The Writing Journey of a Teacher
Updated: Sep 20, 2020
Lynne Phillips shares her fascinating journey on the Writers Journey Blog this week.
My love of stories began with my parents reading to me at bedtime, but it really blossomed when, aged six, I learned I could read the words myself. I fell in love with books. I loved the places books took me, a land of make-believe. I was the kid who read under the covers with a torch after my parents said, “Lights out.”
To own a book was a treat, mainly gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Most of the books I read came from the library. This is probably why I have so many books now and I seldom give them away.
When I started teaching, I became a verbal storyteller. I found stories were effective when teaching young children new concepts, conveying rules, and for behaviour modification. I never wrote my stories down, although students would remind me about them years later and tell me what a difference they made to their learning. Writing children’s stories was something I thought I might try after I retired. My collection of puppets often helped me tell the story. Students were more attentive when the puppets were involved in their learning. It made teaching and learning fun.
I retired as a principal when I turned fifty-five, but I missed the children and went back for another fifteen years as a relief teacher.
In my last two years of teaching, I taught gifted and talented students in creative writing. Uninhibited, clever students challenged me to improve my own writing. They were excellent critics because of their honesty and sharing of ideas. My story, “The Soul Collector”,
published by Black Hare Press in “Key to the Kingdom” was inspired by a character profile written by a brilliant student who was given the task because he was disengaged in class. I was so impressed by it I wrote a story for him based on the profile.
My published writing journey began in 2017 when I submitted “Magenta Sunrise” under my pseudonym, Isabella Fox, to Zombie Pirate Publishing and it was accepted. My story “Vixen” was also accepted for “Relationship Add Vice”. I thought writing short stories would be easy. I had always achieved success in my teaching career, but I was wrong. It was difficult, and many stories were rejected, and I became dejected. I wasn’t tough enough to cope with the rejection and I stopped submitting during 2018, although I kept writing.
Sam, my son, gave me the best advice. He said short stories were different from novels and oral storytelling. I needed to change the way I told the story. I had to imagine I was in the story, how did it feel, and what could I see? He taught me to use dialogue instead of descriptions. As a lifelong learner, I set myself a goal to improve my skills. I read lots of short stories, taking notes, and analysing the way the story was structured. I listened to Sam’s advice and my stories improved and so did my success when I began submitting again in 2019.
My acceptance of “Dragon’s Breath” in “Dragon Bone Soup”, my first paid story, gave me confidence. Success with submissions to online magazines and in anthologies with various publishers, across all genres, has been satisfying.
Rejections still hurt a little, especially if I loved the story and invested a lot of time in it, but I now relook at the story, and rewrite it if necessary, before I send it off to some other publisher.
One story was rejected twice before it was accepted by an online magazine and then chosen as for their “Best of the year” and put into an anthology. I tweaked it each time it was rejected. You never know who will accept a story.
I don’t have any sage advice for writers, except rejection doesn’t mean it’s not a good story, nor does it mean it’s a good one. Use every rejection to improve your writing. Ask yourself, “What do I still have to learn and how can I make this story more interesting for the reader?”
I struggled with writing “horror and dark stories” until I followed Sam’s advice. I tried to be in the story and my stories have improved, as has my acceptance rate.
I only write for submissions that appeal to me, or when I have a good idea. I guess the rejection thing is still in the back of my mind.
2020, has been a good year for me, with stories in twenty different anthologies or on-line magazines, six of them paid. I will continue to write when I see or hear something which triggers a story. I get my best ideas when I am doing mundane tasks like mowing the lawn, pulling weeds at the farm, or during long walks with my husband.
Like all writers, I have a collection of stories that may never be published or are waiting until I have my own anthology. I have no burning ambition to write a novel.
Every writer’s journey is different. I encourage all writers to enjoy their journey and the destination will be sweeter.
Bio: Lynne Phillips lives in the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales, Australia. Her stories have been published by Zombie Pirate Publishing, Black Hare Press, Fantasia Divinity Publishing, Our Wonderful Anthology, and in various online magazines. She enjoys exploring the craft of writing stories. Her priority is spending time with her family while her passions are reading, writing, keeping fit, and spending time at her farm.
You can find Lynne on Facebook
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