Kate takes pride in being the only person in Fort Bragg, California to own a Taaka Vodka tee-shirt, a gift for her tireless promotion of this product in her blog.
The back of the shirt says, “Mixes well with people.” It’s her shirt of choice whenever she hangs around The Purity Market parking lot.
What does it mean to be a real writer? Some might say, “A writer is someone who writes.” But is that all there is to it? If that’s the case, I should have been calling myself a writer for most of my life. But it took more than writing a lot for me to feel like one.
For me, a real writer was someone with an audience outside of their immediate family and circle of friends. I was merely a dabbler, a hobbyist. The confidence to call myself a writer would be a nearly twenty-year journey that began with a fortuitous meeting and led to a group of supportive mentors.
By the time my husband, kids, and I moved to Fort Bragg in June 1992, I’d written countless journal entries, several columns on motherhood, and a novel. I tried unsuccessfully to get a major syndicate to pick up the motherhood column. A few rejections from publishers caused me to toss the novel into a pile under an end table in the living room.
The following year—1993—I saw a blurb in The Advocate News about the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. I longed to attend, but I wasn’t a real writer. I was a wife, a mother of two young children, and a financial consultant. That same year, I joined Leadership Mendocino. One of my classmates was Ginny Rorby, someone with the gumption to call herself a writer. (The next year her first novel--Dolphin Sky—got accepted by a publisher.)
In 1996, my hometown paper--The Spokesman Review—published a piece called “A 12-Step Guide to Housework Avoidance.” They even paid me fifty bucks. The next time I saw Ginny, I told her.
Her eyes opened wide. She smiled. “So you’re a writer?”
I had bonafide proof that I was—a published work, a check, and a real writer giving me the title. It gave me chills.
I sheepishly told her I’d also written a novel, but nobody wanted to publish it. She knew someone who could help—local writer and editor Suzanne Byerley—and gave me her telephone number.
I didn’t call.
A few months later, Ginny, in her Fairy Godmother way, arranged a meeting. Suzanne, with her soft, gentle voice and delicate handshake, provided the sanctuary needed to reveal my written words. Over the course of several weeks, she edited my work and taught me how to tell a story. (I wimped out on pursuing an agent and the novel returned to its former location under the end table.)
Suzanne invited me to join her writers group which included Ginny and the effervescent Norma Watkins. I hesitated. These were accomplished writers with Masters of Fine Arts degrees. I was not worthy, but it was an offer I could hardly refuse. For most of my life I’d wanted to be a published writer. These women could help me reach that goal.
Once a week, I was required to share my stories. The feedback from this dynamic group helped teach me the craft of writing. By the spring of 1997, I was invited to help with the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. Within a few years, I’d gone from secretly longing to attend this event to being part of the production team. Yet—because few people read my work—I still didn’t feel like a real writer.
I continued with the writers group and the conference for five years. I had a few pieces published and earned a couple hundred bucks. As my children grew, their activities required more of my time, and I wanted to give it to them. Writing was a time-consuming hobby I could no longer afford. I put my pen down and took up knitting.
Whenever I saw Ginny, she’d say, “It’s a shame you’re not writing.” Would this woman never stop encouraging me? I confided that I was thinking of writing a blog. She told me to do it. It was the boost I needed to develop It Happened at Purity, Small Town Adventures on the Mendocino Coast.
My experience with the writers group taught me the importance of receiving objective feedback. I hesitated to release blog posts without it. I asked Ginny if I could come back to the group. It was closed to new members, but she and Norma took time out of their busy schedules to read my stuff and meet with me a couple of times a month. Six months later, a member dropped out of their group and I was invited to join.
I am blessed to have met Ginny, Norma, the late Suzanne—and subsequently many others—who have been so generous with sharing their time and talents. Their unwavering support made me persevere until I found an audience and developed the courage to see that I’m more than a dabbler. I am a real writer.
Guest Post by Kate Erickson
Fort Bragg Blogger, and MCWC Treasurer
(RSS Feed) Chrome users who see code: get Google RSS extension