A Piece of My Mind: The Second Annual "When Do You Consider yourself a writer?" Column
Bennet Pomerantz

The success of last year's column lead to this year's column. I had over one hundred entries for this year's annual event. I hope, in the first quarter of the year, to do a secondary column for the rest of this year's entries. These are these writer's words, uncut and uncensored.

One day while perusing a pile of "stuff" on my desk, I read an amazing paragraph, was really into it when I realized I wrote it! Amazing.
   ~ Barbara M. Traynor, Administrative Assistant, NVRA

Here is my two bit's you asked for. .. With a bit of thought I can say that a person becomes a writer when he/she puts to paper thoughts that someone else would want to read (with the exception of students writing the required and greatly dreaded term papers). A successful writer is someone who can puts words to paper that encourage deep thought discussion and or just enjoyment for the reader. An author is someone who has managed to sell this work (some say prostituted) his/hers ability for money. But then we all got to put food on the table somehow.
   ~ Antoine Evans

I consider myself a writer when someone I have given my story to read tells me later; "When I started reading your story I became so captivated by it that I just had to read it all the way through. It was like watching a movie. You described every scene so well that I could visualize everything you wrote about.
   ~ James Burns. Stratford, NJ

I consider myself a writer when my reader can see the thing that I am expressing, in a more better image than I. If my readers can hear the characters' cry, if their heart rides upon each word, and their minds are hopelessly caught within the realm of the world I created; when my readers are thirsty for more when the story is finished, then, and only then, do I consider myself a writer.
   ~ Brenda Williams, author of Hidden Faces, by Brenda McGee. This short Christian fiction novel can be purchased only on online book stores.

He is a writer who writes-for this single determining factor distinguishes writers from mere dreamers and pretenders. Many people mistakenly attach conditions, such as publication credits or money earned, to justify the title of "WRITER." However, few would argue that dear Miss Emily was a failure, though most of her works were discovered in a drawer and published posthumously.
   ~ Greg Jones

I don't call myself a writer. I tell people "I write." I don't associate myself with the occupation, but the craft. I'm not published, yet. But I am honing my craft regularly and that is more important to me as an artist. If I don't write almost daily, I feel like I haven't taken my first breath of the day.
   ~Michael D. Duhacek

As for myself, I have written since the third grade. So, when did I consider myself a writer? The day that someone else thought my work was good enough for others to read, enjoy and appreciate.
   ~ Kathleen Rogers

Hmm, when is one a writer. The quick answer for me, is when you get paid for it, but I have been paid for writing and don't consider myself a "writer." I consider someone a writer if they have a desire, if not a compulsion to write, and said desire causes him/her to produce written items whether paid or not, whether fiction or not. I suppose by my own internal definitions I am a "hack." I will produce written material on demand for money, but have little to no desire to write for any other reason. Not counting the several email lists I am on where I write to "hear" myself pontificate. Writing is too little a focus in my life for me to consider myself a "writer," i.e. I don't define myself that way. My definition of myself focus primarily on mom and wife. By the way, animal care technician comes in there too. Just a little view from the inside of my brain.
   ~Kriste Stromberg, Marshall, VA

When I was 12 years old and decided there was NOTHING in our book-filled house worth reading... I decided to write a book, and then I'd have something good to read. Been writing ever since.
   ~ Becca Anderson

When you find yourself having to write every day. Even if all you do is scribble ideas in a notebook while having coffee at your favourite lunch spot, and it will be a part of some writing that you will extend on later. When everything you see and hear starts you thinking about how you could work them into a story, a poem or an article. When everything you read sets your mind to working out how you could make a story or an article out of it. When you are writing something, anything, and it will not leave you alone until you have finished it to the best of your ability. When you work on those ideas and reach the point of writing those special words - The End. That is when you know you are a writer.
   ~ Davina MacLeod

Well, that one is very easy. A few months ago, my mother in law passed away and everyone was asked to do something for the wake in her honor. I wrote a poem. On the day of the wake my sister in law read it to the people there and when I saw tears in all their eyes, I knew I was a writer, for writing is an emotion for me, and to finally see that I could effect people that way was very touching and enlightening to me.
   ~ Linda Killian

Unfortunately, though I spent much of my free time actually putting pen to paper--writing short stories and finishing my novel, Pinned--I did not consider myself a writer until I climbed the most final hurdle and had Harcourt's commit to publish my novel, Pinned.
   ~ Alfred Martino, from his Fiction Fix Author Showcase 

I first thought of myself as a writer since I was in high school over 20 years ago. But what really made me consider myself as a writer was writing Rosemary Sage and the Man in Black. I am currently working on the sequel.
   ~ Gayle Pritchard, You can find my book at PublishAmerica

