My writing journey has brought many unexpected gifts, including connecting with readers like you and joining a community of writers. I am immersed in revising my novel with the help and support of my writing group. I wrote this blog with them about the importance of sharing our writing and the unexpected gifts we have each received as a result. The Palos Verdes Library District featured the blog as inspiration for the upcoming November national writing month and encourages you to share your story. Read our blog and find out more below.
Unexpected Gifts: Why Share Your Writing?
By Jennifer Townsend, Rosa Kwon Easton, Rieko Mendez and Holly Vanderdonck
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle
Although writing starts solitary, it comes to life when we share. It takes courage to share, because when we do, we give a piece of ourselves. Exposing our innermost thoughts and ideas makes us vulnerable. Yet, that’s when the magic happens—sharing our stories creates deeper understanding, connections, and community. It gives voice to our inner feelings and assures us we’re not alone.
The first step to sharing your writing might be to give your work to a friend or take a writing class. You may be surprised to learn that there are fellow writers all around you. Writers can be found at the local library, workshops, and writing retreats. The four of us, Jennifer, Rosa, Rieko, and Holly, were connected by our children’s elementary school and reconnected at the Palos Verdes Library District’s Writing Month program. When we discovered we were all writing, we formed a writing group, the Write Circle, and were surprised with unexpected gifts.
A kinship emerged when we connected because we all understood the inner voice that drives us to write. The Write Circle has allowed us to bring down our protective walls, dig deeper and focus on what matters in all areas of our lives. It has given us the faith we needed to keep believing in ourselves and the courage to keep writing and sharing.
Our group provides accountability, structure, and specific feedback which improves our writing. Accountability keeps us moving forward, helps us overcome writer’s block, and makes writing more fun. The art of giving and receiving feedback helps us become better writers; if we see it in someone else’s work, we can see it in our own. Working together allows us to see our writing objectively and stay focused on our readers.
What makes our group work:
- Maintaining a manageable size and workload. We have four writers and limit our weekly submissions to ten pages.
- Keeping a weekly meeting time.
- Remaining flexible and open to meet online. Zoom was the unexpected gift of the pandemic keeping us connected wherever we were.
- Being FOR each other, no one dominates.
- Respecting the art of giving and receiving feedback. We comment on what’s working first and then where there’s room for improvement.
- Asking for what we need with questions tailored to our specific concerns.
You can look for a writing group that’s right for you at local writing centers and communities, libraries, writing workshops and conferences, writing associations in your genre, or through people you already know.
Below we detail some of the unexpected gifts our shared journey has brought us individually. We hope you discover the many benefits of forming a writing community and take that brave next step to share your writing.
Jennifer’s Unexpected Gifts – inner healing and power of faith
I set out to write a nonfiction book titled, Disruptive Grace, to help others find the hope, healing, and strength that I have found in a healthy relationship with God. What I didn’t expect to receive were such personal gifts along the way.
Writing has a way of getting to the bottom of things, as we must search for the truth in ourselves. As I revisited my stories in the light of God’s grace, I saw through the lies I had believed in the past and gained a bigger and better perspective. “Going there” with God also enabled me to forgive at a deeper level. As I shared my chapter on forgiving family wounds, my dear friend let go of the bitterness weighing her down by forgiving her mother without the need for restitution.
When I was brave enough to share how faith had worked in my private struggles, even friends who weren’t interested in Christianity got curious. They wanted to know the kind of God I had written about and joined our Bible study, which has made my heart so full. The honesty of our experiences resonates with others and is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another.
Sharing your writing is an intimate encounter, just your words and the reader. Through the written word, you can help people you may never know; the echoes are endless. You can follow Jennifer at www.disruptivegrace.com and Facebook and Instagram @disruptivegrace.
Rosa’s Unexpected Gifts – amplify voices and family connection
I shared a letter I wrote to my daughter on her 18th birthday on my blog and received a surprising response. A reader asked me to write a letter for her daughter’s 18th birthday because she couldn’t speak English well.
Although the reader wasn’t Korean, she reminded me of my mother, whose English is limited, and myself, who still speaks Korean like a seven-year-old. I asked the reader to use an English translation app to tell me what she wanted to say. The translation was garbled, but I drafted something she loved, and she gave it to her daughter for her special birthday.
