Do you have a “collection” of special people in your life? People that helped you in ways maybe you hadn’t really given much thought to, but that turned out to be extremely important? One of the first milestones in my writing career—becoming a finalist in the EPIC Awards with my first novel, FIRE EYES—brought this realization home to me. I got curious. I know there are incidents in people’s lives that are pivotal to their entire careers, dreams, and goals, that, perhaps at the time, don’t seem that important. Later, looking back on it, it becomes an “aha” moment—you understand that THIS was the moment when you made the decision to do something you might not have done otherwise, or because of a word of encouragement you continued on when you’d been ready to stop.  

Most people that I’ve met in the last half of my adulthood would never describe me as “shy,” but as a youngster, I was—horribly.  That’s one reason I turned to writing.  It was a great way for me to get my feelings out without actually having to say them.  I could have someone else say it all for me. 

I imagine that’s how many of my fellow writers started, too.  I sometimes wonder what might have happened had we all known each other when we were younger.  Would we have developed into the writers we are today, or would we have found our “niche” with one another and NOT turned so much to writing? 

If you can relate to the “shy” part, then maybe you felt this way, too:  I was never competitive.  Not like so many sports contenders might be.  The things I enjoyed, writing and music, were open to everyone, I felt.  I am not a “joiner” and I am not one to enter a lot of contests.  I entered FIRE EYES in the 2010 EPIC Awards competition, and something odd happened when I did. 

From the moment I entered, my attitude about myself changed.  BEFORE I entered, I thought, “I probably don’t have a chance.”  But my mom always used to say, “If you don’t enter, you certainly are NOT going to win!”  I remembered those words, and sent in my entry that very day.  Once it was sent, I began to feel some confidence growing.  As I analyzed WHY, here’s what I came up with. 

FIRE EYES was a joint project.  I wrote it, but I couldn’t have if I hadn’t had the cooperation and support of my family—my kids and my husband.  While I was writing it, my oldest sister, Annette, was constantly asking about “how it’s coming” and she was the one I could bounce ideas off of.  Once written, my business partner read it for glaring mistakes, and my best friend of 45 years read it for moral support. The Wild Rose Press accepted it, and my editor, Helen Andrew, was so phenomenal in helping me mold it and shape it into the story that was released last May.  My cover artist, Nicola Martinez, did a superb job on the beautiful cover. My family and friends were all pulling for me, and constantly offering encouragement. With all these people behind me and my story, my confidence rose.  Whatever would be, would be—and entering the competition was a win/win situation.  Even if I didn’t make it to the finals, I would still have taken the chance and had the experience. 

When I received the news that my book was, indeed, a finalist, I thought immediately of all the people who had helped me get to this point; people in my life who had faith in me, and in my ability, and in the story itself.  I thought of that saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  It’s true, even in the broader sense of our lives as writers.  The experiences we had growing up, people who encouraged us even then, our spouses, our children, mentors and teachers we’ve had along the way, and peers that have helped and encouraged us.  Editors, artists, publishers and organizations such as EPIC that give us a chance to compete and strive to be better and better, along with our readers, are all part of the completed circle of a successful writer’s endeavors.

 Though FIRE EYES didn’t win that year, the experience of entering the competition and finaling in it was more important that I could have realized when I sent my entry in. It was the thing that made me understand just how many people had been involved in the entire process of writing that book. And it gave me the impetus and encouragement to move forward with the rest of my writing projects since that time. That realization was far more important than winning the contest, and has been with me every day, like a component of myself that I didn’t have before; another part of my make-up. 

Does anyone have a “special person” that helped them along the way? Not just in writing, but in your life’s goals and dreams?  What about a “collection” of special people? My “collection” of special people in my life is the thing that I am most thankful for above all else.  Without them, my dreams could have never happened.  I could never have done it alone. 

Cheryl’s Amazon Author Page:


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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work:
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here:
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  1. Thank you for this post, Cheryl. Writing can be such a solitary occupation sometimes it’s easy to forget all those people behind you cheering you on to success.

