Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I'm Not Published Yet

I’m Veronica Fields Johnson and it’s my dream to become a published novelist. My writer-sister-friend Rhonda graciously extended me the opportunity to write about my aspirations, which I hope will inspire other future writers to keep pressing forward.

My journey toward that dream has taken much longer than I anticipated. As an elementary school student, I wrote poems for class and even ventured out to write a play about a king and a queen and a horse. I sent that off to a children’s PBS program, hoping they would pick the play and put on a performance. (they didn’t, but did at least send me a cookie recipe card in return.) I wrote a humorous epitaph for a fictional character in my 10th grade English class that my teacher really enjoyed and read aloud to the class.

Whenever I had something to say, whether it was in response to something that made me laugh or made me angry, made me smile or made me think, I found it easier to write it down. I loved writing letters to family and friends, and still do the same via email.

I studied journalism in college and was drawn to feature writing, which gave me a little more leeway for creativity. I entered a short story contest sponsored by Essence magazine in the early 90s, and was a reporter for, and eventually editor of, my college newspaper.

As a youngster, I wasn’t afraid to step out on faith and submit my work. Even when I grew up, but was still less knowledgeable about the craft of fiction writing, I happily submitted to writing contests and various greeting card publishers, without much success. So why, once I started studying the craft of writing, did I lose my confidence?

I knew, I mean, really, really knew I wanted to be a novelist when I read a short story by J. California Cooper entitled, “The Life You Live May Not Be Your Own," which was featured in the Breaking Ice anthology, edited by Terry McMillan. I was fascinated by the fact that Ms. Cooper used literature as social commentary. Her words have a rich texture and meaning and make people reassess how we view the world and ourselves.

When I tried to emulate that style, my words didn’t sing on the page like hers did. All the vivid story ideas that came to me in various forms didn’t seem so vivid when I wrote them down. Disappointment started to creep into everything I tried to do that was writing-related. Would I ever get it right?

It’s easy to give up on writing, if it’s not what you’ve been called to do. But that nagging feeling that you just can’t live without that creativity, and use it to bring about God’s purpose for your life and send a message to His people, may signal that you really shouldn’t leave the path, no matter how hard you need to study to make it right.

A few years ago I thought I needed to quit and agonized over it for days, only for the Lord to wake me up in the middle of the night to write a poem for a friend who had just gotten married.

If He won’t let you loose, maybe it’s time to surrender. According to God’s word in 2 Timothy 2:15 we must “study to show ourselves approved.” I had to find out what that meant for me. This included joining a supportive writing group, burying my nose in as many craft books as I could until they started making sense (which took years) and asking the Lord to help me stay focused, even with all that comes with being a wife, mother of two small children, working full-time and volunteering at church, in my sorority and just living life.

If I can do it, so can you. Let’s keep each other accountable, shall we?


Veronica Fields Johnson is a freelance writer, trivia buff, game show enthusiast and avid reader. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and is a member of the Visions in Print chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two daughters and is currently working on her first novel. Email her at veronicawrites4him(at) yahoo(dot)com.


brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Thanks for allowing a budding writer to post, Rhonda! Veronica, never give up your dream to write. If God has placed it in your heart, it will happen. Stay connected with other writers--it's absolutely vital. Wishing you all the best! Oh, I live in Marietta, probably just around the corner from you. :)

Kendra Norman-Bellamy said...

Great article. I have no doubt that Veronica will realize her dream of becoming a successful novelist. She has the gift and the determination. It's just a matter of God's timing. When He opens the door, she'll walk in and make a stellar entrance, no doubt.

Ty said...

Great column! Keep at it Veronica. One day at a time. I'm looking forward to seeing your book(s) on shelves in the future.

Anonymous said...

So why are you all up in my business Veronica??!!! lol That was truly spot on for me, I don't know about anyone else. When you said if the Lord won't turn you loose, you might as well surrender - that's the part that I seem to be struggling with. Thanks for the conviction, I really do need it.

La Monica

Veronica Johnson said...

Thank you everyone for the encouragement! Since I'm putting myself out there I know I've got at least 4 people who are going to hold me accountable! :)

Rhonda McKnight said...

Oh, no, missy. That would be five people!

Chele said...

You know you've got what it takes to be the "Great American Author." Be patient, and He will guide your path. It's wonderful to see you get this far Ron!

Anonymous said...


Hang in there. I'm typing away at my first young adult novel. Don't know if I'll ever finish, but I'm trying to learn here and there. You are so lucky to be in the visions writer group. You have some of the best writers there. I'm in New York, Albany, and no Chrsitian writers groups here. I wish I was in Atlanta, I'd be right with your group and thanking God for so much talent and good critiquing you have access to. Don't take it for granted, it's hard to write in isolation.

Great post.

Thanks, Rhonda for featuring us unpub dreamers.

Kim Hutchinson

Anonymous said...

Hey, Friend,

Things will definitely work out for you. And your novel will be on the shelves sooner than you think. Like the others said, you have the determination, the will and the faith.

Stay connected, and God will see you through.

Take Care,
Lisa G.
Atlanta, Ga.