About a month ago, Jordan Rosenfeld (author of my favorite writing/craft book: Make a Scene) and I were discussing our experiences of pursuing dreams. We both agreed that while yes, we had to show up on the path and begin walking forward, the journey has never been a solitary one. When I look back at all of the greatest things that have happened to me, they have been a result of others choosing to believe in me. Those gestures of belief were sometimes as simple as sincere words spoken at the right moment. Other times they have come along as something larger, often an opportunity that I had no way of envisioning before it was given to me. The key ingredient in these gestures being that they were unexpected gifts. I never felt as though I had earned them or could take credit for their arrival. For me, these are the true rewards of stepping out in faith or striving towards a goal. It is not so much what I can take responsibility for achieving myself, but the people who have become apart of my life along the way and the things they have taught me about life.
For both Jordan and myself, one of these gift-givers has been Maria Schneider. She has acted as a champion in both of our endeavors as writers. I met Maria for the first time during the Writer’s Digest trip after winning the 76th Annual Competition. It was a turning point in my life and I was buzzing with the terror that I might do something wrong and pop this bubble that had lifted me up like some fairytale. After years of barely being able to look my dream of being a writer in the eye, it was suddenly grasping me by the hand and saying, “Well, you’ve been wishing for me. Here I am!”
Maria put me at ease instantly. She was down-to-earth, witty, professional, generous and basically, the kind of woman I would love to be. As we scurried from meeting to meeting, Maria’s support meant that I was able to breathe between elevator pitches, intense discussions of the reality of the publishing business and back and forth dialogue challenging everything about the novel I was presenting from title to premise. I think without her easy presence and reassurance I would have been like a squirrel jacked-up on espresso in danger of dying from nervous exhaustion.
I become attached to certain people very quickly and Maria is one of those people. When I found out that she was leaving her position as editor for Writer’s Digest, I went into a state of mourning. For me, she was the Patron Saint of Humanity standing guard for all writers. I was relieved when she launched her website for writers EditorUnleashed.com. When she offered me the opportunity to blog for the site, I was honored. But it has been more than just the platform she has given me or the words of encouragement, Maria has been teaching me about the spirit of staying true to myself as a writer and a woman. She is a person with vision and courage and spirit. She is not afraid to give the odds the finger. In the face of so much naysaying and striving for security in a competitive industry, Maria is a champion for all those who refuse to have their vision confined. In knowing her, I believe I have grown in my own courage.
It is so easy to go along in life not letting those around you know how they have changed who you are. I am grateful for this opportunity to be able to thank Maria for her presence in this world.