Hello! It’s Fiona Miller-Stevens here and I’m excited to bring you my first post for The Print Posse. Last week the lovely Gabbie Stroud wrote about the lonely sport of writing. You can read her post here.
I doubt that I would be part of the wonderful Print Posse if it were not for select influences throughout my life.
“The most intriguing people you will encounter in this life are the people who had insights about you that you didn’t know about yourself.” ― Shannon L. Alder
When I was six years old, my family moved interstate mid school term. My new teacher made a comment early on, “You are a good reader, Fiona.” Those six words solidified my future. Someone important – a teacher! – told me that I was good at something. From that moment on, reading and words were something I was good at, and I loved it.
As a teenager I spent too many hours creating magazines for and about my school friends. No photoshop or computers involved, just blank paper, pens, scissors, glue and copies of TV Hits and 16 Magazine. There were breaking headlines such as, ‘Leo D Loves Fiona’. If only that passion was harnessed into my school work.
My father was an avid reader and much of his spare time was spent modelling good reading practice. My mother adored biographies and works of non-fiction. A framed picture of her meeting Germaine Greer hung proudly on the wall. Books and writers were something to be valued. I was raised in a creative household and in my early teens my artist mother presented me with my first writer’s notebook inscribed with, “Write Fiona – Write!”
And I did. The first chapters of many novels, poems, journal entries drenched with woe and heartache. They serve as a good reminder for how all-consuming those teenage years can be.
At university I studied creative writing, literature and history and went on to become a secondary teacher. I dabbled with various forms of writing but it was not until 2013 when I wrote my first complete manuscript.
When I started work on my MS I was too nervous to tell anyone. My husband knew but I lacked the confidence to tell anyone else. Eventually I told three of my senior students who were part of my YA Book Club. Their enthusiasm and excitement for my story inspired me. Those three girls taught me to believe in my story.
When the MS was ready, I asked one of those students (who at this stage had graduated) to be a beta reader. I value her feedback but it was her comment on the final page that gives me light when the writing process becomes too much.
In 2014 I tentatively stepped onto the path to publication. It is a longer road than I could ever have anticipated but it is one paved with learning experiences and lined with amazing people – members of the writing community.
When writing my first MS I had no contact with other writers. I was not part of any writing groups, associations or even connected through social media. When I finally typed “The End” in December 2013 I joined the Queensland Writers Centre and through there I signed up for an on-line pitching course. Meeting Gabbie, Yanicke and Karen was a new experience – here were writers at all stages of the publication journey who were willing to offer advice, friendship and support.
Mid last year I discovered Twitter (well, technically I’d signed up a few years back to watch Charlie Sheen’s “Winning” feed but never got any further than that). It wasn’t just another social network where people post photos of their dinner (though I’m sure there’s plenty of that), here was a place for readers and writers to connect. I love it because I learn from agents, publishers, writers, authors and even readers. I am amazed at the support within the writing community for one another.
I am the writer I am today because I have been shaped by the influences of others. I may not remember the name of my second grade teacher but I remember her words. For without her positive reinforcement maybe my life would have led in a completely different direction.