Elaine Marie Carnegie
A Late Start The Writing Journey of Bernie Brown
Updated: Aug 11, 2020
For the next three weeks I am going to be welcoming featured Authors of the Horror Anthology "Exhumed" coming soon from Gravelight Press! Help me welcome Bernie Brown to the Writer's Journey Blog this week.
A story teased my mind much of my adult life. I told myself, “Someday I will write that story down.” I finally did when I was fifty. “Sunday School Picnic” was my first venture into fiction. Yes, I had a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature, for which I had done a lot of writing, but that writing was all literary criticism. I took no classes in fiction writing.
To my astonishment, “Sunday School Picnic” placed in a local newspaper’s annual writing contest. The story wasn’t published in the paper, only mentioned, but I did have the thrill of reading it an event for winners. My writing had been noticed. I was ecstatic. I was on fire. I set goals. My first goal was to publish one story before I died. Three years later, that happened, and I wasn’t dead, yet. I set Goal Two: publish five stories. In a few years time, I had reached that goal. Then the big goal, a goal I never dreamed I would set: get a novel published.
At that time, I wasn’t involved in my community’s extensive writing community. I had no contacts and no training in novel writing. I bought “Writing Novels for Dummies,” which was minimally helpful. I flailed about on the pages of the novel like a poor swimmer in deep water, but I powered through. I finished a novel.
Little did I know it had continuity issues, multiple screw ups in point-of-view, and a plot that lacked a major conflict. Although I queried and searched for an agent, my knowledge of query letter writing was even more scant than my knowledge of novel writing. I had no success at all. Only a very few agents even bothered with form rejections.
But I still had my dream.
Meanwhile, I had continued to have some success publishing short stories. I published a few every year as I floundered through novel writing. I also discovered a MeetUp group called Write2Publish. Through those meetings I met other writers in my community. Eventually one of them asked me to join their critique group.
Thus began many years of Sunday meetings and learning, learning, learning. I absorbed craft, got the hang of point of view, the need for tension and conflict. I got an invaluable education from those writer friends. Although we are now all tied up with other writer commitments, the group is only on hiatus. We still have lunch or dinner occasionally to report on our current projects and progress.
During my years with that group, I wrote another novel. It had no publishing success, either, but I could measure its success in things I learned. Writers live with rejection, expect it, work against letting it rob us of our desires. Of course, I started another novel.
When I was seventy-one years of age, Moonshine Cove Publishing published my novel I Never Told You in October, 2019. The dream I hardly dared to dream came true. I had reached my goal, and I still wasn’t dead yet. I had a handful of successful book events when Covid, like some bad movie plot, became reality. My book events both near and far were cancelled.
Over the years I was working on these novels, I continued to write short pieces. I added personal essay writing and ghost stories to my credits. By the time my novel came out, I had over forty short stories and essays published. I was delighted when Devil’s Party Press chose to publish three of my ghost stories in Halloween Party 2019, which came out at the same time as my novel. And now, I am further honored that “The Doggone Ghost,” one of those three stories, will be reprinted in Exhumed, an anthology with DPP’s new imprint Limelight.
I have faith the time will come when I can reschedule all those book events I was forced to cancel. While I wait for that time to come, I am writing another novel. It is pure fluff, a humorous fictional travelogue with my husband and I, loosely disguised and fictionalized, as main characters. We travel through four European countries getting involved in the locals’ lives, fellow travelers’ business, and embarrassing ourselves in countless ways.
When I finish this book and find a publisher for it, I will revisit a character I deleted from I Never Told You. He is lots of fun, but—in the end—wound up on the cutting room floor because he wasn’t directly involved in the book’s main conflict. I want to give him his own novella.
This is where I am in July 2020 hoping this virus will run its course, and I can again meet with writing friends to work and play. I want to go to those Sip and Signs, those library events, and that museum appearance that all got lost in the morass of Covid-19.
Bio: Bernie is an Iowa farm girl transplanted to Raleigh, North Carolina. When she isn’t writing, reading, or watching British series like Father Brown and Monroe, she sews. Recent creations include baby doll pajamas and rock star dresses for her incomparably cute and clever granddaughters. She plays the harmonica with little success, but much pleasure.
Bernie is a retired administrative assistant from Digital Audio Corporation. Her Iowa childhood, travels in the States and Europe, and her contemporary life in Raleigh, NC influence her writing. She has published nearly forty stories and essays in print journals, ezines, and anthologies such as Still Crazy, Modern Creative Life, and with the Devil’s Party Press.
Bernie has Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in English from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In addition to several short story awards won a decade or more ago, a recent story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and another appeared in an anthology of contest winners by Grateful Steps Publishing. She is a writer-in-residence at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities and a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.
You can find her online at: