“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Writers and Friends who Contributed to My Writing Journey
This is an homage to six of the people who appeared in my life and have contributed, in various ways, to my present journey into the written word.
As a teenager living at home, I wrote short stories, poetry, and simple journaling. Someone gave me the name of an elderly woman in her 80s who lived around the corner and was a published writer and editor. I paid her a visit. After talking, I asked her if she would look over my story entitled, “It Happens to Everyone You Know,” a short-story about (yikes) getting old and the disparity in perceptions between the old and youth today.
The World According to Edits
Now this story would not be complete without letting you know what an emotionally disturbed and depressed teen I was. After several weeks and not hearing anything I stopped by to see her. To say something mortified me and overwhelmed me with grief is an understatement! I. Was. Crushed. This woman made circles on the page, moved sentences some up and some down. She crossed out portions of the entire story that I believed was well thought-out and suitable to publish!
I half-listened to her explanations (which I didn’t understand as I was a senior-class flunky, and, where had I been the last four years?) I thanked her through stifling tears, immediately leaving with my poor injured paper in hand, and a failed sense of self. I remember I cried all the way home.
I did not understand how bad my English was at the time, nor the focus and energy it took to make my paper presentable and interesting. I took each stroke of her pen as a personal affront to my already lacking sense of esteem. This is still a regret of mine as I never went back to see her again.
Now an easy 50 years ago, I will always remember her and the impact she had on my life along with the lesson she gave me. It would take 50 years before I would sit before a writing critic again and have the courage to understand that edits were not a reflection of my ineptitude but a natural reflection of the process that even geniuses’ go through.
AT LAST, THE HOMAGE TO THE BIG SIX:
So here it is my friends. These are the notables in my life who deserve a special thanks for their time, for their enduring understanding and grace. Most of all, I give them thanks for their belief and trust in me through every moment that I had no belief in me at all.
Linda was my boss for the State of Florida’s department of Children and Families (DCF). Working for Linda was without question, the single most demanding job I have ever had. As Assistant Secretary of the most visible department within DCF (Office of Family Safety) I was her personal assistant. Linda was constantly under scrutiny from a pressure-cooker of activity that was the press, constituents, legislators and the world according to the Governor. Rarely was she in the office and when she was, demands made her even less available.
Her absence gave me the opportunity to create the departments first Secretarial Handbook, accomplished through teamwork with secretaries from other departments. The freedom again, to create, collaborate with others and organize structurally became the beginning of my creative musings. This freedom, working for Linda, gave me a self-confidence I so desperately needed to continue and use in other areas of my writing career. I will forever be indebted to her for allowing me to sink or swim and for teaching me a personal mantra, “Never let them see you sweat,” although I’ve not mastered that one yet.
Kristen Russell, Administrator
I worked for “Kris” affectionately known to those in her world. She was Administrator over three Medicaid Waivers for the State of Florida and I was her sidekick, finding and licensing competent providers to serve our clients, wearing not quite as many hats.
But what Kris did for me, was to give me the freedom to develop and design a statewide newsletter that went out quarterly, entitled “Waiver World.” This ability to hone my creative musings, together with drafting memos, case notes and letters, not only taught me so much but became a source of strength for me I never knew I had. The newsletter was a ray of sunshine for clients, providers and staff and I will forever be grateful to Kris for this; and because, under pressure, which was every single day for Kris as the administrator, she was a great example of courage but most of all, compassion, regardless how emotionally exhausted she was.
My dear friend who requested to remain nameless a true follower of Buddhism and mindful-meditation requested that I not bring attention to her personally for any success I might have. While she is no longer close by, she is no less a dear friend and long-time trusted servant and writer in her own right. Years ago, over lunch and lengthy conversations I would tell her of my facilitating six-week curricula, “Journaling with a Purpose.” It was during these meetings she introduced me to writing by speaking of her own meeting with another writer on her book and how the process worked. It was here that I realized out loud, “I already have my book half-written of individual topics!” Hum…. And so, the idea was born for Miracles of Recovery.
