On Becoming a Writer
Written by
Ann Griffin
December 2016
Written by
Ann Griffin
December 2016

Writing fiction thrust itself upon me as an unwelcome, rather rude guest. My entire work career had involved writing: psychological reports, requests for proposals, advertising copy -- but fiction I dismissed as best left to others with wilder imaginations and wardrobes.

Then in 2004, I learned about an aunt and cousins I did not know existed, and whose story begged for an audience and someone to present it. Me. I began writing, inventing vast swaths of story line but attempting to be as true as possible to what I knew. I had no idea what I was doing. Exasperated, I shoved the manuscript aside for years, but it kept nagging me.

When I retired in 2014, I decided it was time to learn the skills of fiction writing. Workshops, online courses and seminars later, newly armed with terms like "craft," "pitch conference," and "developmental edit," I attacked my laptop with a determination more typically reserved for women in labor. By August of 2015, I completed the first draft.

Now I own who I am. I am a writer. I discovered flash fiction in one online course and opted to use my website blog to showcase my work. I have a professional editor. The end of a major rewrite is in sight, and from thence the goal will become finding an agent.

Plans for second and third books are already in my head. I know it's a crap shoot, and I have no illusions about being a best seller, but there's something deeply satisfying about holding your work in your hands, and thinking, "I did that."

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  • Ann Griffin Querying

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments. It's exciting to learn how others discovered they are writers -- such a range from my own experience! Best of luck to everyone in their writing.

  • RYCJ Revising

    I was 4 years old when I decided I was going to be a writer. As such, always thought of myself as a writer, though this insight was as general knowledge to me as my surname. You know... one of those common knowledge things we have no need to remind ourselves of.

    1998 was the year I became known 'professionally' as a writer.

    2002 I wrote my first book, self-published.
    2002 I wrote a piece, traditionally published in an anthology.
    2005 I wrote my first full-length novel; the second edition independently published 2008

    From 2008 til' present day it's, as it's said, 20+ novels and books "all in the bag."

    I rarely (if ever) introduce myself as a writer. Others, however do, which funny...the first time I heard someone introducing me as 'the writer' it did give me a little jolt.

    @Mary Dullforce, your story is touching...would be interested to read your memoir.
    @Janine Kovac...funny!
    @K. Diann Shope you brought back a memory...the first time I saw my book cover. I had fallen asleep and woke up hours later waiting for the image to download over one of those dial-up connections! I know the feeling. I do. I do!
    ...and @Ann Griffin, thanks for posting this!


  • Ruth Coe Chambers

    I liked Ann Griffin's account on becoming a writer and would like to share my own moment with members of She Writes. From Ruth Coe Chambers here's my writer moment:

    I'd been writing my whole life. Trash, it turned out. But give me a break. I grew up in a town that didn't have a library, much less a bookstore.

    Years later I left my baby daughter with a sitter for the first time and enrolled in a creative writing class at the University of South Florida. One of the methods of instruction the professor used was to read our assignments to the class. He critiqued my piece, and I wanted to die. To say that I blushed is an understatement. Then I listened as he read what the woman who sat in front of me had written. To borrow a cliche', a light went on in my head.

    I remember putting a fresh sheet of paper in the typewriter; yes, a typewriter, and I typed these words:

                                  Stepping here and there on a patch of grass, she . . .

    How much better, I told myself, that saying they had no lawn. I kept writing, and that became my moment when I acknowledged that I was a writer.

    My instructor acknowledged it too, telling the class that it was difficult to imagine that the same person had written both pieces. After class he said, "Aim high."

    And the lack of a lawn? That would become part of my first novel. I've written several novels now, prize-winning plays, contributed to anthologies, and print and on-line magazines. Yes, I am a writer.

  • Lorraine Swoboda

    I've always written. From the very first days at school when I was four, writing stories for 'Composition' class, I knew I was going to be an author. Winning a competition in the local newspaper at age eleven confirmed it for me. Hours spent scribbling away on foolscap paper long into the night when I was a teenager turned into days spent scribbling the beginnings of several novels longhand. A runner-up prize in a national magazine again said I was on the right lines. Then the first short story I sent out was published and well-received. I've published flash fiction too.

    In between all of these events, the years passed, but I never stopped feeling like a writer even when I wasn't actually tapping at the keyboard (or scribbling along the lines).

    Finally, at 61, I've published my first novel, Mrs Calcott's Army, and it's getting excellent reviews on Amazon UK - and the first one on Amazon US is 5* too.

    I wrote it originally to aim at a well-known Romance publishing house. They rejected it. I stuck it on a shelf and then forgot it, until I wanted to write another novel entirely, and thought this one could earn its keep with a bit of a polish while I did so.

    Four years later, it's finished. There was no quick turnaround. It's character-driven, and I needed to do right by all of the cast; it's set in a town where I used to live, and I had to get that right too. It was too important to hurry. I didn't write to that publisher's formula - I wrote to my own. I did what had to be done to get it right. I did it my own way.

    Now I know for sure. By being true to the craft and to the subject and to the characters, I have done my job.

    I'm a writer.

  • Judy Gruen

    Ann, what a wonderful story, and everyone else's  stories are great, too. Each of us has her own path. I think I was born thinking I was a writer; always obsessed with books and writing. But one day, visiting with my grandmother (a physician at a time when almost no women were MDs here in the US) she told me that she believed I would become a writer. I was only about 7 or 8, but I was so thrilled that I never considered myself anything else! For 30+ years I have been a writer, working first in healthcare PR, features, essays, etc. My book with SWP will be my 5th title.

  • My writer moment hit when people actually read what I wrote (online and in local pubs)...and commented back to me about my writing.

