By Guest Blogger Suzanne Reisler Litwin
I have been titled a Teacher turned Writer. In actuality, I would call myself a writer, who became a teacher, then turned into a dream-come-true writer. I have been writing since I was fourteen. I wrote in a diary which turned into a journal as I got older. To date, I have written in over 75 journals which now are considered the history books of my family and life. Writing just happens to me. I have always dreamed of becoming an Author. When I was a little girl, I imagined myself sitting in front of children reading “my book.” When I had children of my own, I would pretend that the books I was reading were those I had written. I know this might sound silly, but it was my dream of all dreams.
I have always loved children. I wanted to have a huge family when I first got married. God had other plans for me. Still, I was blessed with three incredible, amazing children. It is because of my love for children that I became a teacher. When I was studying to be a teacher, a professor told me to select a subject to specialize in. The subject which most fascinated me was Computer Science. Why computer science when my passion was to write, you might ask? It was simple. I have a tremendous spelling disability. I cannot remember how to spell words, even common words. While at university I had the opportunity to type out my papers on a computer. In the 80’s this was a big event. The computer I was using had a new special device. It was able to “check my spelling.” Viola! My papers were perfectly spelled. I was in LOVE!!!
Around 12 years ago, my two children were in school full time and I was able to devote myself to my new writing career. I gave up my teaching position, held my breath and promised myself not to cry during September. Relaxed and focused on my stories, I found myself pregnant, again. Now with a third child and no time to concentrate, I hung up my stories and went back to teaching part time for another six years. The six years literally flew by and here was my opportunity again. I stopped teaching and I gave myself the time I needed to get this bird off the ground. I wrote story after story and sent the manuscripts to every possible publisher I could find. Little did I know I was setting myself up for the largest batch of disappointment a person could ever expect.
Every other day, or week, for nearly five years, I received rejection letters. “I’m sorry, your story doesn’t fit our list,” “We are sorry to send you this form letter, but due to the huge amount of manuscripts we receive…,” and my favorite, “We really enjoyed your story, however, the market for children’s books is limited and we only accept one manuscript a year.” One!?!?! Should I have bought a lottery ticket instead?
Some days I would check the employment opportunities at schools. Other days I would convince myself not to stop. Most days I would sit at my computer and compose, because someone close to me, my dearly departed Grandmother, told me to get my words out. She told me years ago, not to keep my words in my head or just on paper. She said, “Get your words out and spread some joy. The world needs people to make life happier.” I sort of felt responsible to do this. I now consider her my spiritual muse.
So I wrote, got rejected, wrote, got rejected, wrote, and got annoyed, then rejected Today, I still receive rejection letters from years past. They just keep rolling in. At one point, my husband would ask me if maybe there was something else I could do to make some money. Something to get me out of this hole I was burying myself into. My children were asking me when I was going to be an Author. At the time, I didn’t have any answers, just too many rejection letters. I thought maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe I had a pipe dream. Maybe my problem with spelling was serious. Maybe I just didn’t have what it took to be an author and I wasn’t going to realize my dream. I was seriously considering Plan B. Going back to teaching was starting to look like my path, which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my dream.
But then, on one typical winter’s day, I received a letter in the mail. It looked like another rejection letter. I opened it up. It read, “We like your story, a lot. We are interested in publishing it if you are willing to work with us.” My clock stopped ticking. I caught a fish! Three years later, one big contract signed, the illustrator of my dream on board, and my first published children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket in my hands. It happened! It was real! I read it to my children and cried the first time I read out loud, “The Black Velvet Jacket written by Suzanne Reisler Litwin.” It happened to me, by me, for me.
And in this, I realized a lifelong dream. I put my words out there. I brought joy to the world. I made my dream come true. All along this journey, I thought that reaching the goal of being published was the pinnacle. Now I realize that this is just the beginning of my new journey. Everyday more doors open for me. More people are interested in other stories. I have just begun the dream of what I thought was the end.
In all of this, I have learned much. Here is what I know, and what I would like to share with you.
1. Always believe your dream will come true. Although I doubted myself many times, I never stopped trying to make my dream a reality. Work at it every day, even if it is just an email or a note to oneself. Keep the dream alive and believe in yourself.
2. No matter how many times you get rejected, file it and move on. Don’t let the rejection get to you. Go for a walk, listen to some music, and distract yourself in some way. Walk with good posture and hold your head high. Only you can determine for yourself what rejection means to you, no one else.
3. Find what it is you do naturally, harvest it like a gift, and use it. Everyone is given a gift. I knew I wanted to write. When all the other girls were reading books in summer camp, I wrote. I wrote everywhere and always. I knew this was my gift and I made it work for me. Find what it is that you do well and DO IT!
4. Build something for yourself. After all the child rearing, bills paying, life building, family tending, create something for you. As women, we divide ourselves into many pieces most often forgetting to care for our own needs. What have you done to build your life and your dreams? Your dreams matter just as much as your children or partner. Don’t forget about you on your path.
5. Slow it down and stay focused. I find people are rushing here and there and missing the point of life and living. When I write, I give myself a unique time to reflect on what my senses bring to me. Set your goals, stay on track, be patient, and enjoy your life’s journey.
Suzanne Reisler Litwin is the author of The Black Velvet Jacket. She is a wife and mother of three. Ironically, Suzanne was Erica Diamond’s Computer Science teacher growing up. (Talk about a full circle moment).
Visit Suzanne online at www.SuzanneReislerLitwin.com
Tell us ladies, what do you think? Did this story inspire you? What have you realized about YOURSELF after reading Suzanne’s story. Share with our readers…