I fell in love with everything about Lyla the first time I met her in my first-ever critique group. One— because she accepted me into her group, and two—I could tell this woman knew what she was doing. A Florida native, Lyla is a graduate of USF in Tampa with a double major in English-Speech. She holds a Master’s Degree in English Ed. from UF in Gainesville.
Lyla has several books to her credit but, most of all, what she brings to the table of writers is her breadth and knowledge of the Oxford comma and proper language overall— which is something I so desperately need even today! Lyla’s books can be found on the top social media sites and on her website https://www.lylafairclothellzey.com.
After three one-week writing workshops on St. George Island with a good-sized group of other writers, and Adrian leading the group, I’ve had the chance to get to know Adrian on a somewhat personal level. She is, among other things, a teacher, editor, a musician (singer/songwriter and performer as half of the acoustic duo Hot Tamale) and humanitarian extraordinaire. She is also a writer of nine published novels for middle-grade and young adult readers, including the award winning title, “Crossing Jordan.”
Adrian edited Miracles of Recovery for me in her spare time. Adrian has the patience of Job. Meticulous at what she does, (and by now, I have long-since gotten over my fear of edits!) she is thorough to a fault, strategically giving justifications, asking questions, and offering support while pointing out much-needed changes. Miracles of Recovery is a success because of Adrian. I will always be grateful for her thoughtful editing and have through our collaboration, l’ve grown and learned much about the craft of writing.
You can read more about Adrian and her journey at My adrianfogelin.com, and her blog is http://slowdancejournal.wordpress.com
Gigi Langer, Ph.D
I met Gigi in cyberspace, as members of a non-fiction writing group. She is so down to earth and personable. It didn’t take long for me to ask her if she would endorse Miracles of Recovery, you can find her on the back of my book.
Gigi is one of my biggest supporters. I adore her, not for her following but for who she is, how she writes. I especially gravitate to her because when I grow up, I want to be just like her. She emulates and personifies the woman with the integrity I am striving to be: articulate, loving and kind. I want to be like her, in how she reaches out to her audience in so many ways with an intention of sheer goodness and authenticity. Thank you, Gigi, for the wonderful person and author you are.
You can see Gigi and learn more about this wonderful writer and author of the award-winning “50 Ways to Worry Less Now” by going to https://gigilanger.com/.
ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE
This little mantra should have been my sign. With the loss of my daughter, I did not understand at the time what I was doing or why. I only knew these writings soothed my heart damaged by a lifetime of grief and loss. It has taken me this long to find sufficient belief in myself. Never before could I have imagined enduring the personal insecurities of two writing critique groups. Then, there was jealousy from friends and others who, I imagined, day-in-and-day-out were saying, “Who does she think SHE is?” I kept going when my stinking-thinking was screaming in my ears, “Beth, I mean REALLY, you don’t think ANY one will pay for this do you?” “You will lose all your friends because you’re stepping out and stepping up, and their sneers suck, you ARE the laughingstock.”
Maybe aging does this for us? I know now that facing our greatest fears gave me resilience. We become sure we have two choices: live or die. We can move forward, or continue to rest on our laurels, going nowhere, forever stuck in our excuses, remorse and ridiculous pinings. Resiliency through my own personal losses strengthened me; just as the biggest rubber band that stretches around a house and comes back to its center grief transforms us. There is only one thing that matters and that is to do what is in front of us to do next. No longer do we need anyone’s permission, approval, or concurrence. We gave that to ourselves and we trust it.
I wonder what individuals were pivotal and necessary in your life that helped you to succeed and still moves you today? Have you thought about who is with you, on your unfinished journey? We may think we may have succeeded this far alone, but we never ever did any of it by ourselves.
If you like what you heard, please pass it on for others to read, and maybe ponder themselves, who is walking with them?
Thanks for being with me. I hope you will keep coming back.