  • Hello Kristin, I have had my own  realisation of the truth that I am among other many talents an Author, as you called it, a "Writer Moment."  This Writer Moment came after I was suddenly freed from the responsibility of  the full time care of my 5 children while grieving the death of our eldest son Laurence when a nanny was engaged for their care.

    At that time we lived in Granville, Ohio. While recovering from the loss of my son Laurence, I moved in with my Mother & Father where they still lived at our childhood home nearby in Newark.

    Each morning I would awake and go with my cup of tea into my Mother's Weaving room which we call the Sun Room. There I would look out on the beautiful snow covered forest and frozen pond. A memory I had of my time in England as a newlywed sent me to the keyboard to start writing my first children's book "Toodles Where Did You Go?"  

    This children's book started with the memory I recalled about my encounter with a small hedgehog on my doorstep. I met Toodles when I opened the door to pick up my milk bottles.  He saw me and rolled off the step and down under the hedge and then scuttled away.

    I wrote down the story and thought I would find an editor. I subscribed to The Writing Institute of Children's Literature" I submitted this story for review, however, because I had previously had a dear friend edit this manuscript they would not edit my manuscript. I took the writers course, but did not finish it due to very intense criticism of my writing which made me feel discouraged.

    That same year I went on a walking holiday in Lancashire, England and took up the story again writing the manuscript and creating illustrations for the book. Meanwhile, I visited our old friends and neighbours who Laurence had grown up with as a toddler in Lytham St. Annes.

    It took me a while to publish this book because I could not find an editor. Finally, I asked my son Alexander who is an excellent writer to edit the book for me. Then I met Judy Blume at her book signing hosted by my friend Joanne Geiger at her Readers Garden Book Store in my home town of Granville, Ohio. Judy Blume told me to pare down so that there were only 36 pages of text including my illustrations and it would be a great first book. 

    My dear friends Robert & Jeanne McDaniel who I had known since I was 7 years old from church were both retired educators. I spent time with them every week helping them with Robert's care. I asked them both to help me edit my book and they were kind to give me some assistance.  I put away the book for a while to concentrate on another fictional children's book titled "Angels & Giants Bones."

    In 2008 our family moved to Monmouth in Wales, Great Britain. I kept up with my writing, however, I had also started dabbling in painting and becoming an artist. I did not forget about my first children's book. In fact, I was still waiting for my daughter to complete some of the illustrations for this book.

    I was amused to hear not long after we arrived in Wales, that one morning, my daughter found a family of hedgehogs outside her Grandparents back door near their wood pile.  She told me she stood guard over them until they could reach safety in the woods when they were besieged by some buzzards. Isn't it strange how art so often imitates life and visa versa?

    I did not publish the book"Toodles, Where Did You Go?"  until 2012 on Amazon Kindle. This year Amazon Kindle offers a new publishing package that includes hard copies.  I am now considering whether to sign up for this new service. 

    I am starting to write again, and hope to submit a manuscript to your service at She Writes Press very soon. It is a Daily Devotional titled "The Temple of Truth." 

    I also hope to complete and publish a memoir of my life and times soon.  In it I will attempt to recount my experiences as an expatriate Wife & Mother whilst having lived and worked while raising a family of 6 children in different countries in S. E. Asia, China, Europe, U.K. and America.

  • My "writer moment" came when I finally decided to put "writer" on my tax return--years after I'd been writing and organizing literary events.  

  • Christina Julian

    Loved this Ann! It made me think of my "writer" lightbulb which flicked on while on the beach in Santa Monica. I was tapping out random essays about being single in LA. Months later these essays started to read more like a chapter of Bridget Jones' Dairy than a personal essay. I realized I was on to something and turned those ramblings into what became The Dating Bender. I remember another moment several more months later, in line for a cup of coffee, when someone asked "what do you do," and I answered, writer! Have never looked back since. Thanks for sharing!

  • Errin Stevens

    So, I just had one such moment yesterday, which compelled me to write this blog post about feminism and theme:  http://errinstevens.com/feminism-theme-updrift/

  • I got the idea for my novel on my way home from work in the late 1980's.  In 1994, I quit my job in order to write, and wrote about two-thirds of my novel.  After a few years, plagued by self-doubt (and, let's face it, lack of self-discipline), I went back to work.  I retired in 2013, to babysit my granddaughter two days a week.  With now almost twenty years' perspective, I decided that perhaps my writing was better than I thought, and that I should pursue it.  Besides, there are so many more avenues to publishing now.  I am determined to finish the process this time, and to get my book out there.  

  • I was first encouraged to write by Mrs. Hainsworth in grade six. And I wrote from then on. But the first time I felt like a real writer was when I opened that email telling me a publisher loved my book and wanted to publish it. The euphoria! Who needs stimulants?!

  • K. Diann Shope

    The moment I felt I was a writer was when I received the proof copy of my first novel - there was a beautiful book, and it had my name on it!  The second biggest thrill was giving a reading at a well-known local book store.  But there is also the on-going pleasure of creating and editing short stories and my third novel, which is in progress.

  • Lois K. Herr

    After publishing two books, one by a recognized academic press and the other self-published, you'd think I'd think of myself as a writer, but it wasn't until the third that I started putting "writer" when forms asked for my profession. What made the difference? Marketing - appearing at book fairs, setting up social media, having my book in recognized publishers magazines, presenting myself to the world as a published author -  and money - trying to have an income from my writing. 

  • Rebecca Forster

    It's so fun to hear how other people became writers. I was dared to write a book. Never thinking anything I wrote would be published, I figured a solid rejection letter would satisfy the woman who dared me. Imagine my surprise when my first book sold. It's now 32 years later, 25 years of traditional publishing with the big 5 and 7 years as an indie. I feel blessed and energized and still so full of stories, just like you. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for your post, Ann! I'll feature it in an upcoming newsletter.