    My family has been so wonderful since I started writing. Every Wednesday I talk to my dad as I commute home, and he’s always asking how my stories are going and helps keep my Wyoming history facts strait. Also, I’ve found great encouragement from other writers on blogs and through FB. I was just amazed at how supportive other authors are. I thought it would be a competitive atmosphere, but most really pull for us unpublished hopefuls.


  2. What an inspiring post, Cheryl. So many things you said resonated with me. I’m shy, too (as I think many writers must be, it’s such a solitary profession). My first book, an epic historical, won first place in a state contest, which gave me the courage to try it on the national market. Like you I have a collection of heroes who helped and supported me along the way. Too many to name here. But thanks for a beautiful start to my day. (Still love your Fire Eyes cover).

  3. Kirsten,
    You know, my parents tried to be supportive in their own way after I was an adult and they could see the fire was still there inside me to write. As a child, they encouraged writing, but only as a “hobby”–it was no way to even THINK of making a living! Once I had my kids and they were in school, I really began to write in earnest, and my parents (not knowing a thing about the business) would ask questions about that end of it, and wonder about my stories, etc. But by that point, my mom had started to be forgetful of things and her dementia had begun, though we didn’t realize it at that point. I’m so glad you and your dad have those conversations about your work and are able to share it. Most authors are very supportive of others–you do run into the occasional competitive person, but I suppose that’s just a microcosm of life in general. LOL Glad you enjoyed the post today! Thanks for stopping in.

  4. Cheryl, what a lovely post. No one can do it alone and without the support of family and friends I wouldn’t be where I am today.

    We all need a safe place to fall when the going gets tough and people to cheer for us when the good times roll. A good support system is an asset to be treasured.


  5. Hi Elizabeth!
    When I read your comment it made me wonder if a lot of us writers enter competitions not because we are competitive, but because we are “skating against the ‘book of rules'” so to speak. When my daughter took ice skating, we’d go to competitions where there might not be anyone else in her age group/level and she’d be alone, competing against herself. I never knew there was such a thing, but it’s much more fair than putting someone in a level that is too different than where they actually are. She’d “skate against the book” which meant that the judges would look for things that should/should not be there performance wise and judge her on that, not against other competitors. I think in my own mind, when I enter competitions, I’m not trying to beat out anyone else–just wanting to see how I do and what I can do to improve. Discovering that I actually FINALED in my first competition I entered in just gave me more courage to go on, as with you and your book you entered in your first competition. I’m sure I’ve left out a ton of people who helped me along the way. I just feel so very lucky to have been able to pursue my childhood dreams finally. I’m so glad you stopped by and commented, Elizabeth. Thanks for the kind words!

  6. Hi Margaret!
    You are so right! No one can do it alone, and it’s so hard when writers have no support. I have taught writing classes off and on here in Oklahoma City for many years, and there are so many students I’ve encountered who truly have no one. I always, always try to let them know that they can e-mail me any time and try to be there for them as much as I can, but sadly, there are so many of them that just give up because of the pressures of the world around them and a lacking support system. Another thing that really deters people is the mistaken idea that writing is EASY and can be done in one’s “spare time.” But those that really want to do it usually find a way somehow, and I always try to be there for them the best I can–we just don’t ever know who else is there to cheer them on or even offer a word of encouragement. Thanks for commenting, Margaret!

  7. I look back on it and can’t believe my husband was as patient as he was with my writing.
    My children were actually wonderfully supportive in their own cruel, teenager-ish way.
    Mom the book is really not too bad. (wild praise from a teen!)
    I joined RWA and found the Omaha Chapter of it, including filly sisters Cheryl St. John and Pam Crooks and that really kicked me down the road in the right direction.
    The community I found through ACFW–which I found in RWR, the magazine put out by RWA. The American Christian Fiction Writers was the final piece of the puzzle.
    Through them I found a critique group that really helped. REALLY. I entered ACFW’s contest and won. That earned me a closer look from editors and agents and I got a nice bunch of appointments at the ACFW Conference….which was the first writer’s conference I’d ever attended.

