The first time I entertained the notion of writing for publication came when I was reading Guideposts magazine. A subscriber for several years, I thought perhaps I could be a contributor as well. One of its regular authors was Marion Bond West. I enjoyed reading her stories, and since she lived in the same area that I did, I decided to call her.
At the time I was a young, new mother who wanted desperately to leave the work force and stay at home with my baby. I thought freelance writing might be a means to that end. Marion, on the other hand, was a seasoned writer and mother of four. When I think back now to how clueless I was about the writing world at that time, I’m amazed that she was so polite and considerate to this stranger interrupting her world to ask questions.
However, Marion was very gracious as she listened to my innocent longing. She patiently explained to me that it was very, very difficult for a writer to support herself by freelance writing, and that few did. In addition, she told me it was not realistic to quit my fulltime job and expect writing to replace the income any time soon. Marion gave me my first glimpse of the reality of writing, yet without telling me it was impossible.
But Marion did offer an alternative by suggesting what I could do instead. She recommended that I keep a personal journal. That way, I’d be exercising my writing, as well as, saving memories that I might use some day when I could pursue more writing possibilities.
I remember hanging up the phone that day discouraged that my idea to be a stay at home mom would not work. At that time, we needed my salary to make ends meet. But I did take Marion up on her suggestion to keep a journal. Although I was not as consistent as I wish I’d been, I discovered that keeping the journal was therapeutic. Many times over the years when I needed to vent my frustrations or share my experiences, I did so by writing them in the journal.
Now that I have the time to pursue my writing without the demands of a fulltime job, I have rediscovered my journals. What I found in them was not just stories of my past, but the feelings I experienced at the time. I opened one recently and soon I was crying as I reconnected with the angst of that stage in my life. And as any writing teacher will tell you, you must be able to convey the emotions of your characters to the reader. Now I have a resource to go to that not only reminds me of things long forgotten, but helps me experience the feelings again.
Last November, I found myself sitting next to Marion Bond West at a Guideposts writers workshop. I was filled with awe and admiration by being in the same room with her, not to mention, meeting her in person. I told her about the phone call I made to her thirty years ago. Of course, she didn’t remember, but her gracious, down-to-earth personality was just as genuine as it had been during the call. She seemed humbled to know that she had helped me get where I was in my writing.
So, thank you, Marion, for giving me a gentle push along my path.
By the way, I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting her daughter, Julie Garmon, who also writes for Guideposts.
‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21