History of a Writer
Who do I think I am, anyway?
I am a flawed, intelligent, creative, Christian, middle-aged, bi-polar, married, she/her, centrist living on a run-down family farm in central West Virginia/Appalachia. I drive Subarus, I have chickens, a beagle puppy, a long-haired husband, and two cats (one a pet, the other an outdoor dropoff). My favorite Star Trek series is Deep Space Nine, my favorite book series is The Wizard of Oz, and we live in a former recreation building in a former recreation park with free natural gas, free water, and free rent. My backyard is a three-acre lake.
I am nobody special, who just realized that what my mother has been saying all my life is true: God has a plan for me. I am someone who has been ashamed of my home and focusing on my “have nots” instead of my blessings, someone who has been living in the past or future but never the present, a prepper focused on the fact that our civilization and our planet is going to hell in a handbasket.
But, if God has a plan for me, something special for this nobody special, it can’t be all bad, can it?
I recently became an ordained minister. Why? Because it came at a time when I opened my life to God and cost less than $100. I could, and so I did.
I believe the foundational message of the Gospel is forgiveness, acceptance, wisdom, and love.
I also believe in the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage, ending our reliance on coal, and climate change.
Can I get an Amen? ;-)
So, that’s who I am now, and these are things I am likely to write about. That has not always been the case.
I have a writing history, (Full CV available here.) and I write this post as some kind of justification as to why my words are worthy of your reading time. I’ve been told I’m a good writer. I’m prone to agree, and so I’m writing again.
See, this is what the pandemic has brought me to — the distilled core of who I am. If I’m a Christian, then I should surrender my burdens to God and count my blessings, love others, and do my best to be a good example. If I’m a writer, I should write. Can life really be that simple? I think, perhaps, it can.
But if you’re still reading, and are wondering who think I am as a writer, I admit I need to reflect on that sometimes as well. So here goes, most recent back to the beginning:
Most recently, if not sporadically, I had been writing “Two-Lane Life,” a column I sent to The Gilmer Free Press, The Hur Herald, and The Glenville Democrat/Pathfinder — my local news outlets. I quit sending to The Free Press shortly before it came to an end, I’m currently not submitting to the Democrat/Pathfinder, and in 2021, The Hur Herald ceased daily updates, maintaining their 25 years of history and archives online and at RFK Library at GSC.
Bob and Dianne Weaver, publishers of The Hur Herald, did a great job covering Calhoun County issues, events, history, and more for 25 years. They created an online publication before most traditional news outlets and updated each day at midnight. Kudos to those two.
Prior to that column, I had a dry period - caused by the combination of completing my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and the end of our monthly magazine, Two-Lane Livin’.
During my MFA, I focused on Creative Nonfiction, which seemed like a natural extension of my journalism background, and complimentary to the writing work I was doing in our magazine. I also learned the writing tools of fiction and poetry. During my time in the two-year program, I wrote longer, more open, and heartfelt pieces. (Like my work exploring empathy, compiled into this little booklet.) Pieces were either too long or inappropriate for my audience at that time - the readers of Two-Lane Livin’.
This brings us to my pride and joy: Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. I did that. I made that from nothing. It was an instant hit, we had a 99% readership for 10 years, and could never print enough copies. It was the ultimate print dream. In five years, it outgrew us. Readers loved it, and it was free. At that time, many potential advertisers were going online, and competition for ad dollars was fierce in the region. In ten years, we gave it up. Our last issue included 20,000 copies, distributed to 18 central West Virginia counties, all gone within 15 days. <sigh> I was heartbroken and relieved.
For those ten years though, I wrote a monthly column, and we featured columnists from throughout the region including Mack Samples, Granny Sue Holstein, Russ Richardson, Sherri Brake, and others over the years. Sherri compiled her column in Two-Lane Livin’ into four volumes. I selected my favorites from my ten-year column into one book, “Life in the Slow Lane,” published in 2020.
Why and how did I start Stumptown Publishing, LLC and Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine to begin with?
I wanted out of being a small-town newspaper reporter. I thought it was my dream; it wasn’t. After four years, I had picked up a clan of stalkers (not one, but seven), and was knocked off my groove when a community leader, caught for embezzling, shot himself in the head after I called him for a comment. I had also upset the local state police and was two points away from losing my driver’s license.
I had dreamed of being an investigative journalist, and I was pretty good at it. But it was not as much fun as I thought. My time as a copywriter in the public relations department at GSC wasn’t fun either.
The most fun I had writing was when I worked for Hampton Ridge Magic, shortly after I received my B.A. in English Writing and minor in journalism at GSC. (Hampton Ridge Magic has since been purchased by Fun Incorporated.) I created the first full photo with description catalog of products in the wholesale magic industry, ghost-wrote 101 Tricks with a Stripper Deck, and 101 Tricks with a Svengali Deck. I also served as the model for the packaging for the Pen Thru Tongue trick.
Are you bored yet of my writing history? Am I worthy enough for a newsletter? Am I justified?
I have recently conversed with another writer friend who fell into a rut many writers do: we compare ourselves to other writers. Others we went to school with, others we work with, others in our writer’s groups, others’ opinions of what a writer should be.
Comparison can kill creativity. A writer should write. It’s that simple. Getting PAID to write is a whole other game. And, for more than 20 years, I have been paid to write in one form or another. Now I just want to write and share my words.
I do hope you enjoy them.