Tuesday, July 16, 2013


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 Question from the e-mail

Question: What was the best advice you ever had when you first decided to be a writer?

Answer:  Advice varied. But I do fondly remember most of it.

Most often heard advice from friends and co-workers: Copious laughter, followed by the comment, "Who the hell do you think you ARE?"

From my mother: "Don't be silly. People like us don't write books."

From my husband: "I've known you long enough to figure out you can, and will, do whatever you want to do, hon, but this doesn't mean you're quitting your day job, does it?

From my father: "That's nice, dear. Does your mother have dinner ready yet?"

From my oldest son: "I gotta new Black Sabbath Album! Come listen, Mom."

From my youngest son: "Cool. I got some great stories I can tell you, when can we get started."

From Hannelore Hahn, Executive Director of the International Women's Writing Guild: When asked if she thought I should really try to do it, "Why not?"

From Vickie Healand, then secretary of the International Women's Writing Guild: "Wanna write a book together?"

We did write that book, we didn't get it published, but it got written, and finished, and it had something to say. Furthermore, our premise was right. Also it was Vicki who gave me a shove into teaching and I taught writing off and on for the next twenty-five years.

Finally: Advice that actually helped:  Years ago I read a book called Wish-Craft that changed my life. In essence it said: Never to regret that you hadn't done something you wished to do, but to look at your dreams, then follow them in ways that work well with your present and practical life. I had always wanted to be a writer. Wrote reams of bad poetry in high school and never showed a line to a single soul. But if reading was my constant vice, writng was my secret dream.

As for my present and practical life, I lived in the boonies, had a husband, home, full time job, and two adolescent sons. I had thought that "following my dream" would mean leaving everything else I cared about behind, and so I had given up all thought of ever being a writer.

Yet the book said, if I wanted to be a writer, the important thing was to write, on some level, somewhere. I took classes and consorted with other writers by joining local groups. I found a corner in my house and set up a small desk where I could work.

 I started writing in what spare time I could find, and thanks to the good marketing advice I found in IWWG Network and  Writer's Digest magazines, I started selling almost immediately. Mostly to small, almost-unheard-of magazines that paid little or nothing, but....

There I was, a writer. My words were being published and read. I had achieved my dream on my own level. It fulfilled me. It still does.

Now I work at a massive desk with wide top, hand-crafted of pickled oak, inlaid with pine (that my husband built for me). It has beaucoup file drawers and overhead shelving for all the writing books I've aquired. I spend a lot of my time publishing other writers and encouraging them, paying forward the kind of advice I got back in the day, from Hannelore and Vicki.

I still write something every day. This blog. E-mail. There's a novel cooking on the back-burner. I don't have to be Stephen King. I am perfectly happy to be me.


  1. What wonderful encouragement for writers! At a conference last winter, the keynote speaker said that all writers should be in therapy because what we do is not normal. For most writers, the writing IS the therapy, and to suppress the urge to create pictures with words would not be normal. Thanks, Arline, for echoing the experience of so many writers, i.e., the advice of doubters and naysayers, and for your efforts which allow so many of us to achieve the Nirvana of being published.

    1. Thank you, Kathryn, from a real fan of your fiction. I do know my experience wasn't unique and am glad to share it.

  2. Love all tbose words of advice. How about adding relatives and friends who think their life story should be your next book?

    1. Luckily, CM, I didn't have any of those. Most of my friends and relations distrust books (and people who read too much), because knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      Keep up the good work!