The Mystery of Castle Dawn. That was it. That was the title of my first body of work; in fact, those five words WERE the body of work. They came to me one day, in a flash of literary brilliance, during my fourth grade year and I knew right then I wanted to be a writer.

Castle Dawn languished in the back of my mind for the next thirty-five years or so. (Unlike most manuscripts, I didn’t need to actually write the words down and file them away for safekeeping. Remembering five words was a relatively simple task.) It wasn’t until I decided to write a book for my niece for her tenth birthday that I finally finished my fourth grade epiphany. The Mystery of Castle Dawn became one in a series of children’s books that, to this day, I’m submitting to discriminating publishers everywhere. (I’m going to give it another forty years and then I’m putting it away for good.)

Fortunately, none of my other writing projects have taken over three decades to complete. And while I haven’t reached the best-seller lists, nor am I holding my breath waiting, I nevertheless consider myself a successful writer. For though I am not a household name (yet!), I have taken those small, but oh-so-important steps toward attaining my writing goals and, as a result, I’ve made steady, recognizable progress.

But it hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been fast. To inch forward, I honed my skills by reading and implementing valuable advice from other writers, much of it found on WritersWeekly. I researched the markets, requested guidelines, sweated out queries, waited by the mailbox, and wasted my fair share of postage. And in the meantime, I wrote. A lot.

My efforts have not gone un-rewarded and, happily, I’ve reached certain milestones. I’ve had greeting card verses published, started a writers’ group, authored a newspaper column and done numerous classroom presentations on my children’s book series. I’m a recognized writer in my community and beyond, I’ve seen many of my poems, columns and stories published in print and online and I’ve signed contracts for anthologies. Most importantly, I’ve continued to write, edit, query, and submit. In short, I’ve acted the part of a writer, with all the inherent joys and disappointments the writing life holds and with all the behind-the-scenes, non-glamorous work it entails.

Today, I enjoy a wide readership of loyal and supportive folks who not only enjoy what I write, but who look forward to more. Those people will be my target audience for future work, including two books now in the works, numerous stories, inspirational pieces, articles and greeting cards–and of course, The Mystery of Castle Dawn. In the meantime, I’m pleased with the fact that I’m able to create work worthy of their attention and that my progress, though sometimes excruciatingly slow, is truly that–progress.

Success is not always defined as a major triumph; sometimes it’s nothing more than not stopping. And I haven’t.

Michigan-based Deborah Dee Simmons has been published both online and in print numerous times. She specializes in humor and inspirational work, although her current projects also include a children’s book series, a compilation of her newspaper columns, a variety of anthology work, and writing for greeting cards. She can be reached at dsimmons@ionia.k12.mi.us.