My Word: Writer Finds Herself 'Worthy' of Title
By Shelia Worthy
For a person like myself, who lives in a world of words, “My Word” is a perfect title.
I am an artistic person. Just give me a clean sheet of paper, a pen and I’ll dream of far away places in a matter of seconds, spy on a murder mystery scene or even write a little poem. Writing is heaven to me.
It all began in high school when my English teacher asked us to write something about ourselves. She told us to “be creative.” Years have swiftly passed since that high school experience and I’ve spent time writing poems, short stories and chapters of potential novels since that day, but I never embraced the title of “writer” because I never believed I was worthy of it.
As fate would have it, I was forced to deal with the acknowledgement of my gift in the fall of 2004 when I attended a writer’s retreat on Sapleo Island, Ga. It was the perfect place to begin my journey to becoming a published author; not one who merely read her writings to herself and a few friends.
Just getting to the island was a small adventure in itself. A 30-minute ferry ride from St. Simons Island took me to Sapleo Island. Once I arrived on Sapelo’s banks, I felt as if I were in a different time. Immediately, the presence of the ancestors engulfed me, welcomed me to their place. I felt inspired to write—the seclusion of the island alone yearned for me to create. The quiet ocean waves, the birds, the wind and God were my only companions.
After so many years of thinking that I wasn’t good enough, I had convinced myself I could never become a published author, but being on the island, where my cell phone was useless, and other writers talked about their passion to write, I gleaned new insight about my dream.
Like me, they would get writer’s block at the most inopportune moments. Like me, they’d forget brilliant story ideas. But as I participated in discussion groups, I discovered that the women who I had come to know as sisters were as afraid as I was of calling themselves writers. On that island, I began to hear my voice, my writer’s voice, for the first time. There, I embraced the writer in me—a title I am worthy of.
During the ferry ride back to St. Simons, I began to set goals for my literary dream and am now on my way to becoming a published author.
Tina McElroy Ansa, prize-winning author and director of the Sea Island Writer’s Retreat, became my writing coach. I also made a few friends—from new writers
like myself to veterans like author Pearl Cleage and editor Blanche Richardson, who both have bestsellers under their belts. Tina and Pearl are both people I can call at a moment’s notice when I’m stumbling over a character sketch or just need a good laugh.
From that experience I’m now writing my first novel, a fictional work about a woman who is learning to love herself. And by writing about her I’m falling in love with my talent for the first time.
It’s scary following my dream, but it’s never too late. As my friend, Mr. Zeke, an electrician in Physical Plant, says, “If you’re six feet above ground, you got another chance!”
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