It’s time to be thankful and I want to thank a wonderful writer for her role in my writing life. Because without her, I don’t know if I would’ve made it past my initial fragile steps into writing. Ten years ago, I completed a rough (very rough), draft of a memoir. I knew nothing about publishing (and really, very little about writing – I’d never taken a class, had never written before). I read an article in the Oregonian about Jennie Shortridge, whose first book, Riding With the Queen, was about to be released. The article also said she was a scout for an agent. And there was information on how to contact her. So I did. Jennie responded quickly and asked to see the first five pages of my manuscript. I sent them and she asked for more (I was thrilled). She said she was interested in passing my work on to the agent but that I needed to do some revising. She was so gentle and encouraging. She gave me extensive notes. I made some changes to the manuscript and gave it back to Jennie. She read it again. It must have been hard for her because, I had NO idea what I was doing. I understood that something wasn’t working with my writing, but I didn’t know how to fix it. I didn’t have the tools. Jennie gave me more note. Ultimately I sent the manuscript off to the agent who very kindly passed on the manuscript, but was encouraging about my writing. Not long after that, Jennie sent me an email about a writing class she thought I might find helpful. I took that class, (Pinewood Table--with Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred), and jumped wholeheartedly into learning how to write. I began to add tools to my writing tool box. I learned how to take my raw desire to write, combined with a basic talent of expressing images and sounds and ideas on paper, and apply the tools to revise and rework a story, which is the biggest and ultimately most rewarding part of writing.
It’s been ten years now and I’m still learning. But, after having short stories and essays published, after completing my own novel (nope, not published yet), after being taken in by a wonderful community of writers, I think back to what Jennie did. She was generous and kind and honest. She was gentle too, which is so important to a new writer, to be encouraged and guided but also be pushed to improve.
In addition to appreciating Jennie, I admire her as a talented, hard working writer. Since that first book, she has published three more wonderful novels (you can read about them here) and her next book Love, Water, Memory, will be out soon. Jennie is no longer a scout for an agent, no longer looking at raw manuscripts. Her writing career is a full-time deal. But she is still involved with good works as a member of the Seattle 7, a group of writers who keep reading and writing going strong.
So, in a month of giving thanks, here’s a big thank you to Jennie Shortridge and to all you accomplished writers who encourage new writers coming along.