How long have you been writing essays?
Since first grade! It was a story about a bird that I wrote and illustrated on construction paper, bound by staples. My school system emphasized writing – I was always writing something. The teachers would have us do our own illustrations and binding, so writing was both cerebral and tactile for me. If I’d viewed the Internet in a crystal ball as a child, I’d believe it to be science fiction! I’ve been a lifelong journalist, reporting and writing for newspapers and magazines. I love doing that, but I also love to tap into that creative side of my writing - and my soul – in such a way that can only emanate through essays. Writers understand you have a story that must be told.
When and where was your first essay published?
I’ve done first-person stories as a journalist (mostly about parenting issues, such as the day my first-born started kindergarten), but nothing one could technically classify as an “essay”. “Loving Jesse” is a true essay that had been rejected several times before being accepted by Freelance Success for publication in “Fits, Starts and Matters of the Heart”. Such is a writer’s life!
How did it feel when you discovered your essay had been chosen for inclusion in this book?
I was beside myself with joy! The process entailed “blind” submissions, in that our names weren’t on the initial submission, so we were judged purely on our essay’s merit. Getting published in a book was something I hadn’t experienced yet as a professional writer, so it was like giving birth to another child – one unique from the others, but you love them all the same. I couldn’t wait for the book to get published. When I got my copy through UPS, I hugged and kissed the book. My youngest son Jon put together a family dinner party to celebrate. I’m used to seeing my name in print all of the time, but not like this.
Tell us a bit about the essay published in Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. What is it about and why did you write it?
“Loving Jesse” is a story about my boyfriend’s black Labrador retriever. I confess to not liking dogs before Bob brought Jesse into our lives, but it turns out the dog knew more about love than I did. Jesse taught Bob and me – whose relationship has had its ups and downs over the years – lessons about unconditional love. When we had to say goodbye to Jesse, it was one of the most heart-wrenching days of our lives.
Had you tried the essay market before?
Other than “first person” pieces occasionally published in the newspaper and in regional parenting publications, I’ve not. I’ve chosen freelance journalism because the pay is decent and comes within 30 days in most cases! I’m raising two sons as a single mother – if I make money as a writer, it must be steady and predictable. To make the foray into creative writing is a risk: there is a lot of rejection and a long wait for pay in the creative writing sector. Sometimes you do something just for love and if it becomes financially successful, that’s the frosting on the cake!
What does it mean to you to be published in this anthology?
In a strange way (given I’ve written professionally for many years), I feel validated as a writer. My work appears in publications (such as trade journals) that are typically read only by a select audience. It has whet my appetite for producing more of this type of work. If “Loving Jesse” generated interest, then what else will? I’m also in awe of the other writers’ work. Their stories touch upon universal human themes in such a compelling way. I certainly hope it reaches a broad audience, as it deserves. There are a lot of lessons in doing this in the “New World” of publishing; I’m learning a lot and having fun.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who says "I don't have anything to write about”?
I don’t think people lack material of which to write; I think they lack the confidence. They have to get break through the wall in their mind with the sign that reads: “Who cares?”