Last week on Friday the 13th something amazing happened. I was published for the first time. It all started on April 28th, although now that I think about it it actually started a lot sooner than that. The real truth is, it started in April of last year, when I decided I wanted to seriously pursue becoming a writer. I'd dreamt about it since I was little but I never believed it was possible, and all the people I talked to confirmed it. But in April of last year something clicked. Instead of saying 'I can't' I started wondering 'why can't I?'
My first steps were shaky ones. I didn't know what to do or where to start. I didn't know what was expected of me, or what I even expected of myself. It was at that time that I experimented with trying to write my first book (which I finished but let's just say it was a trial run - not publish worthy but I proved to myself that I could finish something I started), as well as Suite101 and blogging. But nothing was really happening. It was in November (I think) that I got my idea for my second book. It started off innocently at first, as something that was just for fun that I could send in portions to my sister to amuse her. Then, with her encouragement I started to see the broader picture. This could really be something. It had potential. But I still suffered from a crippling sense of self doubt. I had no idea if I was any good at writing.
I'm not sure how I happened upon the information on the Writer in Residence, but somehow through my googling I found her. All I can say is, it was meant to be. I had my first appointment on December 1st, and I most recently had my last one on May 4th.
I was so freaked out at my first appointment, but it was amazing. It was exactly what I needed to light a fire under me. I think what made the biggest difference was how seriously she took me and my writing. She asked me the tough questions, why did I want to be a writer? What was I interested in writing? Not only that, she told me what I needed to hear. I was good. My idea was good. (Not that she didn't have plenty of constructive criticism - God knows I needed it!) and after that I was hooked. I worked feverishly on my manuscript, tried to meet with her once a month, took her classes on personal essay writing, editing and publishing. I learned the most important lesson any budding writer could learn - the art of editing.
I'd always thought that all great writers were great from the moment they'd clasped their pens, but it's not true. You have to be willing to write badly before you can write well. As Margaret Atwood once said, "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." And ain't that the truth.
It was because of the Writer in Residence that I started submitting personal essays to magazines, and it was because I was brave enough to send my writing into the void that I was brave enough to apply for a Food Writer position with VerbNews. And on the night of my highest honour yet as a writer, they gave me the job. It was on that night, that I was a featured writer in Writers in Progress. What's that? Well, every year at the end of their residency, the Writer in Residence in our program asks ten of the many, many people they work with (in my case over two hundred and fifty) to share a piece of their work at Writers in Progress. I was one of the lucky few granted that honour, and I couldn't have been prouder. My moment in the sun was made even more glorious by the news that I'd been chosen for the job as Food Writer (based solely on my writing sample) and I was over the moon.
And on Friday the 13th, of all the strange days for such an occurrence, my first article was published. It's nothing amazing, just a small four hundred word review of a restaurant, but it was a victory of epic proportions for me. I'm a published writer. I have my foot in the door, and I'm not pulling it out to save my life. Instead, I plan on having the rest of me walking through it, and I'll have the first draft of my new novel done by the end of the month to prove it. As the great author Alice Kuipers once said, "There's no point in spending your life in the pursuit of something that's easy." Amen, sister. Amen.