My Road to Writing

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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,

 “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Your dream is about to come true.”   That’s the real message the Prophet Elisha spoke into the Shunammite woman’s heart and womb when he proclaimed, “Next year about this you shall have a son.”  (2 Kings 4:15) Her response? “O man of God, don’t lie to me like that.” I know exactly how she felt. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, I fell in love with journalism in 1977 after reading Joseph Pulitzer: Front Page Pioneer.  It was assigned reading for an eighth grade journalism class.  It changed my life.  I knew I wanted to become a writer.

First I served as editor of my eighth grade newspaper.  Next I was editor of my high school’s newspaper and yearbook. Then came college.

At Utica College of Syracuse University (UC) I found the strong journalism major that I needed.  At the end of my first semester I switched to a dual major of public relations and journalism.

One of my professors was key to my success at UC.  He was supposed to retire the year I entered.  Somehow God allowed him to hang on for another four years.  I could not have asked for a better Advisor.  His encouragement, and gentle correction enabled me to remain focused on my scholastic and career goals.  I graduated with honors (cum laude), and was one of two “Outstanding Seniors.”

With my mentor’s assistance I landed my first career position.  After working for several other large companies in corporate communication, I played with the idea of magazine writing.  Two things happened that radically changed everything:  I gave my life to Jesus Christ in August 1989; I left my job in 1990 to launch a freelance career as a “Christian writer.”

Even though I failed as a freelancer, I picked up valuable experience.  Then in 1991, I worked for five months for a Billy Graham Rally office and for a year at the New York Bible Society, the former founding office of the International Bible Society (known for its New International Version — NIV — of the Bible).

When I met the editor of the now-defunct Christ-Centered Singles magazine, I offered to work for free.  Meanwhile, a newspaper editor for whom I also worked passed my name along to an Urban Family editor. When he called, I assumed it was a subscription solicitation.  “Karen gave me your name,” he said, and in a moment, the Lord changed me from am aspiring freelancer to a feature writer.

Working with Urban Family gave me courage to seek other opportunities.  In 1993, I mailed letters of introduction to several Christian magazines, including Charisma.  A few evenings later I came home to a white napkin slipped under a refrigerator magnet.  On it my brother had scrawled “Charisma called.” Twirling around the kitchen, I shouted,  “Praise the Lord.”  My family came running to see what all the excitement was about.  The next morning I received my very first Charisma assignment.

By 1995, I wrote magazine articles and provided publicity services. For my church, I provided ghost writing for several books.  I also served as a special guest interviewer and roving reporter for our TV program on Black Entertainment Television.  Although I secretly felt called to TV, I had successfully sidestepped the call until that time.  It  was an absolute blast!

Moving to Maryland was a lifeline to me.  I had experienced several traumatic life changes, and Maryland proved a balm in Gilead.  It also provided opportunities for me to serve in ministry.  At my present church, I have served as a Sunday School teacher for the 5th/6th grades and on the Board of Directors of S.T.E.P. USA.  (Positions at my previous church include: Deacon (1998), Minister (2001) and Elder (late 2002).  From Summer 2003 – Summer 2004, I also facilitated a Friday Night Women’s Bible  Study/Fellowship.)

After a four-year hiatus, the Lord called me back to freelancing in 2000.

I answered the call, but wasn’t sure if I could handle the responsibility.  But, every time I worked on my computer, I felt God and my many cheerleaders whispering, “You can do it…we know you can.”

As I continued seeking freelance jobs, I discovered online writing groups. During this time, the Lord compelled me to join Christian Writers Fellowship International.  I did so and immediately signed on to the email forum, and also joined Fellowship of Christian Writers’ online discussion group.  I served as a moderator of that group for about a year before joining The Christian Writers View as a co-moderator and panelist.

For more than fourteen years (wow, time is flying), I have lived online – marketing my work, connecting with other writers, learning new markets, and mentoring writers.  I especially enjoy online discussion groups.

Today, roughly 98% of my work comes through the Internet.  My primary inspiration continues to be Psalm 26:7:

“That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving

 and declare God’s wondrous works.”

When I embraced that Scripture in 1990, I never envisioned winning the ‘Writer of the Year” award at the 2004 Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference.  I didn’t envision publishing a magazine — SPIRIT-LED WRITER — let alone the website receiving a prestigious award before its first anniversary.

logo1was twice named by Writer’s Digest as one of the “101 Best Websites For Writers.” It ceased publication after five years of serving Christian writers.

I could not perceive that God would open the door for me to pen a book similar to the one on Joseph Pulitzer that sparked my love of writing.  And, I would never have dreamed that an offer to write a parenting book about teen money matters would result in my first two books being released the same year (2006). Wow. My limited vision and unbelief, however, could not hinder God’s purposes for me.  Thank God.

Trust me: I know what it is to fail as a freelancer, and I know what it is to succeed.  Because I have “been there, done that” I get great pleasure out of helping other communicators cross the chasm of doubt, fear and unbelief to settle on the shores of dreams fulfilled.  One of the ways I do so is by serving on the faculty of writing conferences.  Another is by mentoring writers; I served as a mentor with the (non-defunct) Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild for more than ten years.

My advice?  Whatever your passion, turn it over to God.  And, k now that hope and a good future are available to you (Jeremiah 29:11).   Finally, follow your dreams.  And, never, ever give up.  Remember, with Jesus Christ all things are possible.

Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible!”  He was so right.  I am writing more, sleeping less, and in great need of a wonderful housekeeper.  Juggling my many responsibilities is not easy.  But, it’s a dream come true – and it’s fun!