Browsing Tag

Then Came a Miracle

My love letter to Midwest Writers Workshop

My Midwest Writers Workshop story

I could go on and on about the impact Midwest Writers has had on my life. In some capacity, I’ve been part of MWW for 40+ of its 50 years — an attendee, a presenter, a committee member, and then director. MWW is part of who I am. And I am grateful. And now, my news: I am retiring as Director of Midwest Writers Workshop, passing on my leadership baton.

MWW is all about the people — the faculty, the planners, the writers. My people. My friends. Although I always found all my employments rewarding (as an English composition instructor at Ball State, as owner and operator of my own business, Bigger Writing Services, as an assistant at BSU’s E.B. & Bertha C. Ball Center, helping with Magna cum Murder Festival), I also always had so much passion and energy for my work with Midwest Writers. And the influence and friendship of committee members and authors didn’t just enhance my life, but that of my husband, my sons, my parents.

Here’s what I can tell you about why I love MWW, why attending a writer’s conference can help your writing journey…. or how I became one of the first MWW success stories ….

I never pitched an agent. I never wrote a proposal. I never wrote a query. I never mailed the manuscript to the publisher. I never submitted any sample writing, any biography, any synopsis. I never followed the professional protocols for turning a manuscript into a book. And yet, one day I received a phone call from an editor at Fleming H. Revell publishers. An editor I had never met. A publishing house I had never submitted to.

“I love the first chapter and the chapter The Date, and we want to publish your manuscript,” he said. (This call came two weeks before I got married. It was a very good summer!)

What? My manuscript? My untitled manuscript? Not your typical path to publication. But a pathway made possible because of my trips through Midwest Writers Workshop.

It was 1976 and I was a 20-year-old college student with a desire to write and an idea for a book, an English major at Ball State University. That summer, an (accidental?) bumping into a friend-of-a-friend, a casual conversation about writing, a mention of a writers’ conference (in my very city, at my very university), a leap of faith, a saying “yes” to a scholarship, to a new adventure, all led to me sitting in a classroom in Ball State’s Carmichael Hall, listening to author and humorist Tom Mullen talk about writing for the inspirational marketplace.

I had found a mentor.

Life-changing. That’s what Midwest Writers Workshop was for me. That class, that creative environment, that support and encouragement from faculty and committee and participants was like water and sunlight and nourishment. It made me grow. I was hooked on the importance of a writer’s conference, the value of Midwest Writers Workshop. For the next few years, I registered and signed up for classes in nonfiction and poetry. I learned to be a better writer, listening, asking questions, taking notes. I kept growing.

I found writer-friends. And become part of the MWW community.

Then in 1979, the inspirational writing class I attended was taught by Floyd Thatcher, an editor with Word Publishing. He was friendly (just like Tom and all MWW faculty seemed to be!), offered keen advice on tightening my writing, and believed in my story.

Eventually, after rewrites and rewrites, I summoned enough courage to mail my (unnamed) manuscript to him, with a new opening chapter. When he called and said, “I was moved by your story, but it’s not quite what our company publishes,” I almost dropped the phone. Until I heard his next sentence. “But I hope you don’t mind, I mailed your manuscript to another editor I know.”  Then I did drop the phone.

A few weeks later, Victor Oliver, editor at Fleming H. Revell, called.

I had found an editor.

And I had found a publisher.

And I became not just a writer, but an author.

This path of mine to publication, this walkway was created with stone after stone.  Courage. Registering for the workshop. Courage. Asking for advice. Courage. Revising editing improving. Learning. Courage. Sending out my words. Courage and hope. My story. Attending MWW was my right first step out of the sometimes secluded life of writing and into a community that was chock full of resources, connections, inspiration. And above all, friendships.

And now, as I head into retirement as MWW director, I am proud to have been their Official Cheerleader.

Praising, clapping, rooting for, and seeking to empower others in their writing journey. Personality testing has classified me as an extrovert with traits well suited for cheering, as an Enneagram 2, a Helper: enthusiastic, spontaneous, energetic, and understanding. Those tests indicated that I readily give affirmation and encouragement, that I focus on possibilities and have a contagious enthusiasm for ideas and people and activities. That I’m passionate and love to help other people explore their creative potential, what motivates them, what inspires them, and what they envision achieving in life.

In other words, I’m a cheerleader.

Sometimes I feel like Jenny in Forrest Gump, cheering and yelling, “Run, Forrest, run!” Sometimes I feel like those in the final scene of the sports classic, cheering and chanting, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” Sometimes I feel like the crowd cheering and shouting, “Rocky, Rocky!” Always raising the spirits of others, always urging them on. Sometimes it’s with the message: no matter what life throws at them, they should get back up and carry on and that they are responsible for the direction their lives take. If they want something in life, go and get it.

