Thursday, December 19, 2013

Following The Write Dream

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

For today's post, I thought I'd share with you an essay that will soon be published in one of the magazines I contribute to regularly, The East Greenwich Monthly.  With the holidays in full swing and the New Year right around the corner, I'm going through a very "reflective" period in which I ponder all the goals I have, both personally and professionally.  This essay sums up how I have been maintaining the life as a writer! Something I never take for granted!

Five pizza boxes teeter at the end of our kitchen island—empty except for a few remaining crusts that didn’t get fed to the dogs.  Dishes tower in a neat stack in the nearby sink waiting for the lucky child who has kitchen duty in our house this week to load them in our already full dishwasher.  I hear muffled voices drifting towards me through the heating vents but other than that, it’s eerily quiet in our usually hectic household.

There’s no time to worry about a dirty kitchen or how my six school-aged children are fairing with their homework because the calendar says it’s the 11th of the month and for me, that means my usual hobbies such as baskets of unfolded laundry, finger-smudged glass work, dusty hardwood floors, and the rest of my 5-page “to do” list is going to have to wait—it’s deadline time, and I’m a writer.

Most of the writers I know thrive during deadline probably because there’s nothing like that adrenaline rush you get as you push through the finish line with your latest piece of creativity that now envelopes the space that used to be a sterile blank page.  Think about it—whether your staring at a white page on your computer or looking at crisp, empty paper in your journal you have the incredible power to occupy that vacant space with whatever thoughts you choose.

Now I know this might not excite everyone the way it does me, (don’t forget, we writers spend hours in solitude) but even if you’re not making deadline as a writer, everyone still has the ability to create something from nothing whether it be as simple as your grocery list or the last chapter of your 600-page New York Times’ best-selling novel—you’re still the author.

Today, however, I’m not penning a list of groceries and housekeeping products that desperately need to be purchased, or uploading `my weekly post to this writing blog that I share with a kindred-spirit writer friend, Kate Phillips, no, today is deadline for one of my dream writing jobs—my parenting column with Macmillan Publishers in New York City—a full-time writing position that was practically handed to me on a silver platter all because I took chance on myself 12 years ago by submitting a personal essay.

Writing has always been my true love (beside, of course, my family, mystery novels, Disney (been there 18 times) and pressed grapes!), but I never pursued it seriously because whenever I admitted this was my career path of choice I was always cautioned to find something more practical that would provide me with money for the essentials like food, clothing and shelter. (I guess the vision of being a starving writer made too many folks in my circle a wee bit uncomfortable.)

I listened to all the well-meaning naysayers and instead pursued a career caring for people’s teeth, a job I truly enjoyed for nearly two decades but in my heart, it was never my passion. (Oh, but it did instill flossing into my nightly regimen, something I will never take for granted.)

My lucky break into my writing career came 13 years ago when I was 7 months pregnant with my 7 seventh child and we bravely took our growing family on a summer vacation to Disney World.  (Remember, I’ve been 18 times!)  The commotion we caused everywhere we went was something I never expected.  From the airport to The Magic Kingdom, by the end of the week, I was so tired of answering curious on-lookers questions about whether or not the kids were all ours or did we have a blended family, I turned my frustration into an essay that was published by The Providence Journal, titled “Yes, We Have Seven Kids and are Proud of it”.  

And so it began!  The essay was very well received by both proponents of large families and those who wished we would be a bit more conscious of the carbon footprint our deluxe family would be leaving on the planet.  (Trust me, with 8 kids, we have mastered living green.)

The positive feedback I received from that one essay was just the push I needed to pursue my passion, and it was then that I promised myself I would search for an opportunity that would allow me to continue my love of writing all while raising my brood.

Excitedly, I began exploring avenues in which to get published and then the perfect job presented itself in this very publication.  The East Greenwich Monthly and North Kingstown View magazines were looking for writers, and although I was hesitant because I still didn’t feel like a real writer, I bravely applied anyway. Within a month I had my first assignment and thirteen years later I’ve been happily writing articles each month in addition to my column, The Family Zone, for our wonderful readers in both communities—a job I am privileged and thrilled to be doing.

The time has gone by so quickly and we’ve since added one more addition to the family, our final chapter—daughter Annie who was born eight years ago.  As the mother of eight, you can’t imagine how many times I look at my kids in complete awe (or harried disbelief) and give thanks as well as pray for continued sanity as the oldest two are now off to college, the next two leave next year so one by one, tuition by tuition—my heart is racing—breathe, Cheryl, breathe!

During the course of being a regular contributor with the magazines, I’ve branched out and written for national magazines, local newspapers and magazines, on-line publications, am the adviser of the Pier Middle School’s newspaper, The Mariners’ Catch, and wrote and published my first book, Pregnant Women Don’t Eat Cabbage, in 2010.  I’ve also been published in several issues of the popular anthology series—Chicken Soup for the Soul and have been a guest on Reading With Robin, Channel 10 News and Fox’s The Rhode Show.

Most recently, synchronicity has played an important part in landing me my full-time writing gig with MacMillan Publishers in New York City as their Mighty Mommy for the past two years.  This opportunity came to be when I unexpectedly received an e-mail from a producer at Macmillan who happened to attend a book signing of mine a couple years before.  She didn’t know me personally but remembered I was a writer and mom of a lot of kids (yep-8 kids does count as a lot, doesn’t it?) and invited me to apply for the Mighty Mommy position that had just opened.  After interviewing with their editorial team, I was hired and have since been writing a parenting column that reflects on the various twists of parenthood along with a weekly podcast which is available on iTunes.  Because you have all been like family to me, loyal readers of The Writer's Crate, I invite you to visit to share in this journey.  

I’m so grateful I took a chance on myself by contacting The East Greenwich Monthly and North Kingstown View thirteen years ago which in turn became the inspiring springboard to my writing career.  Even more so, I’m so thankful I finally followed the ‘write’ dream so now I will never have to live with the regret of “what if”—something far too many of us do in order to avoid potential failure, the most important lesson this writer hopes she can share with all of you as you meet life’s important deadlines of your own.

What was it that finally inspired you to take a leap as a writer?


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