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Island Girl

by Jennifer Sienes

Almost seven years ago, I quit my “day job” as a middle school teacher to write full time. I’m well aware that it’s a blessing to be able to devote entire days to my writing endeavors when so many of my contemporaries must snatch an hour here or there between work, kids and life. Or as Monk would say, “It’s a gift…and a curse.” Because there is a down side.

There were several things I liked about teaching. Most of all, I loved connecting with my students. Call me crazy, but I enjoyed those young, hormonal teens. They were challenging and, more often than not, I left my classroom with a sense of accomplishment. I followed a well thought out plan-much like the outline of a novel. And just like the characters in my novels, my students didn’t always adhere to the course I’d created for them, which kept life interesting. And let’s not forget the paycheck. Believe it or not, teachers make more money than writers!

But teaching served its purpose for a season and writing was a call I could not ignore. So, when the opportunity arose, I quit my position. No more challenge standards and cookie-cutter curriculum. Instead, I would spend endless days sipping coffee and writing prose. And, much to my chagrin, I assumed I’d be published within a year or two. As my agent, Karen Ball, is quick to point out, “Just because God called you to write doesn’t mean He calls you to be published.” Ouch.

It’s been six plus years of studying the craft, attending writer’s conferences, taking part in critique groups and trying to explain to my non-writer acquaintances and family members what it is I do exactly. When I was a teacher, and asked what I do, my response earned respect. Now, my response is met with eyebrows quirked in confusion and the inevitable question, “Are you published?”

There are days I feel as if I’m living on a deserted island.

So, a few months ago, when my self-employed husband asked me to step in and partner with him through the reorganization of his chiropractic practice, I gladly accepted. To be a part of something that has instant feedback and measurable results was too good to pass up, neither of which I receive as a writer. I was thrilled to connect with his staff members (to converse with real people) and take on the bookkeeping responsibility. After all, my proposals had been sent out and we were nearing the holidays-a slow (or should I say slower) time for the publishing industry.

But as I filled my days with the busyness of this temporary position, I felt the characters for my next novel calling to me. They have names and personalities, conflicts and obstacles that only I can resolve for them, and I’ve left them floundering on their own for far too long. The writing process has taught me much (such as patience and perseverance), but there’s still so much to be done. Because even if acquaintances and family members don’t quite get me, my characters do. My husband does. My agent does. And most important of all, my God does.

Jennifer SienesJennifer Sienes has a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education. She was a 2013 ACFW Genesis Semi-Finalist (Contemporary Category) and has three short stories published in the Inspire Faith anthology from Inspire Press. In 2007, she left a teaching career to write full time. She is represented by Karen Ball of the Steve Laube Literary Agency. Connect with her at www.jennifersienes.com.

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6 Responses to Island Girl

  1. Anna Labno says:

    Jennifer,

    I love my day job. But it’s hard with two children at home. I have a plan each morning what I should do and accomplish. Most of the time, I can’t. But I move forward.

  2. Elaine Stock says:

    Jennifer, thanks for sharing these encouraging words. I’ve been writing forever and have cycled through several jobs (the current one is going on 9 years now), but it’s only been a handful of years that I’ve aimed and dedicated my writing to please God. Yet, with your words, I now see that it’s Him that “gets” my writing and that’s the stamp of approval I need regardless of what others express.

  3. Sara Ella says:

    Thanks for the reminders, Jennifer. It can be easy to get caught up in dreams of being published (I’m right there with you). Then my King reminds me that I write for an audience of One. I write as an act if worship and service to Him. Whenever I feel that pesky writer’s block creeping up on me, I have to refocus my mind on Him. Hang in there and YHWH bless you on your writing Journey:)

  4. The bottom line, regardless of what we do to improve our chances of being published, is it’s all in God’s hands. And what mighty hands they are, too! There is a peace and joy that comes from not worrying about publishing, but just doing what it is God calls me to every day. It’s taken me six plus years to come to this place–and I don’t want to go backwards. In the end, my hope and prayer is that I will hear those oh so precious words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

  5. Karen Ball says:

    Wonderful, wise words, Jennifer.

  6. Loved this post, Jennifer! I SO relate. God DOES get us, and has us right where he wants us.