My name is Meriam Wilhelm. Two years ago I retired after 35 years in education. Finding myself with more time than I knew what to do with and feeling a bit lost, I consulted my bucket list of Things To Do Once I Retire. And there it was – #1 on my list – Write A Book.
After sharing parenting advice for so many years as a school principal, I sat down and wrote a four nonfiction books for parents of grammar school age children. I am proud of my books, especially my recently revised edition of Bully Maze: Finding A Way Out. As happy as I was with each of those books, I understood that writing about what I knew was comfortable and came rather naturally. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I decided to write a novel, and that’s when my real education about writing began.
All of my insecurities came to life. Would I sound silly? Would anyone even want to read my work? Would my professional colleagues be shocked to learn that romantic comedy witch books were my new thing? And how in the world was I going to change my formal “principal” tone into a more lighthearted, whimsical, fun storyteller voice? Then I thought, what the heck? I jumped in with both feet and wrote the first chapters of The Witches of New Moon Bay.
As my characters come to life I am growing to really like them. I love the challenge of writing about lives filled with magic, uncertainty and happiness. The more I write, the more I want to know about where my characters will go, who they will meet, who their friends are and if they have any enemies. The neat part is that I get to decide everything about their lives. Yes, as much fun as I had starting this project, switching from non-fiction to fiction was harder than I expected so I turned to Rebecca to guide me through the process. How could she refuse? She’s my sister-in-law.
As an adult it was tough to place my dream of writing in another person’s hands, and even harder to accept the criticism that must be part of the process. In the end, I had to weigh how much I wanted to succeed and how hard was I willing to work for that success. How many times was I up for starting over, throwing out a chapter or reinventing a character? I decided, I was willing to work as hard as I must.
I put my ego in my back pocket and reminded myself that each time that Rebecca and I met, each time she suggested a change, it was meant to help me to become a better writer. At times, it’s a tug of war as I want to take my story in one direction, while she wants me to investigate others. In the end, I decided I wanted to write a good, entertaining book that I could be proud of. To do that, I had to trust my mentor. And I do. I have confidence that Rebecca sees the big picture and will successfully shepherd me through when I get stuck or off track.
The first time I floated chapters to Rebecca they flopped! That hurt a bit, but after licking my wounds and talking it over with her, I picked my spirits up and started again. Rebecca continues to offer me clear insights, practical strategies and examples of what I need to do, all wrapped up in her “you can do it” attitude. Whether she really believes that I can do it or not doesn’t matter; she makes me believe that I can write a good, fun story about witches. Maybe that’s what mentoring is about, instilling faith while teaching a new writer how to look objectively at her work.
I recognize that I still have a great deal to learn. Sometimes after really listening and rewriting a passage I find out that I missed the point all together. Ouch! Over the next few weeks I look forward to sharing my progress with you. Hopefully, at the end of this long, scary road Rebecca and I will remain friends and I will have a book to share with all of you. Fingers crossed!