After I dropped out of college, I was a busy working mom with small children, so I wrote at night when my kids were sleeping—a screenplay and a 300-page novel. At the time, nobody in publishing was interested in my work. I threw the screenplay and novel away. But my dream lived on.
When my kids were older, I went back to college at night to study writing. I had some great professors, learned a lot, won the college writing award, and started on a new novel. I thought I was all set.
So I went to writers’ conferences to meet the New York agents and editors. But to them, I was a nobody, a zero from Cleveland. My stories didn’t matter and the industry bigwigs didn’t even want to hear them.
Helping other people helped me stay positive. I got active as an adult-literacy volunteer. As I taught my students to read and write, they inspired me with their life stories of strength and their dreams of better things ahead.
I started ghostwriting for friends. I developed the creative reading method Peace Through Fiction, and led PTF story-sharing sessions around the country. I helped bring StoryCorps to Cleveland to record the stories of students, founders, staff, and tutors at Project Learn, the adult-literacy organization where I served.
Successful in my day job, I accrued over 20 years of full-time editorial experience as a writer and senior creative consultant in a major corporate writing studio. I won awards for my creativity and innovation. But all my successes were linked to the corporation.
I just couldn’t let go of my personal dream, my passion, my drive to be a published writer in my own right, telling the stories I wanted the world to hear.
So when my employer offered tuition reimbursement for graduate school, I got into a master of fine arts program for creative writing. I knew the program would make me a better writer and consultant; I hoped it might help me make some publishing contacts, too.
Eventually, things worked out. A professor recommended me to his publisher—Second Wind. They published my first novel in 2013, and my second novel is coming in March 2015.
At last I had arrived! I’d proven myself, beaten the publishing odds, and become an industry insider. The future was in my hands. Success!
But people kept asking me things like “Is your book a bestseller yet? Are you famous now?” And since my answers were no, I started to wonder if I’d failed.
Then I thought about the readers who have written to thank me ever since my first novel got published. My writing covers a lot of sensitive topics and it helps these readers feel understood and less alone.
Hearing from my readers made me realize something. My dream to be a published writer wasn’t ever about making money or getting famous. It was always about the fact that our stories matter, and it’s important to share them.