I considered myself a writer when I realized that reading my environment, deciphering the stories coded into it and sharing them with others is central to my existence. All our mortal lives we try to cloak within us this emptiness, this void with colors and stories, weaving blankets covering our neonatal exterior. Blankets pile up one on top of the other while we wriggle our puny bodies kicking our feet in glee. We can't live without these stories. We have to be constantly surrounded by them, their warmth, like a pleasant whir of the electric warmer churning vibrations that in turn generate patterns of sounds we interpret as pleasurable. Most of us have to put in a certain effort to maintain our story lines. We have to feed our characters, take all their major decisions and remain in a constant fear of wearing out our stories prematurely exposing our emptiness in black or white.
   ~Rakesh Biswas, Bangalore, India

Two things have made me realize that I am a writer, albeit not published at this point. First there was the encouragement of a "real" writer (Mr. Pomerantz) to continue to work on my skills. And second is my habit of reworking my writings, never quite satisfied that it is done as well as it could be. Even this small note took several rewrites.
   ~Linda Akwa, Iowa

I considered myself a writer after a sequence of events. In the beginning, I started several stories, but never finished them. When I made the commitment to finish the 400-page manuscript and stay glued to the project for six months, I had never felt more like a writer. The new status solidified, when friends invited me to an event that I normally would have jumped at the chance to attend, but instead declined because I was still writing the story. This story - Open Your Heart - was my first sale in romance fiction in 2002 with BET Books, with an additional two novels and one novella to my credit. My next latest releases are with BET in Spring '06 and as one of the launch authors for Harlequin's new African American romance line in September '06.
   ~Michelle Monkou 

I awoke this morning with a memory in mind of when I was younger. My father and I were discussing what I was going to do in my future. I replied "I am going to live in British Columbia, Canada." Dad laughed asking me "What about the cold weather? You hate the cold. There's a lot of snow and cold there." I cringed at those words. With a tilt of my head I smiled, "I'll be a writer working at home with my dogs for company." I woke up with that scene echoing in my head. I realized groggily that I live in Florida, with my dog and cat, married to a U.S. Marine. My reality is a far cry from British Columbia and the quiet life of a writer amongst her dogs. This inspired me to answer the question "When did you consider yourself a writer?", heh, "This morning."
   ~Shauna Engel

A writer is a person who writes, right?" my12-year-old daughter asked when I asked her question, 'What is a writer?' She was right, in the general sense of the word, but I -have never thought of myself as a writer, even with two novels and three short stories in various stages of completion in my word processor. I'm a storyteller-although one who writes his stories down so others can read them. I didn't call myself a writer until I had my first book published, and even with that, I still feel more like a storyteller-a storyteller who types! A writer can be one who writes, but that doesn't mean he writes well. An author is one who has a published book, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is a good, well-written book. A storyteller doesn't carry any false promises or labels. He just tells stories!
   ~ Phil Whitley, Riverdale, Ga. my soon-to-be -released book, KEECHIE.

When I was in elementary school, I truly enjoyed writing stories. My teachers encouraged this love of writing with positive comments and reinforcement, as they most likely did for many of the students.

After I graduated from high school, my writing tended to be only for college assignments. Now, nearly twenty years later, I find that writing has become a valuable part of my job that I truly enjoy. As a school superintendent, writing is an important way to communicate with the patrons of our district and has become somewhat of a creative outlet for me.
   ~ Lynn Evans, Iowa

I am a writer when the pen meets paper and it feels smooth to my touch, and I can hear the scratching of it against the surface of that paper. The writing possesses my senses as if it is separate from me, yet it flows from within. Even on the computer every click of a keyboard-key is music and I need no other distractions - no television in the background, no music on my winamp, no cat purring by my side. The free-flowing prose is my harmony. This is when I am a writer.
   ~Thanh-Tam Huynh

I've been a storyteller all my life. My earliest memories include telling stories to my dog using my Ken and Barbie dolls as main characters. I wrote my first mystery novel at the age of 12, loaned it to a friend to read and never got it back (I'm sure it was a masterpiece!) I finally got up the nerve to send a completed story to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and, with the return mail, knew I was finally a real writer. I had received my first rejection slip!
   ~Judy Thomas "Happy New Year" coming out in December in A Flasher's Dozen

I considered myself a writer when, after writing 20-something years, my 38-year-old son finally read a story and said, "Mom, that was really good."
   ~ Nanette Thorsen-Snipes, Buford, Georgia

