My Writing Journey (Part 1)

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

It's getting to be that time of year again when my speaking calendar begins to fill up. And when I'm speaking, I frequently share a little bit about my writing journey—when I started, how long I've been writing, and the path I've taken to get to where I'm at.

After recently sharing about my writing journey in a couple of local talks, I realized I've never bared my past on my blog! So I thought I'd take a couple of weeks to give a personal glimpse into my writing journey for readers here.

My Writing Journey (Part 1):

Like many writers I was born with a pen in my hand. I filled notebooks with stories when I was growing up.

My mom was the most influential person in my writing career. When I was young, she helped facilitate my love of writing by reading aloud to me, giving me good books to read, and providing the kind of environment that fostered my creativity (in fact we didn’t have a TV for a number of years). She always believed in me, encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and rode alongside me cheering me on.

My passion for writing followed me into adulthood. I wanted to be an author. But like most aspiring writers, I struggled to know how I could use my gifts and abilities in a career. When my college years came, I knew I would need a career that could pay the bills while I worked on my novels. So I went to Taylor University in Indiana and then eventually to the University of Wisconsin in Madison where I got my Masters in Social Work.

I kept writing and learning about writing during the years when I worked as a social worker. And it was during those post-college years, when I was working and before I had kids, that I really studied the craft of writing. I read every how-to book about fiction techniques I could get my hands on.

During that pre-child time, I also wrote five books. The last of those five books garnered attention from an editor at a publishing house but was eventually rejected. So I knew I was getting close to being ready for publication. While the rejection was discouraging, I also knew that most writers have to write numerous books before they’re finally good enough for publication. I never looked at those early books as wasted attempts. Instead I viewed them as preparation and training for growing into a skillful author.

But as life (and God) would have it, I ended up taking a long writing hiatus. Shortly after the birth of my twins, I set aside my writing completely for about seven years. As I now look back over those years, I can see how much the hiatus helped me grow personally, spiritually, and deepened my life experiences.

During my break, I also gained ideas and fuel for future stories. Because about that time, I started homeschooling my children. During the course of our history lessons, I began to learn a lot about some of the great heroes from history. I was particularly fascinated by the wives of these great heroes, especially those who were long forgotten by our modern world, women who had stood by their husband’s sides during dangerous times and had helped shape those men into the heroes they became. I wanted to bring these women to life for our modern generation.

But it wasn’t until after I’d had my fifth baby, that I started to feel the urge to write again. Around that time, I read a biography about John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress. I discovered a tiny excerpt about his second wife, Elizabeth, and it stirred my curiosity.

My imagination turned on in a way that it hadn’t in many years. I began to think about this particular woman (one of those strong woman who had been obscured by the popularity of her husband). What had life been like for her? And what was her real story?

So the first book I wrote after my seven year break was The Preacher’s Bride, a book inspired by the life of Elizabeth Bunyan. At the time I wrote the book, my youngest two children were still very little, so I had to sneak in writing during nap time and in the evenings after their bedtime. In all, the book took me about a year to complete, writing only about 500 words a day.

The book went on to become my first published book, hit the CBA best seller list, and won multiple awards.

Come back next week to find out how many agents rejected The Preacher's Bride, how long the manuscript languished in slush piles, and how I finally got my big break . . .

So, dear readers, do you have any question for me regarding my writing journey so far? Ask away! And now tell me something about you! What was your college major or line of study? Did you end up using your degree or did you do something different?

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