Tuesday, May 28, 2013
THE HELP YOU GET ALONG THE WAY by CHERYL PIERSON
Do you have a “collection” of special people in your life? People that helped you in ways maybe you hadn’t really given much thought to, but that turned out to be extremely important? One of the first milestones in my writing career—becoming a finalist in the EPIC Awards with my first novel, FIRE EYES—brought this realization home to me. I got curious. I know there are incidents in people’s lives that are pivotal to their entire careers, dreams, and goals, that, perhaps at the time, don’t seem that important. Later, looking back on it, it becomes an “aha” moment—you understand that THIS was the moment when you made the decision to do something you might not have done otherwise, or because of a word of encouragement you continued on when you’d been ready to stop.
Most people that I’ve met in the last half of my adulthood would never describe me as “shy,” but as a youngster, I was—horribly. That’s one reason I turned to writing. It was a great way for me to get my feelings out without actually having to say them. I could have someone else say it all for me.
In this picture, I was about 3 years old. Hadn't reached the self-conscious stage yet.
I imagine that’s how many of my fellow writers started, too. I sometimes wonder what might have happened had we all known each other when we were younger. Would we have developed into the writers we are today, or would we have found our “niche” with one another and NOT turned so much to writing?
One of my senior pictures, so I was 16, almost 17 (made the summer before sr. year, 1975). In the heart of my shy stage.
If you can relate to the “shy” part, then maybe you felt this way, too: I was never competitive. Not like so many sports contenders might be. The things I enjoyed, writing and music, were open to everyone, I felt. I am not a “joiner” and I am not one to enter a lot of contests. I entered FIRE EYES in the 2010 EPIC Awards competition, and something odd happened when I did.
From the moment I entered, my attitude about myself changed. BEFORE I entered, I thought, “I probably don’t have a chance.” But my mom always used to say, “If you don’t enter, you certainly are NOT going to win!” I remembered those words, and sent in my entry that very day. Once it was sent, I began to feel some confidence growing. As I analyzed WHY, here’s what I came up with.
FIRE EYES was a joint project. I wrote it, but I couldn’t have if I hadn’t had the cooperation and support of my family—my kids and my husband. While I was writing it, my oldest sister, Annette, was constantly asking about “how it’s coming”, and she was the one I could bounce ideas off of. My parents had been so supportive, and one of my great regrets is that they both passed away before they could know that FIRE EYES had been published. Once written, my business partner read it for glaring mistakes, and my best friend of 45 years read it for moral support. The Wild Rose Press accepted it, and my editor, Helen Andrew, was so phenomenal in helping me mold it and shape it into the story that was released in May, 2009. My cover artist, Nicola Martinez, did a superb job on the beautiful cover. My family and friends were all pulling for me, and constantly offering encouragement. With all these people behind me and my story, my confidence rose. Whatever would be, would be—and entering the competition was a win/win situation. Even if I didn’t make it to the finals, I would still have taken the chance and had the experience.
When I received the news that my book was, indeed, a finalist, I thought immediately of all the people who had helped me get to this point; people in my life who had faith in me, and in my ability, and in the story itself. I thought of that saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s true, even in the broader sense of our lives as writers. The experiences we had growing up, people who encouraged us even then, our spouses, our children, mentors and teachers we’ve had along the way, and peers that have helped and encouraged us. Editors, artists, publishers and organizations such as EPIC that give us a chance to compete and strive to be better and better, along with our readers, are all part of the completed circle of a successful writer’s endeavors.
Though FIRE EYES didn’t win that year, the experience of entering the competition and finalling in it was more important that I could have realized when I sent my entry in. It was the thing that made me understand just how many people had been involved in the entire process of writing that book. And it gave me the impetus and encouragement to move forward with the rest of my writing projects since that time. That realization was far more important than winning the contest, and has been with me every day, like a component of myself that I didn’t have before; another part of my make-up.
Since then, FIRE EYES has gone to a different publisher, WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER. With yet another great cover, this time by Karen Nutt, and a fantastic publisher, Rebecca Vickery, it’s once again seeing renewed success. But moreover, that’s yet another example of the help I’ve gotten on my writing journey.
Does anyone have a “special person” that helped them along the way? Not just in writing, but in your life’s goals and dreams? What about a “collection” of special people? My “collection” of special people in my life is the thing that I am most thankful for above all else. Without them, my dreams could have never happened. I could never have done it alone.
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Posted by Cheryl Pierson