I considered myself a writer at nine-years-old, when one of my poems was published in my school's glossy magazine. It seemed like, in the millisecond, my happy childhood ended, as the verbal and physical abuse at home escalated. Coupled with being raped at 14 years old, I was emotionally silenced and sequestered by the secrets. Writing became my saving-grace....As I grew older, I attempted to show the world a well-adjusted, funny, and extraverted woman. It was only in my writing that my real voice could be heard. It dared to whisper a different story. Words befriended me, flowed from my soul, and spilled onto thousands of pages over the years....At age 49, my first book was published.
   ~ Stanice Anderson, Author, I Say A Prayer For Me: One Woman's Life of Faith and Triumph, Walk Worthy Press/Warner Books

When you are standing behind a register, punching numbers, and realize this is not what I want to do in life. When the words come at you from nowhere and all you want to do is share it with the world. When you are heard. When there is a crowd before you that listens to every word. Or a reader who can feel the emotion. Or when a friend, one person, says "Wow! That was deep". I consider myself a writer when I put paper and pen before me and let the words flow. I consider myself a writer when everybody says " What kind of dreams are those?" and yet, I still continue to write. I've always been a write and always will be a writer. I consider myself a writer when the words I put together, whether spoken or written, strikes certain emotions within the listeners. I consider myself a writer when I write.
   ~ Ana Yong

I recently read a comment by one of my favorite authors saying that glimpses of a different reality were not often given to the qualified.1 That was very comforting to me. If I waited until I felt qualified enough to call myself a writer, I'd be waiting a long time. The actual moment when you consider yourself a writer is something along the lines of either waiting until you feel like one, or deciding that you are one. I think it's the latter.
   ~ Kellie Gower. Florence, TX

I considered myself a writer from the time I could remember until the possibility of attending a journalism college was no longer an option in the early 60s. In the mid-60's, I considered myself a writer when Reader's Digest published a household cleaning hint I submitted. I considered myself a writer when one of my poems was published. When I began writing software manuals in the early 80s, once again I considered myself a writer. When my son sent me his college thesis to review the night before it was due (in the mid-90s), I considered myself a writer. When I designed, coded and documented proprietary database systems as a stand-a-lone contractor in the late-90s, I considered myself a writer. Out of necessity, I re-invented my professional accomplishments and sold myself as a technical writer. Once hired, I considered myself a writer. In the early 2000s my college teachers said that I should become a writer. And, this year, two months before my Mother died, for the first time, she told I was a good writer and that I should continue writing. I will believe I am a writer to the day I die because of the gift my Mother gave me, my work, and the writing ideas that continue to flow. Some of these ideas may be written on the other side of eternity because there are so many of them. I do believe. And I do believe I am a writer
   ~ Nancy Herbert

Growing up I have always had a vibrant imagination. At first, it did not occur to me that I should share that imagination with the world. I never had a desire to be a writer. Yet, I became a writer because of the ills of our world. I was extremely irritated by a lot of the problems in the world. I tried to ignore them, however, something within encouraged me to start writing about the things that were eating at my soul and my heart. I came to the understanding that one can attack the social ills and the apostasy through the arts. I began to attack them by way of crafty plots and storylines. Therefore, I considered myself a writer when I decided to use the gift of writing as a tool to fight against that which fights against humanity.
   ~ Reggie Smith

I thought of myself as a writer when I finished my first book. By the time I completed the third and fourth manuscripts, I was sure I was writer. Every conference workshop I attended and newsletter article I read said you are a writer if you write. And I wrote, consistently, regularly and completed books. When I sold my first book, suddenly people who I would never approach approached me as if I were a long lost friend being invited into the club. That's when I felt as if I was a writer.
   ~Shirley Hailstock, past president of Romance Writers of America and author of Magnetic Hearts.

A cohesive explanation of such a question relies upon one's mental recognition of accomplishment. Mere chronology is unlikely to yield anything more inspirational to the reader than a self-promotional acclamation of virtue. I knew I was a writer when I saw my mother weep after reading the Mother's Day card I made for her when I was nine. Well... perhaps. However, the litmus test for such a pronouncement would seem to be a bit more complex if considered from a non-subjective point of view, especially if scrutinized by one's peers. The mere act of scribbling words upon paper, even with the most noble of intentions, no more qualifies the scribbler as a writer than a football thrown across the yard to a friend on a Saturday afternoon qualifies the tosser as a quarterback. I became a writer when I simply could no longer not write, when writing's importance overcame fear of rejection, inertia and/or lack of self-esteem. No other evaluation is necessary.
   ~ Bob Church, Moberly, Missouri