Sometimes it’s a reminder that even an underdog can have his day, and that they can do anything they put their minds to. Sometimes it’s an understanding for the struggles that hardship brings and the unbridled joy of seeing all their hard work and perseverance pay off.

I’ve taken great pleasure in watching writers see their dreams come true. It’s as if their dreams become mine, and my investment in them and cheering for them is real and significant. Their dreams take up residence in my heart. I cheer and do (mental) cartwheels when they succeed, and I feel disappointment for them when roadblocks stand in their way.

This is what I know. Every(one) writer needs encouragement. Every(one) writers needs cheering.

As The Official Cheerleader for the Midwest Writers Workshop for decades, I’m telling you that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve cheered for you and encouraged others to cheer for you. And I’ve believed in you when you didn’t know if you could do it. Plain and simple. I believe you are a winner. You can do this thing.

Through all these many years, through all these Midwest Writers Workshops, it has been my great honor to serve a cheerleader for so many on their journey as aspiring writers to published authors.

I will savor the dreams come true on behalf of my writer friends. Nothing compares to cheering them and watching them cross the finish line—battle weary and out of breath. But doing the thing they love.

There is nothing quite like being a cheerleader. And this Scholarship/Author Event Fund will help continue my cheerleading.

Donate here.

Thank you, my MWW friends.

(In the spirit of Literary Citizenship, get the book, read the book, review the book.)

 

Happy Day Moment Echoes: 6.14

Never shy away from telling others the story of YOU. We are all important and we all have a story that can touch and inspire and build up and encourage and brighten and comfort and strengthen others.

Recently I had an opportunity to share some of my story when Stephen Terrell interviewed me for his radio program. Sharing what God has done for me. Sharing how I’m blessed.  So now I’m sharing the podcast with you.

You can also read more of the story here.

Then Came a Miracle1

Along the way in the story of me, I’ve been sharing some of my thoughts on my Happy Day Moment Facebook Page. These are the Echoes for June.

  • It’s never a bad idea to be nice to people.
  • It’s time to stop putting unrealistic pressures on ourselves. It’s time to relax, love ourselves, and refuel.
  • Lingering on past regrets robs us of joy and the chance to move forward.
  • Do your best to love and forgive others. We’re all flawed. Look for the good.
  • Live out compassion. Live out kindness, rather than just talking about it.
  • Shift your attitude from “how can I gain” to “how can I give.” Look for ways to help others.
  • Look for strength in others. You gain nothing by criticizing their imperfections.
  • Let us aim to please God’s heart, even though it may not please others.
  • It’s okay to disagree, but for crying out loud, no need to be mean about it.
  • It’s easy to be cynical, it’s brave to be grateful.
  • Do not shrink to less when others criticize you, but keep blooming!
  • Even though your desire is to fix it, to get it done now, waiting may be the wisest plan.
  • If you say you love others, but it never shows up in word and deed, then you’re kidding yourself.
  • Don’t say stuff that would hurt another person. Instead, speak what is good and helpful and gives grace.
  • Gratitude is available always, and it’s clearly a recipe for success.
  • Follow these things: faith, love, patience, humility.
  • When we remember gratitude is the doorway to hope, we can usually find the strength to take one small step that will more us to better and easier times.
  • To live with more peace, you need to forgive people quickly.
  • Life is just better when you’re smiling.
  • Let grace keep reaching out, reaching for others, reaching straight across boundaries and walls and barriers.
  • Don’t change who you are in order to become someone else’s idea of a worthwhile human being. You are worthwhile. You matter.
  • Those challenges? Those interruptions? Learn to receive them with grace.
  • Give love. No matter our health, our problems, our circumstances. We must just try to give.
  • Reading is not wasting time. It’s not being lazy. It’s tending your soul.
  • You’re doing it right when you could cry and complain, but instead you smile and appreciate your life.
  • Equanimity and gratitude allow us to live in joy each and every moment.
  • Good things and hard things usually co-exist. Work at noticing the good and instead of fixating on the bad.
  • We’re all afraid of something, but we don’t have to let fear stop us from moving forward.
  • Don’t let anyone else affect your self-esteem. You have value.
photo by:

A Workshop, A Manuscript, A Book

Or Why Attending a Writers Conference Can Help Your Career….

Or How I Became One of the First MWW Success Stories ….

I never pitched an agent. I never wrote a proposal. I never wrote a query. I never mailed the manuscript to the publisher. I never submitted any sample writing, any biography, any synopsis.

