Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Dream Deferred

(Disclaimer: This post is long with lots of details. I might be breaking a blogging rule. Consider yourself warned. But if you like personal stories with happy endings, then go ahead and read on.)

In seventh grade I wrote that when I grew up, I wanted to be a writer. I was perfectly serious and intended to be one by all means. In eighth grade, I met Mrs. Staheli. She was one of those teachers that inspire you. The kind that never gives up on you and sees something inside you that you can't quite reach yet. After two years in her classes, I'd sent out my first query letters and learned my first lessons in rejection.

As time went by, I kept my dream of writing alive in spurts. A contest here, a literature group there, and a notebook full of poems that no one but my family will ever see. I experienced hard things, depression, loss, failure, and pain. I met amazing people, made friends, discovered that I actually would be a special needs teacher when I grew up and fell in love. I had a baby. The days slowed. I didn't write a single poem for almost a year. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I needed to write anymore. Perhaps that part of my life had passed.

The turning point came when, after many prayers, we decided to move back to my parents house. At first, we moved into the basement, into a small rectangular room where once, many years ago, an eleven-year-old girl picked up her first notebook and pen in the months after her grandparents died.

I laid awake thinking about that girl. I could almost see her, cross-legged on the floor, notebook on her knee. Every old feeling about writing awakened in me, and I knew what story I had to write. Before I realized it, I'd turned on the computer. In the low light, as my husband slept on, my fingers tapped out the beginnings of my first serious story.

I had no idea what to do with it.

Enter Cindy Beck.

My new visiting teaching partner moved into the ward the same time as I did.  It wasn't long before I learned she was a published author. I didn't dare tell her about my sorry excuse for stories, hidden in a hard to find folder on my computer. I mean how many times do authors get the "I have a few story ideas, too" line? It had to be old, right?

God works in mysterious ways. With my new author-visiting teaching partner at my side, I arrived at the home of another sister. We talked for a while, Cindy's writing career came up, and before I knew, the other sister admitted to the words in the back of my mind. "I'm interested in writing too. I have something I've been working on."

And then, without my ever having to ask, a wealth of writing tips were laid on the table right in front of me. Cindy gave suggestions for literature e-news, places looking for short stories, and mentioned for the first time something called LDStorymakers. In a way, my dream simply dropped back into my lap, right when I needed it. Maybe it was a sign.

I found myself at my first LDStorymakers conference a few months later with Cindy. As we finished registering, I saw a familiar form across the room. She sat leaning over a book with her back to me, but I had no trouble recognizing her. You think, after all the students they have, that you will become a number to your teachers, a blur of young life and energy passing without any impact, but she looked up and said my name before I could quite decide if I should call her by her first name or not.

Re-enter Mrs. Lu Ann Staheli.

Ah, the circles life takes us in.

It's been three years since then and hardly a day goes by without me sitting down at my computer to give the voices in my head their moment to speak. I've published two short works, I've written the first draft of my first story, found a critique group, mentors, and now I'm up to my elbows in an anthology that I never saw myself doing. The writing world is huge. Its full of amazing and helpful people and one thing I've learned is no one will ever be more excited about you saying you like to write than an author. We love to talk about writing.

In a few months, May to be exact, I will go to my fourth LDStorymakers conference. It is an enormous conference with agents and editors from national and local publishing companies literately walking the same hallways as you. If you have ever wondered if writing might be your secret dream, this is the place to go. I know it's months away, but spots fill fast and if you want to try your hand at their first chapter contest, you need to register now. I thought it might be worth writing about, considering that I know some of you are probably like me, harboring tiny sparks of writing potential and unsure what to do with it.

Maybe it's your season, your time to find out if this is something you love. I've learned that some dreams are not meant to be let go. They follow us our whole lives, whispering just loud enough to remind us they aren't going anywhere.

3 comments:

  1. JoLyn, I think we all have a desire to create- with pictures, words, machines, emotions, music... you name it. And I think God likes it when we do. No matter how humble our final results, I believe he is pleased with our hard efforts. Keep making Him smile! Have fun at conference.
    -Regina

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  2. Jolyn, I got goose-bumps reading this post!! Good luck with your writing..I had NO idea you were even interested in writing. Your writing future looks bright!!

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  3. JoLyn, I loved this post ... and not because you mentioned me, either. :) (Which, by the way, was very sweet of you, and most unexpected, and brought tears to my eyes!)

    I love it because I believe in you! You are a terrific writer, and have such potential. I want to see you go places and do the things that you are so capable of! I'm certain that LuAnn Staheli feels the same way. What a wonderful inspiration she was ... and is, and how fortunate you were to have her in your formative years, where she was able to help you uncover a hidden talent.

    Have fun at Storymakers!

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