I spring from a long line of farm wives. Pie baking rather than language or communication served as the measure of a woman’s worth in my family. When I felt the tug to do something less domestic, less traditional, support and encouragement evaporated.
“You want to be a writer? What a cute hobby. I think the woman down the street writes poems for her children’s birthdays.”
I wrote in secret.
I subscribed to Writer’s Digest and The Writer magazines, bought a copy of the Writer’s Market, studied and read how-to book as well as novels, nonfiction, road signs and cereal boxes. But I was still a housewife wanting to be a writer.
One moment, like Cinderella dreaming of dancing at the ball, I set aside my scrub brush and pretended I was a writer.
The news announcer on the radio told of a local group of musicians who had won a national contest. I had heard of the Blanchard Valley Bluegrass Boys, but that was the extent of my bluegrass knowledge. Bill Monroe? Mandolin? Riffs? “Foggy Mountain Breakdown?” I had no clue about these things.
Without waiting to talk myself out of it, I picked up the phone, called the radio station and said, “I’m a freelance writer and I’d like to contact the Bluegrass Boys for an interview.”
He didn’t laugh and say, “I know you, you’re that housewife…”
Instead, he said, “Give me your number, I’ll pass it along to their agent.”
Just in case anyone returned my call, I needed to figure out what bluegrass music really was. I went to the library and also searched the Writer’s Market for an appropriate market. I found Bluegrass Unlimited magazine and sent for a sample copy.
My internal voice, the one that tells me ‘you’re a housewife, quit wasting your time, go bake a pie,’ convinced me that I was on a fool’s errand. Yet, when I picked up the phone and heard the group’s agent, I realized that even if no one else took me seriously (not even me), he did.
Not wanting to misrepresent myself, I explained that I was freelance writer, wasn’t familiar with the boys’ work, but wanted to write about them and their success for Bluegrass Unlimited.
He, being a group member’s father doubling as an agent, just heard “Bluegrass Unlimited.” Unknown to me, this magazine was the bible of Bluegrass. Before I knew it, we’d arranged to meet at one of their local performances and he sent me two of their albums.
I walked into the overcrowded bar and was turned away until I explained that I had been invited. Within minutes they pushed the people at the tables closest to the stage back and inserted another table — just for me. I sat at ring side; the musicians gathered around my table at intermission. Afterwards we talked in the parking lot with my trusty tape recorder running. They invited me to their agent’s home for a more quiet interview and all of the time I marveled that they, these national contest winners who had just come off of an international tour, accepted me as a professional writer.
I almost believed them.
I struggled with that article, wrote, rewrote and wrote some more. Thankfully the editors of Bluegrass Unlimited overlooked my beginner’s mistakes. They published it. And they paid me.
That $125 check was my touchstone; my baptismal certificate into the writing sisterhood.
Because that agent believed, I had the confidence to continue writing. Eventually I approached the area newspaper and convinced them, with a few clips and a lot of chutzpah, that I could write for them.
Writing takes knowing your craft, long hours of pre-writing, first drafts and a gazillion rewrites. It takes thought, research and perception. But most of all, it takes believing in yourself. And sometimes to reach that point of belief, you must pretend, or find someone who sees past the apron to the writer within.
Dawn Goldsmith’s story, “Piano Lesson” was published in Chocolate for a Teen’s Spirit and “Snow Angels” was published in Cup of Comfort for Inspiration. Both books are available at bookstores.