My personal advice to budding writers is not simply . . . WRITE! but darned near it.
Like all writers and novelists, I followed a myriad of roads to arrive at where I am today. I can see that many of my roads were constructed of circumstances. Yet, the gritty asphalt of the highway leading me to the inkwells of a corporate writer, humor columnist, scribe, and author was built from pure tenacity.
Writing in the library, the car, in bed, on the toilet . . .
I’ve always written. In school, I loved nothing more than getting essay questions. I’d fill up the page and write on the back or in the margins of the test questions. Off and on, I kept diaries and journals. I wrote Christmas letters, poems, free verse. My letters to friends and family were dubbed “epistles.” I volunteer-wrote for charities and ministries and rewrote safety manuals for an insurance company. I simply wrote . . . before I had children, while I was raising children, and after my children were adults.
A little book happened.
Wherever I volunteered, I was always given some kind of writing task. Researching how to write press releases for my children’s school one fateful day, a little book practically fell off the library bookshelf and into my trembling hands. It was If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland, an archaic book written in 1938, of which Carl Sandburg said was “the best book ever written on how to write.”
Ueland essentially believed that if a person wants to write, she or he will. By hook or crook, they will plow ahead. I can’t explain it, but that little book inspired me to return to college for my Business Management degree. Naturally, being me, I had to sign up for a class related to writing, and I decided to take a journalism class.
It was the best decision I ever made *about writing*
Before long, I was a campus editor, and soon I was making professors laugh with my crazy brand of humor columns. I learned how to interview and take my own human-interest photographs. I took a summer job at a small, local newspaper in which we set up our own columns on an old Apple computer. It turned into a circus-worthy balancing act with two school-aged children, a husband, and my penchant for keeping a dirt-free habitation, but I never stopped smiling!
Why? Because I loved writing.
If you ask, I will answer
It’s awesome to be honored with a question about one's journey to an accomplishment. Recently, I received a personal message on my author Facebook page from Skylar. She had just completed her sophomore year in high school, and she aspires to write books. She asked for my advice.
What advice can you give others than what you know to be true in your own life?
Skylar agreed that I could use her name, so here, in microchip fashion, is my advice for her and all budding authors:
"Hi Skylar! Thank you for writing to me. I'm happy to offer you a bit of writing advice. My journey to becoming a corporate writer and author came through journalism. My college journalism courses taught me to "hook" my audience with my very first sentence, my first paragraph, and my first page. I highly recommend studying journalism because it also teaches you to write succinctly and to the point.
Let me also say that a highly developed sense of grammar and proper sentence structure/syntax must undergird all writing. Creative writing courses do not get my personal stamp of approval for basic writing because most seem to focus on writing wildly descriptive sentences that, though fun to read and wonderful for certain types of poetry, are not popular in our sound-bite culture.
Learn to say a lot using powerful adjectives and few words.
Whenever you can, attend writing seminars and take online writing classes for fiction and/or non-fiction. I was always a non-fiction writer, but I decided to challenge myself to take a fiction-writing course for magazine writing with the Children's Institute of Writing — a great institute, by the way. At the end of the course, my mentor, Chris Eboch, encouraged me to write a novel. I didn't think it was possible, but she believed in me.
It turns out, Chris was right - I can write novels, and my fifth one debuts this September. I'm already working on the ideas for another one because . . . I love to write!
It hasn't been easy, far from it, but nothing worthwhile falls into our laps without sweat equity and a burning desire to improve. If you really want to write, you will, and you'll take every opportunity to become better at your craft.
We writers never stop learning. Or absorbing. Or trying.
Good luck, Skylar, and keep me posted on your progress. Never hesitate to ask me anything, and if I can answer it, I will."
Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas to an "Okie" mom and a Texan dad. Her younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, chiggers, and snipe hunting. At the age of eight, she moved to a vast cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. As a teen, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she DIDN'T want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional Western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter.
She is the author of a contemporary trilogy set in the Navajo Nation, as well as two historical novels. Her current novel, Blackberry Road, is available on Amazon. Her next historical novel, The Accidental Road, debuts in September 2019. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90+-year-old mother, a crazy Standard poodle named Jazz, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.
Blackberry Road is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.
Trouble sneaks in one Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a black man that Biddy *a sharecropper’s daughter* knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.
The Accidental Road debuts September 2019
A teen and her mother escaping an abusive husband tumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for things as simple as home and trust. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did take The Accidental Road of life, or if it's the exact right road to all they ever hoped for.