Saturday, April 16, 2016

Writer's Maze: A Toast to the Editor

In every author’s life there are always people who help us become the writer we are. Those people deserve our utmost gratitude. And among this group of encouragers there is most likely also one person who stands out in the crowd. A person who made the difference in your decision to become a writer, or not. A person, who perhaps pushed you over a hump and made you try—or try again. A person whose encouragement was so valuable that you might not even be a writer at all if not for them.

For me, that person was the Editor in chief at a small newspaper I was working at. 

But let me backup. 

All my life I’d wanted to be a writer, I wrote for pleasure and I wrote stories for my children, but I never wrote anything anyone could see.

In a way, I think my late father had a hand in the way fate changed my life, because so many things happened all at once I don’t really even understand to this day how I got here. 

This is how it happened.

I lived in Portland, OR. I worked part time at an upscale salon downtown. I taught cosmetology part time at a college and I went to school fulltime. Majored in Fine Arts. Why? Because I didn’t believe I could be a writer due to my dyslexia – I’d let my disability become my excuse instead of my reason – so I was going to be an illustrator instead, dammit. Luckily, my mother was an artist and my father dabbled in art, so I had just enough residual talent to fake it. 

Then my father died. And this is where my life takes a huge detour. I packed up and moved to a beautiful small town in Oregon to take care of my grieving mother. I got a job at the nicest salon in town, bought a cool house and let my dream of becoming an illustrator go. With no colleges to continue my degree, I was okay with accepting a simple life in my new friendly town. 

Fate had other plans once again. 

Four months later, once I was happily settled in and making friends, I was in a car accident. My neck was so messed up that I couldn’t work in the salon for close to a year. But I needed to work so I took a fulltime job at a local jewelers and a part-time job at the local paper selling advertising. I really enjoyed the challenge of creating the ads and helping people acquire more business. Plus, I got to walk around downtown (all 8 blocks) visiting with people. 

But soon, I needed something more so I enrolled in online college. And here is where my most important person comes in. Debby (I’ll give you her details later), my Editor in chief, asked if I’d like to write a column about the happenings going on downtown. A friendly gossip column of sorts. I desperately wanted to say yes, but I was nervous my spelling and grammar were not up to “publishing” standards.

“Don’t worry,” Debby said. “I’ll edit it first. I won’t put anything out there that isn’t ready.”

My whole world shifted. One column at a time. 

Shout out to Debbie Ohi! I've met her a couple of times at various writer's conferences and she is FABULOUS! 
Each week I’d get to do exactly what I’m doing right now, talk about nothing but gibberish. And people liked it. The locals would actually make it a point to tell me how much they enjoyed the column. 

No one was laughing at me. At least not to my face.

My mother was in shock. I don’t think she ever dreamed that I could read, much less write. Remember she’d watched me struggle all my life. She’d gotten my cards and letters over the years—chicken scratched and littered with errors because I couldn’t write to save myself.

But it turns out all I needed was to type— and type a lot. Debby gave me just that chance when she asked me if I wanted to start covering some news also. Let me tell you, you haven’t truly written until you’ve covered a City Council meeting. Ha! I joke. 

It was about a year later that I was standing outside on my back porch, waiting for my dog to do her business, that the universe revealed its ultimate plan for me. It was like a voice, somewhere in my own mind, yet not my usual monologue voice. This voice was important and it made me pay attention. 

It said, “You’ve always wanted to be writer. To write books. In five years, will you still feel the same?”

“Yes,” I answered back, looking to the clouds rushing across the sky.

“And in ten years, twenty years, will you still wish you had written a book?”

“Yes, yes.”

I walked around in a daze that day. And that night I dreamt the end. Not the end of my life but the end of a story I’d been writing in my head for as long as I could remember.

The next morning, I woke up before the sun and began to write. 

That was seven years ago this month. 

Seven happy years spent hammering words onto paper. Seven hard years trying to figure it all out. And seven years of learning who it was I really wanted to be.

So I raise a virtual glass of champagne. “To Debby! Thanks for changing my life. You made me believe I could.”

To find out more about Debby Schoeningh, a witty and talented writer, go to:

Want to know more about Debby's books?

 Have a mentor you'd like to give a shout-out to? Leave their link below (NO SPAMMERS! I'll delete you!) so we can check them out.


  1. Wow Candie, I am so honored to have been part of your writing journey. Thank you for your kind words, but it's not difficult to spot writing talent in someone so gifted as yourself. I now have the pleasure of reading your first book before its release, and I am convinced that you have always been a writer, even before you realized it.