Discovering My Voice, Again

By

Inspiration often enters our lives from places we never expect. As a creative writing teacher at Forestbrook Middle School, it is my job to inspire young people everyday. I find joy in stirring young minds and feel blessed to get paid for it! Each student who enters my classroom touches my heart in a different way. Some have taught me patience, some have shown me how to laugh at my worst day, and some have created memories that will last a lifetime. This past quarter, I met a student who completely turned the tables on me; he inspired me!

Several years ago, I decided that I would apply my creative mind to something that was tangible, something that would last. I sat down and began writing a book – a memoir of sorts some might call it. Unfortunately, a lot of it was too personal and made the people around me uncomfortable. After months of work, I put the book aside. Instead, I surmised, I would create a work of fiction; a novel no one could personally be offended by. I diligently researched my setting, topic and characters. Night after night, I sat in front of my computer, pounding on the keys. Eight chapters, five graduate classes and several semesters of teaching later, I let life get in the way of my passion; I put the book down.

When Wade entered the doors of my creative writing class, I had not written a word in over a year. I spent my days inspiring others and had lost all passion for my first love – writing. Writing is ingrained in my nature. Removing that part of myself left me shattered in ways I never realized until Wade walked into my life.

From the first assignment, the creation of an original fairy tale, I knew I had a talented writer on my hands. But it took a few weeks for him to trust me enough to confess that he was writing a novel. I encouraged him to bring it in. The next day, he appeared with over thirty pages (front and back) painstakingly written by hand. From the first word, I was hooked. We soon fell into a comfortable rhythm of typing and editing his draft that has helped his novel evolve into what is now a 25,000+ word novel in progress. The class he was in has since ended, but he faithfully comes to my room for at least thirty minutes a day to continue his book. His talent level continues to amaze me. After observing his unwavering dedication, I realized that there was no good excuse not to write. So, I quit hedging; I dusted off the cover of my laptop, and began writing again.

I owe the rediscovery of my voice to a thirteen-year-old boy.

I began small; writing book reviews for a local magazine. While some might consider those writings insignificant, I found a renewed spirit and began taking more chances with my writing. I submitted an essay for Sasee’s Woman of Character contest. When my submission was chosen, I could no longer pretend I wasn’t writing. People I’d never met began approaching me and my husband. As soon as my husband realized I’d started writing again, he went to the local bookstore (which is a small miracle in itself) and bought me journals and writing books. On my thirty-second birthday, he presented me with a woven leather journal inscribed:

I want to give you an inspiring gift of confidence. I want to support you the same way you have supported me. I truly believe that you have a gift for the written word. It’s the way that you write so passionately that inspires me. Whether you take this journal and finish one of your books, start a new one, write some poetry or make the best entries about a beautiful, successful woman that a journal has ever seen…do me a favor, WRITE – and do it from your heart.

This vote of confidence was the support I needed to break free of my inhibitions. I kindled a friendship with a colleague of mine, Robin, who is an immensely talented writer. We started a local adult writers’ group, and joined an online writing network. We support each other through encouragement, editing and goal setting. As a poet and memoir author, she brings a fresh perspective to my writing, often pointing out things that I would never think of. Like joining a gym, becoming a writer is a much more successful adventure if you have a supportive partner.

I work on my novel on a daily basis, and share my progress with my fellow writers. Allowing others to read your work and critique it is a brutal process. Exposing your heart and soul to a stranger might be a less painful experience. But, it’s necessary for growth, and I am determined to continue to nurture my written voice. Rediscovering my voice has not only renewed my passion in the classroom, but has forced me to take time to appreciate the little things in life. I notice things, things I’ve ignored for years. The gratitude I hold for Wade, my husband and Robin cannot be expressed in words.

As for Wade, I was heartbroken to learn that he is moving to Taccoa, Georgia, at the end of this school year. For now, we are working on getting as much of his novel completed as possible before his move and preparing him for the daunting task of submitting his manuscript to publishers once he is finished with it. My hope is that he will continue to write and submit his work to contests and publishers. I am comforted knowing that he has an extremely supportive mother who has gone the extra mile to help him pursue writing. Without a doubt, I know that, one day, I will stand in line to purchase his first published novel.

And me? I’m laughing more, inspiring better. Most importantly, I’m writing.

About this writer

  • Inspiration often enters our lives from places we never expect. As a creative writing teacher at Forestbrook Middle School, it is my job to inspire young people everyday. I find joy in stirring young minds and feel blessed to get paid for it! Each student who enters my classroom touches my heart in a different way. Some have taught me patience, some have shown me how to laugh at my worst day, and some have created memories that will last a lifetime. This past quarter, I met a student who completely turned the tables on me; he inspired me!

    Several years ago, I decided that I would apply my creative mind to something that was tangible, something that would last. I sat down and began writing a book – a memoir of sorts some might call it. Unfortunately, a lot of it was too personal and made the people around me uncomfortable. After months of work, I put the book aside. Instead, I surmised, I would create a work of fiction; a novel no one could personally be offended by. I diligently researched my setting, topic and characters. Night after night, I sat in front of my computer, pounding on the keys. Eight chapters, five graduate classes and several semesters of teaching later, I let life get in the way of my passion; I put the book down.

    When Wade entered the doors of my creative writing class, I had not written a word in over a year. I spent my days inspiring others and had lost all passion for my first love – writing. Writing is ingrained in my nature. Removing that part of myself left me shattered in ways I never realized until Wade walked into my life.

