Glowing Author #10
Most writers, I think, truly want to help others struggling to climb onto the writing pathway. Perhaps that’s because most of us can point to a specific person whose help was invaluable to us. For several years, my husband Dan and I taught writing courses through the California State University system. We encountered many and varied students, but no other as determined–yes, and successful!–as B.J. Taylor. How proud I am to announce…
Hey, B.J., I am so pleased to have you on Kay’s Words! Tell me, how would you describe yourself?
I would humbly describe myself as a self-starter, a perfectionist, a hard worker, an animal lover, and a good wife and mom/grandma. Writer came into the picture when I was 45. I took elective classes to complete my Associate of Arts degree at Golden West College. The instructor was kind and complimentary and nurtured my writing skills. I think it helped that I was a hard worker, because my writing from those beginning years was not that good! But I attended more classes, specifically the ones taught by you and Dan at Cal State Long Beach, and honed my writing skills to publication.
How did publication come about?
After taking your classes, I began to take my writing seriously and I formed a writer’s critique group . One of the first things I had published was a piece in John Gray’s Mars and Venus in Love, his follow-up book to Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. He was looking for people to tell how his first book had affected their relationship, and I wrote four single-spaced pages. Ultimately, a FedEx package arrived on my doorstep asking for my approval of the galleys of my words laid out in the book’s format. Would I approve? Of course I would! I didn’t receive a byline, nor did I receive a paycheck, but the fact that John Gray thought my writing was good enough to be in his book was a huge boost to my self-confidence and to my writing career.
Your dedication to critique groups has been so great! (The group you started after our class has been going strong for 16 years and every member has been published!) And your own writing portfolio is so rich and varied. Tell us about that.
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is a motto that I believe in. I have submitted and been published in newspapers, magazines, anthologies, compilations, etc. Many little pieces for which I didn’t receive a dime (other than maybe a complimentary copy), to Guideposts magazine where I am now paid pretty well for my work. My writing submissions compliment each other in that I always strive to be inspirational and to keep the reader in mind. What will they take away with them after reading what I write? How can I help in their daily lives? The only conflict I have with my writing is wishing that I could submit the same story to more than one market! But I’ve learned from you, Kay, that if you tweak the story enough, or take a different slant, you can rewrite and resell a piece again. That has served me well and provided many additional paychecks.
Speaking of Guideposts, You have the distinction of having won their illustrious contest. What has that meant to your writing career?
I had been a Guideposts magazine reader since I was 25 years old. Every year I wrote the same goal on my annual goal sheet: Break into Guideposts. I submitted stories, even worked with an editor on one, but, alas, it did not make it to publication. That didn’t deter me. I submitted again and again. And when I heard about the Guideposts Writers Workshop contest held every other year where they train 15 writers on how to write for their magazine, I entered. I didn’t make it the first year, or the next, or the next time after that. It took me eight years to finally receive a YES. Did I whoop and holler? You bet I did! I stood in front of my dryer in the garage, opened the oversized envelope with the royal blue address in the upper left corner, unfolded the paper and read: “You are invited to attend our Writers Workshop…” I couldn’t believe it. I finally made it!
Becoming a Guideposts writer has opened many doors in the publishing world. It looks great on my resume, impresses editors/agents at conferences, and makes me feel good to know I am now a Guideposts writer. I interview others and help them to write their story, submit personal experiences for publication, and report on events happening in the world around us. Fun? You bet.
Wow, wow, wow! So what are you working on now?
In addition to writing stories for Chicken Soup and pieces for Guideposts, I have four different books in the works: two nonfiction and two novels. When I first began writing I didn’t think I had a book in me. I told myself I’d always be a writer of short pieces. But lo and behold, the more I learned about writing, the more I attended classes and became educated in the process of writing a book, the more I thought that I could, indeed, write one. So here I am. One is about a cool dog and his owner—a nonfiction book that I am working on as the collaborator. One is a three-book novel series I call dog-lit. The first book in the series is about a divorced young woman searching for love and the capricious dog that helps her find it.
The other two books are about the wonderful world of dieting. The first, a novel, is the journey of four quirky chicks thrown together in a jury holding room where one of the women endures the ultimate embarrassment for a heavy woman: a rip up the backside of her pants. The four decide to lose weight together and embark upon a real-life nine-month journey to finally lose the weight they have been carrying around. The last book is a nonfiction self-help book on making wise weight-loss choices.
You are also doing more speaking, I see. How does this dovetail with your writing career?
I have a passion for helping others, and speaking allows me to do that face-to-face. It’s incredibly heartwarming to encourage and support others on their journey to become writers. If I can help in any way, I am honored. I have also spoken to MOPS groups about setting and achieving goals, and would like to do more of that type of speaking.
Okay, let’s get personal here: What’s one thing that would surprise us about you?
I am actually kind of shy. I stumble with making small talk in groups and find myself at a loss for words. But I can write up a storm in the comfort of my own home, in my pajamas, at my keyboard until all hours.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
The Art of Racing in the Rain, a novel by Garth Stein. I absolutely love the dog’s voice.
Your journey is sure to inspire many, B.J. What advice would you give a new writer just beginning to survey the options?
Try everything. Take every class you can. Learn as much as possible about all aspects of becoming a writer. Join or start a writer’s group for support, encouragement, and motivation. And never stop the education process. I am continuing to learn from others, especially you, Kay. And last, never censor yourself. Follow your dreams. And never give up.
Hey, you do sound like me! Seriously, I am big on the idea of “giving back,” something clearly apparent in your life. Yet you accomplish so much. How do you keep your eagerness to “give back” from gobbling up all your writing time?
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all I want to do, but I have learned to portion out my time, which I learned from you, Kay.
Contact information for B.J. Taylor:
Facebook: B.j.Taylor (little j).
Twitter: www.twitter.com/bjtaylortweets. screen name: @bjtaylortweets
Sign up on the website for B.J.’s free inspirational newsletter!
“A percentage of my writing time is devoted to writing articles or stories or books that will sell and pay some of the bills, a percentage of my time goes toward helping others through an editing service that I provide or through speaking engagements, and the other percentage is giving freely of my time to mentor and help writers on the way up the ladder of success.”