Part 2 of 2
Beginning in February 1986, I wanted to find out if I knew anything about the craft of writing and if I could get published. I sent an essay to Essence Magazine, and I received a thank-you note with comments that said try again. I received rejections from other magazines and newspapers.
During the same year, several months apart, I sent two essays to the letters to the editor section of the Chicago Sun Times. Both were published. I was wild with happiness. Also at this time, I hung around Alderman Giles’ ward office. The alderman said he was going to publish a newsletter, and I could write a column. I wrote my first column for The 37th Ward Update Newsletter. After the alderman stopped publishing his newsletter, I decided to publish my own because I liked writing a column and seeing my by-line in print. While struggling with my newsletter for two years, I realized I couldn’t write, nor did I have time to learn to write.
After I closed down the Neighborhood News Newsletter, I collected more writing books such as Writing With A Purpose, Grammar and Composition, The Practical Writer, and Handbook of Current English. Some of the books were fourth- and fifth-grade English grammars that I purchased at resale shops. When I didn’t understand the text in a college textbook, I had no shame in looking it up in a fifth grade grammar school book where it was explained in a simpler manner. I read. I completed exercises at the end of book chapters. I took out writing magazine subscriptions, and I joined a writing club.
A big turn came when I sent an essay to the “Personal View” section of the Chicago Sun Times Newspaper. The Sun-Times published the essay on Feb. 21, 1987, and paid me for my essay. I was a writer. I achieved a long anticipated goal after years of teaching myself how to write. The newspaper asked me to send more essays, but what I wrote was a puzzle to me. I didn’t know what I had done, what to call it, or how to do it again. I later understood what writing personal experience was.
Because I knew there was still plenty I didn’t know about writing, I continued to study. While I brushed up on my writing technique, I wrote essays for publication infrequently. Three of my essays were published in 1988, 1989, and 1992 in the Austin Weekly News under the editor and publisher Liliana Drechney. One essay appeared in Ebony Magazine and several essays appeared in the Austin Voice during those years.
From 2001 to the 2005, I submitted essays to the current editors of the Austin Weekly News. During that time period, for six months, I edited a newsletter for Seniors On the Move Social Club.
Last year, I received a call from the editor of the Austin Weekly News. He asked if I would write a monthly column for the newspaper. I was speechless! I listened to the editor talk and after he finished, all I could say was one word: Yes.
In the years to come, I will still be learning to write, but through hard work, doubts, disappoints, and determination, I achieved beyond my goal of just being a writer. This September marks my first anniversary as a columnist for the Austin Weekly News.