Guest post by Antoinette Truglio Martin
I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up. At a young age, I was awed by lines that formed letters and gathered into words, sentences, stories. I played with the sound of language, the syntactic cadences and clever semantics. Through the written word, scenes came to life, characters resurrected from the words, and imagination had a place to grow. Since I had learned to make those lines into words and sentences, training to become a writer should have been a cinch. Instead, Writer’s Training held many parts and was a long haul.
As a kid, I filled composition notebooks with stories about horses (something I knew nothing about), and sisters (a subject I knew too well). I wrote silly plays and directed my sisters and neighborhood friends to act them out. Everyone shared one crumbled handwritten script since copiers or ditto machines were not in the production budget. When I was a teenager, diaries with locks held my deepest thoughts and darkest secrets. The practice led me to journaling, where chronicles of mundane events, epic adventures, worries and revelations unfolded. Practice was part of Writer’s Training.
My parents enjoyed my writing and claimed that I was the writer in the family. They saved some thoughtful poetry and stories but did not post them on the refrigerator like my siblings’ A+ math tests. No one had the notion to read a kid’s poem when looking for ketchup. Encouragement was part of Writer’s Training.
When it came time to pursue college, I announced I wanted to be a writer. Writer was not a choice. My father said that writing was a hobby, not a job. My mother added, “If you have to support yourself alone, you’ll starve.” Teacher, nurse, or social worker were the given career choices. I was not sure what a social worker did, and I fainted at the thought of blood and guts. I went to college to be a teacher—specifically a speech therapist and special education teacher. Adaption and detours were part of Writer’s Training.
I fit a few creative writing electives where harsh criticism and rejection prevailed. One professor stated my work was dribble. “Come back after you suffer in life,” he said. Pursuing a life of suffering was not my ambition. I lived a charmed life filled with blessings and still wrote. Developing a tough skin and learning from rejection and criticism were part of Writer’s Training.
Life moved forward. I married my high school sweetheart. We settled in our hometown, had three daughters, a dog, cats, and boats, and a load of family and friends surrounding us. I juggled home and work life. Teaching suited me. It was a creative calling, and I loved working with children. I made felt board characters to play out my tales for my daughters and students, created tongue twister stories for articulation drills and scribbled ideas, thoughts, and observations. I bought a pretty journal notebook each year with the vow to fill it. Some years were more prolific than others. Eventually, I wrote two regular columns in local periodicals. The pay was terrible, but seeing my words in print fueled the writer’s drive. Perseverance was part of Writer’s Training.
Writing is a lonely business. One sits with a paper, pen or laptop, waiting for the next brilliant word to appear. Stories could live in the writer’s head for decades, before taking shape on paper. I am not that writer who can compose from a spark and produce a worthy work of art quickly and confidently. Before social media was invented, I joined face-to-face groups with fellow writers of varying levels of success. It proved key to gaining skill, confidence, and a genuine cheer squad. I took on roles in the regional children’s lit group, met with writers in our homes, and, recently, have joined virtual Zoom sessions. The rigor of workshopping, researching, and presenting honed my craft. I put in the work, learned, evolved, explored, took risks, and was generous with my fellow wordsmiths. Being part of a tribe was part of Writer Training.
To date, my authorship comprises a small library. I have not reached fame or fortune, but have a sweet following and attained that writer’s badge. It’s been a long haul—a lifelong labor of love. Passion has always been part of Writer’s Training.