I never followed the professional protocols for turning a manuscript into a book.

And yet, one day I received a phone call from an editor at Fleming H. Revell publishers. An editor I had never met. A publishing house I had never submitted to.

“I love the first chapter and the chapter The Date, and we want to publish your manuscript,” he said.*

What? My manuscript? My untitled manuscript?

Not your typical path to publication.

But a pathway made possible because of my trips through Midwest Writers Workshop.

It was 1976 and I was a 20-year-old college student with a desire to write and an idea for a book, an English major at Ball State University. That summer, an (accidental?) bumping into a friend-of-a-friend, a casual conversation about writing, a mention of a writers’ conference (in my very city, at my very university), a leap of faith, a saying “yes” to a new adventure, all led to me sitting in a classroom in Ball State’s Carmichael Hall, listening to author and humorist Tom Mullen talk about writing for the inspirational marketplace.

I had found a mentor.

Life-changing. That’s what Midwest Writers was.

That class, that creative environment, that support and encouragement from faculty and committee and participants was like water and sunlight and nourishment. It made me grow.

I was hooked on the importance of a writers’ conference, the value of Midwest Writers Workshop.  For the next few years, I registered and signed up for classes in nonfiction and poetry. I learned to be a better writer, listening, asking questions, taking notes. I kept growing.

I found writer-friends. And become part of the MWW community.

Then in 1979, the inspirational writing class I attended was taught by Floyd Thatcher, an editor with Word Publishing. He was friendly (just like Tom and all MWW faculty seemed to be!), offered keen advice on tightening my writing, and believed in my story.

Very rough first draft, which went on and on and on for pages before the "story" (action) began.

Very rough first draft, which went on and on and on for pages before the “story” (action) began.

Eventually, after rewrites and rewrites, I summoned enough courage to mail my (unnamed) manuscript to him. When he called and said, “I was moved by your story, but it’s not quite what our company publishes,” I almost dropped the phone. Until I heard his next sentence. “But I hope you don’t mind, I mailed your manuscript to another editor I know.”  Then I did drop the phone.

A few weeks later, Victor Oliver, editor at Fleming H. Revell, called.

I had found an editor.

And I had found a publisher.

And I became not just a writer, but an author.

This path of mine to publication, this walkway was created with stone after stone.  Courage. Registering for the workshop. Courage. Asking for advice. Courage. Revising editing improving. Learning. Courage. Sending out my words. Courage and hope. My story.

Attending MWW was my right first step out of the sometimes secluded life of writing and into a community that was chock full of resources, connections, inspiration. And above all, friendships.

Then Came a Miracle1I could go on and on about the impact Midwest Writers had on me every year that I attended. After my book was published, I became a presenter, then a committee member, and then director. In some capacity, I’ve been part of MWW for 37 of its 40 years.  MWW is part of who I am. And I am grateful.

What will your Midwest Writers story be?

(In the spirit of Literary Citizenship, get the book, read the book, review the book.)

* This call came two weeks before I got married. It was a very good summer!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr5QJsmHOLM[/youtube]

 

Welcome!

I’m Jama Kehoe Bigger, a wife, mother, grandmother who’s decided to spread the word about the importance of finding Happy Day Moments each and every day.

What started as a simple essay I was asked to write morphed into a Facebook project and is now a website. The idea of choosing to be grateful, to find a “moment” even in the worst day, that was happy, that was thankful.

My life and how it relates to discovering happy moments? Well, here’s just part of my story………..

I was 13 years old when I dove into a swimming pool and broke my neck, leaving me a diagnosed quadriplegic. The neurosurgeon told my parents that I would never roll over, stand, walk, or use my hands. Since I was from a very athletic family – my father was a football coach at Ball State University – and I was a junior high cheerleader and gymnast, this prognosis of never living a normal, active life was difficult and challenging. Challenging but not impossible. For there were some things I knew for sure, even at that young age – that God was on my side, that He still worked miracles, and that with Him, nothing was impossible. Through faith, lots of prayer and hard work, I didn’t stay in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down.

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photo by: Enokson

Happy Day Moments: The Story

Years ago, one morning just beyond daybreak, I was snug in my bed, blankets tucked under my chin, sleeping the sound, deep, dreamless, sleep that comes upon a mother of two toddlers. When, suddenly, my left eyelid was peeled back from my eyeball. “It’s a happy day!” announced my smiling, cheery, three-year-old son Johnny.

So, that’s how it all began.  From that day on, “It’s a happy day” often replaced the daily “Good morning” salutation in our family.

And that’s how it all started. That “happy day” business.

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