It was many years ago — over two decades now — that I attended a writer’s conference in hopes of learning how to write a book and get it published.
Since I was a small child of 4 or 5, I knew I was born to write and tell stories.
As you may have read before, my childhood game of pretend was packing the family suitcase (I literally packed my clothes in it) and going to New York on “book business.” In this beloved childhood game, I was always warmly welcomed in New York and the books I wrote were celebrated. I have no idea how a little girl on a farm in the Deep South could know of such things. Still, this is the unvarnished truth. I am grateful to the good Lord that I stayed the path.
Years passed, the little red-headed girl grew, gathered a couple of college degrees, chased adventure and worked some menial jobs. I was past 30 before I picked up the strands of my childhood heart dream and began, in earnest, to seek my true calling. I signed up for a writer’s conference where New York Times best-selling author Sharyn McCrumb was keynote speaker. It was a day that fueled my hopes. I hung on every word.
This I shall never forget she said, “The best way to get published is to actually write. I meet people all the time who want to be authors but say, ‘I don’t write. I can’t find the time.’ Well, let me tell you: I had more time to write before I was published than I do now.”
McCrumb, at the beginning, was working on a Master’s degree and raising a family when she wrote her first novel. As she explained, “Now, there are so many demands on my time that came with the success of my books. Speaking engagements, a publisher who wants more books, book signings. I have to make time to write.”
It’s funny how words, that have no relevance to you at the time, will stick like thick mud to your soul. Those words never left me. After the success of my first book, I found the truth in what she said. Almost 20 years and seven books later, I have found that each year it is harder to squeeze into my schedule the creation of new books.
Thus, I come to what my New Year’s resolution will be: I am bound and determined to return the roots of my dream. Every morning I set out to do that but get distracted by everyday life. Recently, I went to my childhood home where first that dream of writing books was born. I stood in my bedroom, long reprieved from the mingled, pink shag carpet, pink chiffon bed spread and matching curtains, and I listened. I heard her, just as she sounded at 5 years old when she squealed with excitement over seeing her publisher when she arrived in New York. I saw her set down the Samsonite leather luggage she had carefully packed with her Sunday clothes and rush across the room to hug her editor, a man dapper in a suit and tie.
I owe it to her. She’s asked so little of me over the years but to that little red-headed girl, I must be true. I must finish what she began those long years ago.
In January, I will start revising and updating the book that started it all as Penguin-Putnam prepares to release a 20th Anniversary celebration in 2019 of “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should).” Less than 2 percent of books are still in publication many years later so it is a touching, humbling experience that I wrote one that will have a special 20th Anniversary edition.
“Thank you,” I whispered to the little girl whose laughing spirit still lives within the walls of that tiny bedroom.
To her, I owe so much.
Ronda Rich, author of “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama,” writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.