A Sense of Self

| July 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

I am a writer. It took me years to feel comfortable about saying that. I was always something else. I was a student, a wife and a mother at various times of my life. Professionally I was a press aide to a congressman, a cultural arts director, a nonprofit executive and lastly a CEO.

All my life I have written and yet never felt I deserved the right to call myself a writer. When I think back on my life now, I realize I have always been a writer. As a child, my parents owned a grocery store and we lived behind it. We had a large roll of brown wrapping paper near the meat counter to wrap meat. I would constantly rip off enough paper to write on. I wrote poems; I wrote stories; I wrote all the time about everything. It was my favorite pastime.

My mother saved many of those early writings because she believed, as only a mother can, that she was raising a brilliant budding writer and someday I would write the great American novel. One of her favorites was a Mother’s Day card I made writing on that brown wrapping paper. I took the song “Mother” that spelled out the word with each letter standing for something about a mom. I took liberties to write that song my way with each letter signifying a personal slant on the song describing my mother with drawings to accompany each letter. It became a cherished memento and an opportunity for my mother to remind me for over 50 years of the writer I was yet to be.

In 4th grade, I entered a city-wide essay contest for students on why we value freedom. I wrote my 9-year old heart out and won first place. The contest was sponsored by Esterbrook Pen and Pencil Company, headquartered in my hometown of Camden, N.J. My mother and I got to go to City Hall with the runners up and receive our awards from the mayor himself. The reward? An Esterbrook pen and pencil set in its own velvet lined case, of course.

That was the one and only competition I ever entered…until now. Here it is, over 60 years later and I have entered a competition for the second time in my life. It is a memoir showcase and now I am finally feeling I can call myself a writer, I have the courage to compete.

It all started with this column. Once retired I began writing for the paper in 2008 and after this many published columns I began to feel like maybe I can call myself a writer, but still I felt unsure of giving myself that title. Then I began writing an original musical with three colleagues. It took us over two years and finally in May we had it to a point where we could put it on workshop style for an audience. We held two performances, and to our surprise and delight, it was a rousing success. Our audiences loved it. I felt confident enough to proclaim I am a writer.

Looking back on my life now, I recognize I have written many original works, but because they were not things to be published, I did not give them all that much credit. Every special family occasion I wrote a poem or story to commemorate. At one of my jobs I wrote plays that were take-offs on famous shows, to be performed by members of the community center I worked for. So now, here I am with the momentum to enter a competition for writers. There will be 10 winners whose works will be read by actors, in the fall at North Coast Repertory theater. But to me, win or not, I am already a winner. I entered the contest.

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