I remember long before I started writing for a public audience and I was still living in my Amish community. I wrote a lot of letters. Sometimes on a Sunday, I would write as many as 10 letters. And each one of them was usually several pages long.
I also did journal writing most of my life. My first diary dates back to when I was thirteen years old. There is hardly anything of significance in it, which is the reason it has survived. My siblings had a habit of snooping, and so several of them got torched out of self-preservation before I became an adult.
When I was teaching in an Amish school, I did a significant amount of writing, though I never thought of myself as a writer. It was incompatible with the emphasis on community, hard work, and humility. And so I had a secret passion. There were times when I loved the feeling of the pen flowing out across the paper, transforming my ideas or thoughts into the written word. When I read books that transported me to other worlds, I would dream of someday writing books like that.
So, when I left the Amish for the second time, it did not take long for me to start honing my writing skills. I had a writing instructor at an adult basic education center until I acquired my GED, and then I continued writing, sometimes in my journals, sometimes as short vignettes. I joined writing classes and writing groups. Eventually I started writing for a public audience. It took another seventeen years to see my writing in print, but that is a story for another day.
When I started the long process of becoming a writer, computers were just beginning to be seen in homes. The Internet certainly wasn't accessible to me. So the critiques I received were in person, one writing group or class at a time.
Today there are so many more resources at my fingertips than there were "back in the old days." We can have nostalgia for the old days, but in some cases, there really is progress.
I will share some of the sites that I have found useful. These are obviously one small sampling of the resources out there. You will find some of these links to the right of my blog, which are permanent and you can come back to them anytime.
1. Poets and Writers: This site is a fountain of information for writers. You can become a member, and of course you can buy the print magazines, but I love their serachable databases, such as for agents, which you can only do online. If you scroll down through the page I've linked here, you will see the variety of subjects they cover.
2. New Pages: This site has a host of good information for writers. The best way to find your way around is to use the tabs at the top of the page. They have a list of independent publishers and university presses, for instance.
3. She Writes: I am still learning how to use this site. It works a bit like Facebook. I find it a little tough to find my way around, but there is lots of good information here.
4. Chip MacGregor's Blog: This is a fabulous place for authors to stay up with what's happening in traditional publishing. Chip Macgregor is a literary agent (and he's not taking on new clients, which is bad for me) and he has great advice for authors. For those of you who would like advice in how to approach an agent, you will find helpful information, including sample book proposals on Chip MacGregor's FAQ page.
5. Writer Unboxed: If I were a fiction writer, I would be visiting this site on a regular basis. The information here is both useful and inspiring.
6. Women's Memoir Writing and Discussion: You need to be part of the LinkedIn network to participate in these discussions, which are generated by members of the group and are quite engaging.
7. UpAuthors: The author of this blog, Ron Knight, has some interesting things to say about traditional and self-publishing.
8. Jolina Petersheim: If you are trying to decide whether to design an author blog, and you need inspiration, you might like to visit this one. It's one of my favorite author websites.
9. Write Now: Karen Lange, a writer herself, is generous to other writers by sharing information, and by providing writing tips and inspiration.
10. Thursdays with Amanda: Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent and author of the book, The Extroverted Writer: An Author's Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform. I will be publishing a guest post by Amanda on Tuesday in which she will bring the term "author platform" down to earth.