I've been a writer for decades, quite a few decades, but one person kept telling me that no matter how much I published, how much I wrote, I wasn't a REAL writer because I didn't have my name on the spine of a novel. The 15 anthologies didn't count and neither did the hundreds, even thousands, of articles I had written. Not even the shelves of journals I had been writing for decades counted as me being a writer. None of the speeches and PR work I'd done counted as writing and certainly not the stories and books I'd written as a child when I dreamed of being a writer.
I should thank the person who kept upping the stakes because out of need to prove myself a REAL writer I wrote more stories for more anthologies and several books, the first of which was picked up by a publisher and made it to the book shelves with my name on the spine. I have since ended my contract with the publisher and am getting ready to self-publish the book (with appropriate additions) and written and published another novel, the sequel of which comes out this year -- at last. I also have several other books nearly ready to publish that will be released one at a time this year to help raise my author profile, but . . .
I have always been a writer since I picked up that pencil and wrote my first book as a child of 8 about a girl who is lost in the jungles in Central America and stumbles into a lost city. I was a writer every time I penned a story or wrote an essay that was published or won awards, and there are quite a few of those. Mom kept them all.
So, what has me going back over this old chestnut? An article by Kristen Lamb: Lies That Can Poison Your Dreams: Don't Eat the Butt. It's a funny article, but it's also very serious about writing and what being a writer means, as well as when you have the right to call yourself a writer.
I am always reminded of Emily Dickinson who never published a poem during her lifetime. She wrote poetry all her life and kept them from view in a trunk in the attic of her home. She also carried on a tremendous correspondence and critiqued other poets' work. She was a poet, not after she died and her work was found and published, but when she put pen to the paper and wrote the first words that became a poem.
There is no doubt that my great great grandmother Amanda was a writer, though she never had anything published. She too carried on a large correspondence and bred in her children the desire to be more than immigrant farmers from eastern Europe and end up breeding more farmers and food animals. We need farmers, but we also need dreamers and writers and Amanda was both. I wrote about Amanda a very long time ago. I wrote about the letter I was given that sparked the essay that was published in A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families. The essay was originally called Anna's Seeds but was changed to Amanda's Seeds for publication -- the third time.
Colleen Sell, the editor of the Cup of Comfort series, read the essay I sent her many years ago and she kept it because she knew there would come a time when the right book would come together. Colleen wanted the essay to be featured in a different anthology than the one I submitted the essay for: A Cup of Comfort for Writers. She finally found a place for it and contacted me for permission to use the essay. I say yes, of course. I was a writer even before the essay's inclusion in the anthology.
I am a real writer. Every time I put fingers to keyboard or pen/pencil to paper and write, I am a real writer. I make no apologies for my dreams or for the results of my dreams, most of which can be found in the Library of Congress. I need never look the person in the eye who kept raising the bar and challenged me to prove myself. I need never have listened to her, but I did and the results are there for everyone to read, in anthologies, novels, and magazines . . . and here on Red Room. I am a real writer and I have been for nearly 50 years, ever since I picked up a pencil and wrote a story about a girl lost in the jungle.
J M Cornwell, Writer