Turning Point; noun : a time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.
The timing of a series of recent events has led me to believe I’ve reached a turning point which could, if I am able to allow it, result in some much needed change. These events have at least led me to some self-reflection—an activity I usually avoid at all costs—and a realization that I am, in fact, heading in the right direction, no matter that it took me forever to figure this out.
First, there was AWP. I’d been nervous as hell about sitting on a panel at the Association of Writer’s and Writing Programs convention. Who was I to talk about women veteran writers at such an event? How could I possibly afford to go to this massive convention in L.A? And who would want to hear a word I had to say? AWP is one of the largest writing conventions in the world, filled with every literary heavy hitter you can name. It’s like the Olympics of writers and I was making my first showing as a no-name player from the farm team.
I almost didn’t go.
After gathering up the nerve, I finally asked BriGette McCoy and her Women Veteran Social Justice Network for help, WVSJ kicked in to assist in financing my trip and I couldn’t be more grateful to her and her efforts. She’s one tireless woman who isn’t afraid to put her boxing gloves on to go to battle for what women veterans need and deserve. I admire her so much. She came through with some financial support at a time when I almost canceled attending AWP because of the cost. I cannot thank her enough.
And that gratitude is mostly because I’m pretty sure attending AWP has done the one thing that I really needed to do on this writing journey.
I found my people.
Someone said that to me during a cocktail event. My face hurt from smiling for so long, the pain making me realize how out of practice I’d been at the expression. I turned to this woman I’d only met about an hour before and said, “I was so nervous to come here. Now I’m shocked by how comfortable I feel.”
“You’ve found your people,” she said.
Hanging out with other veteran writers felt exactly like that. We all wrote completely different things. Memoir, poetry, speculative fiction, literary, genre fiction, short stories, essays, novels. It didn’t matter. We were all using words to tell our stories from a perspective that had roots buried in service in uniform. I’d served with these brothers and sisters in arms. Now, I write with them and it feels exactly right.
Thanks Jerri Bell, you amazing person, for dragging me there. I feel less and less like an imposter every day.
Just a week after AWP, I met an author through RomVets, a group of veteran writers I’d linked up with through social media. I have to admit, I’d been mostly lurking in the group, never really participating much. A lot of the RomVets writers have published tons of work and since I’m not a true romance writer, I didn’t think I belonged. But Terri Schaefer, a veteran and author of a long list of thrillers, mysteries and romance, was in my neighborhood and she reached out to say hello. We hit it off immediately. Again it’s that ‘words on paper plus uniformed past’ that makes it amazingly easy to start with speaking the same language.
Terri went with me for my first face-to-face meeting with a book club who’d read my first novel, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph. I’d been nervous as hell about the meeting but this book club, made up of people from the Fort Meade Officer Spouses Club, was another amazing night. Even though they weren’t afraid to tell me what bothered them about the book, they also said they enjoyed it and I had such a great time talking to them.
And again, when I thanked them for how comfortable they’d made me feel, the host of the meeting said, “You found your people.”
I figure there’s something cosmic going on here.
So next weekend, I’m attending a train the trainer seminar for the WarriorWriting.org project. I met Lovella Calica at AWP. She told me a chapter of Warrior Writers, an effort to help veterans find their voices through writing, was about to kick off in my area. If I’d truly found my people, I figure I’ve got to help others find theirs.
So, we’ll see. It feels as if there are too many roads leading to the same place in a short amount of time for me to ignore these in-my-face signs. I think I’m supposed to keep writing about women in combat boots. I think I’m supposed to keep connecting with veteran writers. And I think I’m supposed to help other veterans on their own writing journeys. I think I’ve found my people and so far, that feels pretty damn good.