It feels vulnerable to share my writing, but it’s worth it. It helped connect a mother with her daughter and brought me closer to my own. I understood my mother better too, having to navigate a country without the voice to express herself. I realized my mother and I have always struggled to communicate, and I was reminded how important it is to acknowledge and celebrate this, even if it’s in “Konglish.”
I am writing a novel based on my grandmother’s life growing up in Japan-occupied Korea to amplify the voices of people who have been overlooked and inspire others to look honestly at their own stories. I hope my reader was able to celebrate with her daughter despite the language barrier, just as I was able to connect more with my family. It is the promise of these unexpected gifts, that keeps me writing and sharing. You can follow Rosa at www.rosakwoneaston.com and Facebook and Instagram @rosakwoneaston.
Rieko’s Unexpected Gifts – inner truth and new connections
Writing is a powerful expression of our own voice. I write YA fiction so they’re not true, but there is truth since we writers leave a bit of ourselves in our works. You may have heard the phrase “write what you know.” It’s the emotions, feelings, hopes and fears that we experience that emerge in our pieces and allow readers to relate. Writing has given me the unexpected gift of finding my own truth.
In my YA contemporary fantasy, Chaya, Daughter of Death, a teen bent on finding the cure to cancer learns her dad is death. Unable to accept her dad brought mortality, she uncovers that her mom was a healer. Half daughter of death and half healer, she has to believe in herself before she can wield her full powers to save her world. While writing and sharing this book, I discovered buried inside me the grief of losing my mother at age seventeen and the loss of not sharing with her the joys and heartaches of life.
Writing is also magical in how it brings people together—sharing my writing has brought a new connection with my adult boys. We dive into character arcs and in turn relate to our own experiences of overcoming difficulties. My boys are enthralled to learn this creative side of me and together we get to share our joys and heartaches of life.
Writing surprises us with new truths and greater connections with others. I hope you find your unexpected gifts too. You can follow Rieko at www.riekomendez.com.
Holly’s Unexpected Gifts – emotional and meaningful engagement
When I was ten years old, my father passed away. I wrapped myself up in books to help cope with his death. The characters in these stories inspired me, burning themselves into my heart and soul. Characters like the Velveteen Rabbit, who illuminates the importance of love, and Jo March, an example of fierce femininity. The authors of these stories were invisible role models, creating heroes who profoundly impacted me by filling me with courage and hope for the future.
Recently, I began writing a historical fiction novel about two young musicians, from different faiths and classes, who fall deeply in love in Nazi occupied France. When sharing my book with my family, it sparked unexpected discussions on deep topics such as intolerance, hatred, and the need to persevere in the face of challenges. My decision to transition from an attorney to a full-time author was also the catalyst for unanticipated conversations about my children’s goals and aspirations.
My journey sharing my creative writing has been liberating, allowing me to provide a voice to the values I believe in. By developing characters with significant emotional depth, I hope to provide readers with a means to compare the character’s choices, actions, and consequences with their own lives. My goal is to connect with readers, helping them to discover the best versions of themselves as many authors have done for me. You can follow Holly at www.hollyvanderdonck.com.
Thank you for reading our group blog. The library welcomes you to contribute your story to the Your Story is the Peninsula’s Story collection. Select a photo about the community, the pandemic, or growing up on the Peninsula and tell its story. Visit the PVLD WriMo page with links to resources, where to find writing groups and how to share your story.
Will you share a photo and a story too? Leave your comment below.
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
Free Food for Millionaires is a deeply personal portrait of a contemporary Korean American family who navigates intergenerational and cultural conflict in New York’s world of have and have-nots. This is Lee’s first book published in 2007, and while I loved her widely-acclaimed second book Pachinko, I have a lot to admire about this one. Lee again uses the omniscient point of view to reveal how everyone in the room is thinking, satisfying my curiosity to get to the truth of each of the character’s motivations, fears and needs in the context of the society and time in which they live. bookshop.org.
Picture of the day
My book club wearing hats in honor of the main character Casey Han. Photo credit: Mark Easton.