It was not the plan. But here I am, finally discovering my calling -- I am a writer. As my gaze turns to the blank screen before me, I realize that this is blog post No.100. Looking back, it seems like it’s taken a lifetime to get here. The path was certainly not easy or direct, but I believe I’ve ended up exactly where I’m meant to be -- right here, right now.
As with most journeys, there were unexpected turning points and influential people along the way. At the time, I didn’t realize the impact of these voices -- many encouraging, but some defeating. One was my third-grade teacher, Ms. Shiffrin. I am certain she would be shocked with my success as she labeled me a slow reader and average writer when I was 8 years old. As a timid girl, I stuck to what I excelled in and tasks that would boost my tenuous confidence. By high school, those were algebra, chemistry, and calculus. A required creative writing class my senior year ended with a final grade of a B, confirming that being a doctor was clearly my destiny.
It wasn’t until 30 years later, in school again but this time to obtain a Master of Divinity degree (to be a pastor for sure), that a hidden gift emerged. Numerous 50-page research papers gave me practice with organizing my thoughts, self-editing, and sitting in front of a computer for hours and days on end. But it was mostly in the classroom, through the encouragement of two professors, where a seed was planted that a writing career might be on my horizon. With his red marker, Dr. Burrow would scribble on the front page of every paper, “Let’s go, Julie O.!” The first assignment resulted in an A+, along with every one after that. Dr. Allen just told me as if it were obvious, “Julie, you’re a writer.” After graduation, these voices began to sink in. Maybe they were right?
Over time, through prayer and promptings, I decided to take a leap of faith. My first stop was the local newspaper, Current, where I applied to be an unpaid intern with two goals: to gain writing experience and to be a contributor to the newspaper’s mission. After a meeting with the owners, Brian Kelly and Steve Greenberg, they offered me a position, not as an intern but as a managing editor! Brian and Steve saw something in me -- they believed in me. I will always be grateful for their trust and the inconceivable opportunity they handed me. With no experience or formal training, I dove in head first.
Sometimes our limitations are not revealed until tested. Mine hit me immediately. While I was gifted in connecting with the community, my professional writing skills were lacking. I had never had a journalism or writing class (remember, I wasn’t good at it!). The first few months resulted in long nights and serious on-the-job training -- as well as several trips to the doctor for potential ulcers. No longer was I writing lengthy research papers but brief 350-word articles that, by the way, are much harder. I had a long way to go to learn to write short.
While the paper built my confidence and experience as a writer, and I enjoyed immersing in the community, the news business was not for me. My desire was to inspire readers more than just inform them -- to freely share my life lessons and faith. So after two years it was time to venture out on my own, but this didn’t mean I was alone. I felt God by my side as I stumbled to get started, and help always arrived when I needed it most. Enter Judy Keene, my editor.
I first met Judy in a crowded room at our church Bible study. I didn’t know a soul when I arrived late so I picked the table closest to the door. Judy was in the seat next to mine. As we chatted I learned she had been a professional writer/editor for almost 50 years. I smiled. God knew I needed Judy and placed her in the chair right next to me. Coincidence, I think not!
It is impossible to explain the impact Judy has had on my writing career. Not only does she edit my stories but includes comments to enable me to strengthen my skills. She also challenges me and is not afraid to return a draft if it’s not my best work. Judy has basically been my private writing coach for the past two years and an irreplaceable mentor in my life.
My story could continue forever with the people (and even a dog) who God brought into my life at just the right moment. For me it didn’t “Take a Village,” it took a universe -- professors, bosses, family, friends, my church community, my editor, and especially God who not only gifted me to write but also provided opportunities and support every step of the way.
The best way I can conclude this 100th post is to say thank you — to you my readers – for not only taking time to read but also to comment, like, or send an encouraging note or text. Thank you for believing in me.
I guess I AM a writer. To God be the glory!