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  • Writer's pictureElaine Marie Carnegie

How I Became a Writer… by Dawn DeBraal

Please help me welcome the brilliant Dawn DeBraal as our Guest Author on the Writer's Journey Blog this week.

I became a snowbird in November 2018. After a week or so of looking at my husband of forty-two years, I knew one of us was not getting out of that winter, alive. I have a friend Julie who writes short stories and has always encouraged me. I was in a writer's group with her and a few other people, so I had dabbled a bit in short stories.

I found an online magazine called Spillwords. They are a wonderful place to submit your poetry, micro stories, or short stories. I submitted a story about Christmas, and though I didn't get my story in the Twelve Days of Christmas competition. They published my story. The disbelief I felt, and awe gave me the courage to submit two more stories to other venues that were also published in Café Lit and somewhere else. And then, my first rejection came.

I was never confident in my grammar skills. There are free resources in Grammarly or Hemingway online. I ended up investing in a professional Grammarly account that you pay a yearly fee for and Duotrope for places to submit. I have 171 published stories in online magazines, and in over thirty anthologies after fourteen months of writing. Luckily, I am retired, so I have the time to dedicate to my new interest/obsession.

My advice to a new writer is to get with other writers. The more you write, the better you become. The more you read other's work, the more you'll broaden your horizons — experience different techniques. Find your voice and your genre'. Don't be afraid to try something new. Support other authors and they will support you. Stretch yourself. Don't expect to make money. Write for the love of writing. I have only made thirty dollars from my writing. The more you submit, the more you will experience success. Above all, you need to be tough-skinned. What a disappointment to submit a story and have it denied. Something you poured your heart and soul into. It's like someone telling you that your baby is ugly.

Learn and understand the Schunn Format. Read and reread the instructions before submitting your material. I sent general horror to a speculative horror prompt, and that was a harsh lesson to learn when it came back with a stern note, "This is NOT speculative!" If you don't know what the genre is, look it up. Anything that interests me, I will try.

Use the reading function on your computer. Write the story, correct it in Grammarly, have it read back to you. Remove as many mistakes as you can, and no doubt, when you submit it, you will find three more mistakes you didn't notice.

In the fourteen months, I have been writing, I was nominated for the 2019 Push Cart Award, which is an incredible honor, but so heavily competed, I don't stand a chance. I was interviewed and then made Author of the Month for November 2019 for Spillwords.

In December, I submitted two pieces to the Twelve Days of Christmas and didn't get one in the competition, but they took both a story and a poem in the magazine during that attempt. I have just finished a Novella with my friend Julie who started me on this journey. We hope to have it out soon.

Here are some links to my writing.

Or just google my name!


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Sue Marie St Lee
Sue Marie St Lee
Feb 13, 2021

Dawn is one of my favorite fellow authors. She is so quick-witted, talented, and for a lady with such a pretty smile, she can (and does) scare the bejeesus out of you with her horror tales! Great journey!

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