I believe you are a writer when that is the one thing you cannot imagine yourself never doing again.  While I have been a writer since early childhood (1970's), I only began to be published professionally in 2002-2003. Still, I have always favored writing over speaking and have always considered myself a writer , even when I was afraid to say it out loud.
   ~ Andora Henson

There have been many times when I should have been able to call myself a writer. The first time a stranger came up to me and said, "Hey! You're the writer!" should have worked; when I realized that people were copying my columns - sometimes without permission - should have done the trick; when my publisher sent me flowers after a good review from the Associated Press; when the copy editor for the Greek translation told me how much she enjoyed my novel. But still I was reluctant to claim the noun as my title. What gave me the courage was when my accountant told me that my writing expenses were indeed deductible. If the IRS accepts me as a writer, then, hey! - I'm a writer.
   ~ Victoria Grossack, author of Iokaste: The Novel of the Mother-Wife of Oedipus and Coffeehouse workshop facilitator.

When did I become a Writer? Could it be the moment my imagination could soar? Or when I fell in love with the written word? I believe I became a writer when I knew that the thoughts trapped in my brain, had to be shared with others. I was then a writer. Even if it did take me some time to begin the process of pen to paper.
   ~Tammy Cover

When I was 8 years old I remember writing a poem about owls in the night...and learning that I loved to express myself in that way. I think my dreams of becoming a writer began then. As I went through school, my writing was recognized and I appeared in the local and state student magazines. After eighth grade, I was sent to the University of Charlottesville for a summer writing program. My writing by this time had become very dark and I was constantly being sent to the guidance counselor because of it. So there was a period when I no longer showed my writing to anyone, and when I did write, it wasn't much. In my early twenties I renewed my interest and sent a few things out to magazines. To my shock, all of them were accepted. But I did not continue with it and for a long time did nothing further. Then, in 2002 I grew serious about it. I was off work for medical reasons and as I always have, I turned to writing as a release from my depression. I knew that it was my gift, so to speak, and I decided to do something about it. I began a database to keep track of my submissions. I created a website. I began submitting, and more amazingly, selling my work. I considered myself a writer. Now, with almost 100 sales, one collection, and another on the way, I can say without embarrassment, "I am a writer".
   ~ Julie ShielDisturbed is now on sale! An illustrated collection of 15 poems available through Project Pulp 

The epiphany came to me when I realized that writing was the only thing that could both express and facilitate my personal and professional aspirations. Of course the "skill" of writing is learned over time, but the burning desire to express the world through written word at some point transforms the true writer into a willing captive. One's written "voice" is expressed only when passion and skill work hand-in-hand. One cannot be fully realized without the other
   ~ Christopher de la Torre

I wrote my first poems, songs and plays at age nine. Unsuspecting, I wanted to be John Lennon. I continued to write songs and poems through my teens and wanted to be the lead singer and guitarist of an all-female heavy metal band. At sixteen, I gave birth to my daughter, Stephanie, and tried to become very practical. I was unsuccessful. Others suspected I was a writer when I was twenty. I wrote my first children's book. My friend Mary introduced me to ee cummings. My mother told me I'd be famous. I knew I was a poet at twenty-three, when I wrote a poem entitled "I climbed because I wished to fly..." I knew I was a writer when I received my first rejection letter from the New England Review. I knew I was a professional writer when I continued, in spite of the rejections, and perhaps more fervently because of them. I knew I was a blessed writer when some lovely people recognized my talent and even paid me for it.
   ~ Jeanne Marie Spicuzza

A motley shell-shocked group awaited arrangements after my father's sudden death. Most of those assembled barely knew his recent wife. Not long before the service I learned that the minister was approaching friends and family in an effort to deliver a sincere, informed tribute... Grabbing a spiral notebook I started scribbling a lifetime of family outings, Chevy Chase summer vacations, White Sox games and little league coaching, an uncle's support during numerous rites of passage, pinochle and poker nights with retired colleagues, his steadfast care of our ailing mother and the deep devotion he gave to his current wife. If I never pen a Pulitzer work, the rambling, heartfelt notes I handed the preacher touched like butterfly wings on shoulders of grief that night.
   ~ Betty N. Buckman, Louisville, KY

I've been writing poetry and lyrics since I was about 12. It came naturally to me; so, I didn't think anything of it. I also, unfortunately, didn't consider myself a writer. What I thought I was, I have no clue. But I certainly didn't think I was a writer. I've written and published many things since then, including full-length poetry collections, short stories, magazine articles, and e-books. However, I didn't consider myself a writer until a College Composition professor said, "Yes, you are a writer!" That was in response to an essay I'd written about my dream to make a living as a writer. If you take nothing else from me, know that you have the right to consider yourself a writer as long as you write and enjoy it, not just because someone says you have to!
   ~ C. L. Kennedy

I considered myself a writer when I consistently woke up a 6 AM and headed straight to my computer before breakfast. When I raced to a quiet place with a block of 30 minutes to get in whatever I seemed possessed to get onto a page. When the muse grabbed me and shook me and didn't let go until I was done; whether it be a day, week, month or year. That is when I considered myself a writer. Now, I consider myself an author, publication is due next year.
   ~ Dr. Linda Simon (pen name: Leah Bloom) Novel: AVATAR to be released in 2006

My writing career began at age four. I was always fascinated by the writing process and making my stories into "finished books." Those spiral notebook pages carefully hole punched with a front and back cover made of wrapping paper and "bound" with curling ribbon, were the first of my written adventures. The recipients of these books would "ooh and ahh" about how creative and personal the gifts were on their birthday or another holiday- I indeed felt like a writer...Thirty years later I began journaling about a little character called Thumbs Up Johnnie. The project began to have momentum and an energy of it's own. At that point, I felt an accountability to my work when I started to share it with others. I felt like a "writer and creator" again, with the same excitement I bound my wrapping paper books at the age of four. As The Adventure of Thumbs Up Johnnie's first series title- "Johnnie Finds A Buddy" premiered at Sam's Club in October 2004 I felt validated as a writer because someone wanted to buy my works in a retail environment. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the moment that I walked into the store and saw 350 of my books on an "end-cap shelf." That experience to me was surreal and one of the best moments of my life. Right there, amidst of Dan Brown and E.B. White's successful works of literary genius, I felt for the first time. I was not just an writer, but a real AUTHOR.
   ~ Michelle Bain, Creator/Author,The Adventures of Thumbs Up Johnnie Pixie Stuff LLC

A writer is, in my opinion, someone that draws you in with their words. Simply enough there are so many different ideas out in the world, there's bound to be someone that gets drawn in by your writing. Is there a time-frame one must write before they are a writer? Must you publish something first? No. Absolutely not. The 8 year old writing about unicorns, the stressed out mother writing about childhood issues, the technical person writing to instruct you on how to use something...they are all writers. Even down to those who did not use modern tools. We still read and analyze those writings. Who says my simple sentences won't be held on to, forever, by someone with the same passions? A writer writes sometimes for themselves...and sometimes to share. I became a writer when I began to put ideas on paper, for me, or to share.
   ~ Cat J. Winblood

I probably really only first considered myself a writer back when I was in college and I had a job that required me to submit press releases to papers on a very regular basis--in fact I was the "Publicity person" and got paid for it! In actuality, I was a writer way back in middle school because I had the drive to write, and couldn't resist it. It was a part of who I was (& am)! Alas, after college I put the aspirations behind me and didn't think much about it for the next 28 years. It was only recently, after realizing I was still doing press releases at another job, that I began to think hard about writing. I fell and broke my kneecap and spent 6 months on bed rest--finally quitting the position I had. Why not focus on that great love again? After all, I really was a writer with published work! So, in answer to when did you first consider yourself a writer, I'd have to say -- hmmmm? You decide!
   ~ Linda Karau

And the answer is: July 1, 2005! The first sentence in my journal on that day announced that I was a writer. I'm still excited by that statement. But why didn't I consider myself a writer before, as I had written other short stories and pages of poems? What made this summer different is that I started reading scores of newsletters and e-zines when I came across an article that was simple and yet profound. In one sentence it said, "writers write." Hmm, I wrote, but I also dreamed. Dreamed of writing the world's best novel that would go right to the top and make me instantly rich. What was I thinking? Dreamers dream, thinkers think and I needed to write. So I dared to send submissions for online publications. Picking out dusty poems and polishing them. Then, on that monumental day, I saw my name with my words, published online on two different web sites. That's where I am. I'm a writer. I have to keep momentum and enjoy my small successes along with the hiccups until I create that great novel and continue to write.
   ~ Michelle Sweeney

It seems that I have always had something to say about just about everything. I credit that to someone who gave me a diary on my tenth birthday. I wrote in secret with stubby pencils and hid my prepubescent meanderings in a dresser drawer. I graduated to spiral notebooks and wrote brazenly with ink, thinking that I or anyone else could never erase my thoughts. This simple act seemed to affirm my identity and I became a writer....a conveyor of thoughts, a believer in the power of words to change lives and a composer of the music of words. You are a writer when that which you have created with words, "breathes on its' own."
   ~ Jan Coffman, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Next month, I will be back with my witty insights and nappy banter

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About the Writer:

Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in 175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN Forum. View his web site at Audioworld.