorship and she was talking directly to me. Of course, she was there for all of us, but if each participant felt the same way, Ms. Eastburn had done what she came for. She explained the genre in detail, provided countless resources, and offered smart suggestions. Even if I had only attended this one session, it was a wealth of guidance and support.

The afternoon workshop, "The Four P's of Nonfiction," presented by Matthew Frederick, was a virtual "how-to" in the pursuit of publication. He outlined what publishers are looking for and the best path for achieving those goals. A self-identified atheist, and somewhat more direct and matter-of-fact than Ms. Eastburn, Mr. Frederick was nonetheless a fountain of "inside" information. He provided additional resources, truthful insight, and abundant encouragement to all seekers of literary achievement.

Overall, my first foray into the formidable world of professional writing was a fruitful one. One simply does not write what they wish, send it off to a publisher and become a best-selling author. Not in the real world, anyway. It takes skill, determination and lots of patience, the latter of which I have in abundance. Stephen King was not an overnight sensation. But he did persevere. And so shall I, with God's grace.


About the Author: Writing has always given me a sense of "ownership" of my own thoughts. I've enjoyed writing articles, correspondence and poetry. But not until recent hardships in my life, did my writing become an integral part of trying to make sense of it all. My husband's abandonment of a 37-year marriage has inspired me to write something that might save someone else from the same fate.  Something cathartic and cautionary. And the recent life-shattering loss of my only son will be a future inspiration, when I am emotionally strong enough to pen his story. Until then, it's one day at a time.

2 comments:

  1. Susan, conferences are an amazing way to connect with those who are most likely to understand our fears and our dreams. I would never have been published without the writerly communities I've joined and the conferences I've attended. Hang in there and know you can do this. A little bit at a time, one step at a time. And don't quit until you're done.

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