    From the first assignment, the creation of an original fairy tale, I knew I had a talented writer on my hands. But it took a few weeks for him to trust me enough to confess that he was writing a novel. I encouraged him to bring it in. The next day, he appeared with over thirty pages (front and back) painstakingly written by hand. From the first word, I was hooked. We soon fell into a comfortable rhythm of typing and editing his draft that has helped his novel evolve into what is now a 25,000+ word novel in progress. The class he was in has since ended, but he faithfully comes to my room for at least thirty minutes a day to continue his book. His talent level continues to amaze me. After observing his unwavering dedication, I realized that there was no good excuse not to write. So, I quit hedging; I dusted off the cover of my laptop, and began writing again.

    I owe the rediscovery of my voice to a thirteen-year-old boy.

    I began small; writing book reviews for a local magazine. While some might consider those writings insignificant, I found a renewed spirit and began taking more chances with my writing. I submitted an essay for Sasee’s Woman of Character contest. When my submission was chosen, I could no longer pretend I wasn’t writing. People I’d never met began approaching me and my husband. As soon as my husband realized I’d started writing again, he went to the local bookstore (which is a small miracle in itself) and bought me journals and writing books. On my thirty-second birthday, he presented me with a woven leather journal inscribed:

    I want to give you an inspiring gift of confidence. I want to support you the same way you have supported me. I truly believe that you have a gift for the written word. It’s the way that you write so passionately that inspires me. Whether you take this journal and finish one of your books, start a new one, write some poetry or make the best entries about a beautiful, successful woman that a journal has ever seen…do me a favor, WRITE – and do it from your heart.

    This vote of confidence was the support I needed to break free of my inhibitions. I kindled a friendship with a colleague of mine, Robin, who is an immensely talented writer. We started a local adult writers’ group, and joined an online writing network. We support each other through encouragement, editing and goal setting. As a poet and memoir author, she brings a fresh perspective to my writing, often pointing out things that I would never think of. Like joining a gym, becoming a writer is a much more successful adventure if you have a supportive partner.

    I work on my novel on a daily basis, and share my progress with my fellow writers. Allowing others to read your work and critique it is a brutal process. Exposing your heart and soul to a stranger might be a less painful experience. But, it’s necessary for growth, and I am determined to continue to nurture my written voice. Rediscovering my voice has not only renewed my passion in the classroom, but has forced me to take time to appreciate the little things in life. I notice things, things I’ve ignored for years. The gratitude I hold for Wade, my husband and Robin cannot be expressed in words.

    As for Wade, I was heartbroken to learn that he is moving to Taccoa, Georgia, at the end of this school year. For now, we are working on getting as much of his novel completed as possible before his move and preparing him for the daunting task of submitting his manuscript to publishers once he is finished with it. My hope is that he will continue to write and submit his work to contests and publishers. I am comforted knowing that he has an extremely supportive mother who has gone the extra mile to help him pursue writing. Without a doubt, I know that, one day, I will stand in line to purchase his first published novel.

    And me? I’m laughing more, inspiring better. Most importantly, I’m writing.

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9 Responses to “Discovering My Voice, Again”

  1. Dallas says:

    I really enjoyed this story. So touching :)

  2. I was so inspired when I read this. It is funny; Stephanie has been a friend of mine since the first day I entered the county to teach in August of 2006. We both started at Forestbrook Middle together and I knew she was talented and full of wonderful ideas, but she keeps on surprising me with her writing. I am fortunate to read things that Stephanie writes and I can say that although I teach writing to others, I rarely have that fire that is necessary to write as passionately as she does. :) I am glad to know her and that she was inspired by Wade and Robin.

    :) Yeah for you Stephanie, one day we may all pay for your novel as well. :) Mary

  3. Brenda Wilner says:

    I am honored to be Stephanie’s first cousin. I always new she was talented, beautiful, gutsy, funny, and inspiring to all she meets. I thank Wade, and I thank Stephanie’s husband, Mark for believing in her and letting her know that she needs to let her light shine. Keep writing, teaching, inspiring, and taking pictures. You have many talents for all to read and see.

    With Love,

    Brenda

  4. Matt & Jenn says:

    We are happy for you Stephanie. Keep it up. We know you can do anything you put your mind to.

    Love,
    Matt & Jenn

  5. Eileen Patonay says:

    Stephanie is a talented teacher and writer, a caring mentor, a fun colleague.
    By listening to others, we can find our own voice!
    Thanks for sharing, keep reading Sasee.

  6. Nancy says:

    Stephanie is always surprising me with her talents. I look forward to reading more of her writing. She is truly gifted.

  7. Austin G says:

    You are amazing mrs. N!!!!!

  8. Julie Helgerson says:

    You go girl! I knew the first time we worked together on our PACE stuff that you were a ‘step above’ the rest. I remember thinking- “Wow- I didn’t look at it that way and what a great way to say it!” All the indepth conversations driving back and forth to Florence for classes led me to the belief that you were going to do great things in your classroom! I wasn’t wrong! I am proud of you and know there is only more great things to come!!!

  9. Carlene Parker says:

    You never cease to amaze me. I can’t wait to share your article with your grandmother, Maxine. You make this family proud. Give Mark a “big hug” for his continued support in all that you do. “Hugs and kisses” to Miles and Harley.
    Love,
    Carlene

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