Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Did You Get Started?

Often I'm asked how I got started in writing, and then, into freelance reading/editing. Everyone has their personal journey and here's a little bit of mine. When I was speaking to groups of students about writing, this is what I jotted down. How did you get started? What kinds of writing have you done? What kinds of writing do you wish to do?

Writing for most people begins with a desire to communicate through the written word, doesn't it? I think my writing began with reading--I loved to read and I wanted to write something to read. Usually I was the only person reading what I wrote. All through junior high I wrote in journals. When I won my scholarship in journalism and headed to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, I did an incredibly impulsive thing: I burned every one of those journals! I wish now that I could have kept those journals somewhere safe until I was ready to process the things I was writing at the time.

a. I started real writing in high school. I published a poem in my freshman year and that fueled the fire.

b. I got on the newspaper in high school–was the sports editor and art editor. Those articles won me a journalism scholarship at Ball State University, where I started off majoring in journalism.

c. Back then I knew I wanted to work with books more than newspapers, so I changed my major to elementary education with physical education, wanting more experience with children—for whom I thought I wanted to write.

d. I took a correspondence course from the Institute of Children’s Literature as I finished my degree, then dove into teaching and coaching. When I had one experience after another, like students who were murdered, beaten by parents, unfair treatment of teachers, etc., I wrote my first article and sold it.

e. Then, I had four boys of my own, and life sort of went into “living mode”—all good. I edited a newsletter, wrote articles for newspapers freelance, and just wrote down thoughts and dreams and insights on parenting.

f. When we moved here (where I live now) in order to be close to our parents and extended family, I no longer was doing the jobs I did in the past—-teaching and leading--so I found an online writing organization, and then drove an hour to Ft. Wayne once a week, taking the professional writing program at Taylor University with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley. This is a superb program that is now located at the Taylor campus in Upland.

Everything has a beginning, and while my writing took an adventurous turn to evaluating fiction, working freelance for both editors and agents, I still find time to write.

~Crystal Laine Miller


  1. Thank you for sharing your writing journey.

  2. Glad to learn about your start, Crystal!
    My husband is a P.E. teacher of sorts and loves to read the sports page, so he can relate to your interests!!!


  3. I love hearing people's stories. Isn't it fascinating to see the twists and turns our lives take to get to where we are now? And our God uses every one of those experiences to our advantage. My story: In 8th grade I was named the Girl Who Would Be a Journalist. But that wasn't my dream at all, and writing was too personal to share or was for my own pleasure. I wanted to teach. For me, motherhood was the perfect teaching career: twenty-years, full-time, 24 hrs a day training to launch responsible adults into service to God and the community. Afterward, when a story starting surfacing in my every wakening moment I decided I should write it. My pastor prayed over it before its launching into the literary world. I broke down and cried with wrenching sobs (not my style)and realized for the first time that this was a precious dream buried so deep and heavily protected that I'd have to dig deep to extricate/mine it. (The ms. returned to me on the next tide, but the hard shell of my heart was cracked open) I love writing! I wrote 6 hours straight yesterday and thought I'd only been there 1.

  4. I love to know your journeys into writing. There is something familiar, but yet each brings her own steps. Thanks, Sharon, Patti, Mary for your kind comments. Thanks, Mary, for your story!

    Patti, LOL, I have five guys (1 husband, 4 boys) so I seem to always do that--relate more to guys than to gals. Sigh.

    That is why I like doing the When I Was Just a Kid interviews--each one is familiar, but unique and tells that author's writing journey.

  5. Crystal,
    I'd never heard the early part of your reading/writing journey. God has good plans for you!

    I was a church music director and began my unplanned writing career when the church secretary demanded newsletter articles at gunpoint. The pastors hated it, but I loved writing humor based on Christian music and the Bible. Soon I began writing a local newspaper column and take writing classes at Bethel College, Mishawaka, IN, graduating with degrees in professional writing and English in 2005. My connections there resulted in magazine articles and my first biography in Barbour’s Heroes of the Faith series, Frederick Douglass. Three other biographies and 400+ articles/columns later, I won my first fiction contract with Barbour, my novella Ride with Me into Christmas in A Door County Collection. It's been a crazy journey, but a blessed one.