    After that I FINALLY managed to sell a book. I had twenty finished books on my computer when the first one sold!!!!!! And I’ve sold 10 of them now. 🙂 And written fourteen more…new work that are either published or in the pipeline to be published.

    So many people helped me along the way. So many.

  8. Thanks for such a great post,my husband is the most patient an loving man,,I could NOT have made it without him,,I was in a abusive marriage for 30yrs,an didnt know that someone could be as kind as he is ,,,,when those old insecurites creep up,he is there to remind me that ive safe with him an never have to worry or be scared again

  9. Hi Mary,
    My husband was patient in the beginning but as time went by, not so much. LOL The kids were like yours, but have become more supportive in an adult way the older they have gotten. I think I have about 6 or 7 old mss. on my computer that need to be revamped and find a home, too. I have one of those looooooonnnnnnnggg tomes that I will have to do some major re-working on before getting it “out there”–the first one I ever wrote, but MY BABY!!!! LOL Thanks so much for commenting, Mary. You always crack me up. I think we’ve had a lot of the same experiences.

  10. Vickie,
    That is such an uplifting story about your husband! Just wonderful to have found someone that shares your dream and actually helps you with it. I’m so happy for you.

  11. Cheryl, you are so lucky to have such a good support system. Their understanding, support, and encouragemnet can make all the difference in the world. If they aren’t supportive or worse, actively discourage you, it is hard to achieve tht dream. With such a great group surrounding you, we can look forward to many more enjoyable books from you.

  12. Howdy, Cheryl. In writing, I’d have to say it would be our filly sister Charlene. I was SOOO terrified walking into my first ever RWA chapter meeting, knowing nobody…she was so sweet and helpful and became not only a critique partner but great friend. My first book, she helped me get it started in the right place.

    In life, it would have to be my hubby who is always my rock and keeps me calm. Or tries to, poor guy.

    Very thoughtful post and I loved Fire Eyes. oxox

  13. Patricia,
    Yes, I am very lucky–and one person I forgot to mention and should have is my business partner, Al Serradell. Al was such a mentor to me in the beginning. Here I had this degree in English and the desire to write a book–in fact, already had the book pretty well finished–and had no idea what to do with it. That’s one thing they don’t teach in your English classes! LOL I brought the first couple of chapters to a creative writing class he was teaching at a vo-tech nearby the first night of class and after class he asked how much I’d written, could he see more? Sure! The next time we met, I brought him everything in a big pasteboard box. We still laugh about that today, 10 years later. He’s not a big “hand-holder” but he told me what I needed to do, helped me improve my writing and now we teach together and work on projects together. One thing we are putting together is THE GEEZER’S GUIDE TO GOOD TIMES–a collection of short stories, poetry, recipes, jokes, and other miscellaneous tidbits that would sell somewhere like Cracker Barrel, etc. We have really enjoyed working on that. He has truly been a great friend and given me the encouragement I needed when I thought everything was on a downhill slide. Thanks for your kind words, Patricia.

  14. Tanya,
    I wish soooo much that we had great RWA group here in my area, but alas. And what a great tribute to Charlene! You know I think that’s one of the trickiest things about writing–knowing where to start and how much backstory to put in. You are so very lucky to have a good friend and mentor like Charlene, for sure! And it’s always nice when our spouses are “there” for us. Although Gary does the technical stuff for me computer wise if I need him, other than that, I think I could be a ninja and he’d know about as much about what I do as he does now. LOL I love to hear about everyone’s special person or “collection of people” in their lives that have helped them achieve their goals, writing or otherwise.
    Hugs, Tanya!

  15. I have a lot of special persons that have helped me along the way and continue to help me.. I don’t know what I would have done with out them, especially the last year or so.. They have helped just by listening or by giving me words of encouragement though these touch time… I am truly blessed..

  16. Hi Kathleen,
    I know just what you mean. And by the same token, we never know what the effects are of a gesture or kind word that we might speak to someone. I can think of many times when someone just being kind or doing something thoughtful was such a blessing. I had a wonderful mother who really lived that example. Thanks so much for coming by, Kathleen!

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