(This summer, while there have been a few road trips for our family, I also took a virtual trip down memory lane back to when my writing adventure began. Today’s flashback takes us to last year, 2017.)

A funny thing happened on my way to being a multi-published hybrid author with two successful fiction launches behind me. When other authors in my local writers’ group had questions about marketing or websites or social media channels, I suddenly had answers. I’d actually learned something along my own path to publication! 

By the end of 2016, I’d found myself more-often-than-not having others at a post-meeting lunch pull out notebooks to jot notes about something to try for themselves. Then one of my friends asked for help setting up her website, and I had a (late) epiphany that it might be time for me to pay it forward…on purpos. To actually collect the wisdom I’d gleaned over the years of learning it all the hard way…and then pass it on to save other authors time and energy so they could have more leftover to do what they really wanted to do–write! To be the mentor others had been to me along my own journey.

So, at the beginning of 2017, I set aside the fast-drafted conclusion of The Wardrobe Series and turned my attention instead to writing down everything I knew about helpful tools for authors to build a book, a platform, a business, and a career. What I thought would be around a 25,000 novella length piece morphed into a 65,000 word book!

The project took on a life of its own as I then divided up the chapters and posted them on my website under the sub-domain The Author Toolbox. All of the posts were cross-linked on a main menu page with additional resources separated out. And, like other blog series before, I also collected the entire series and published it in a book format.

But the information could not be contained in a book. I had the privilege to teach an online class for ACFW that July and interact with individual authors to guide them up the mountain. While many weren’t near the summit of their own dreams, at least they now had a road map to get there and knew what the next steps would be.

About the same time, I also took on my first individual coaching clients and helped them through website development, graphic design, or how to navigate around their existing blog or website to update information. A few I met with in person, but then I had a client via Skype and was able to coach her using screen share technology.

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as being able to help someone else avoid the headaches of technology. To help unlock the power of scheduling and free up more time for them to actually write instead.

However, in late May, I had another unique opportunity to pay it forward in a different way. A friend in my local writers’ group is also a middle school English teacher and she invited me along as a chaperone/teacher on a trip for gifted students at a castle. Yes, the location was beyond tempting. But I also jumped at the chance to teach the writing craft and mentor young writers. The experience was yet another chance to pay forward the advice I’d received.

Now, lest you think I got distracted by the non-fiction project, teaching, and coaching to the point I forgot to work on my fiction, I’d learned that lesson before. So once I had The Author Toolbox manuscript complete, I circled back to transform the  NaNoWriMo sketchy version of my next book into real words and then sent each section to my critique partner before making the final revisions and submitting it to yet another new editor at my publisher for consideration.

By late fall, I was already starting the countdown to a February book launch and began plotting a series of five books set in and around castles. I also started thinking about what to do with the dusty, neglected characters of my fictional diner. After all, I had two very different stories set in the same place with the same people and after all these years, they deserved to have a voice. Somehow. Somewhere.

Except there were also family life changes on the horizon as my special needs daughter aged out of the school system’s supports and in December transitioned to part-time employment and day programs instead. Her new schedule meant more time at home…and new routines for me as I would need to adapt to having her around more. Plus, the inevitable interruptions because of her needs would also interfere with my day job commitments.

So far, the writing life had been working out for me, but only God knew how I would adapt to the future changes.

What about you? Have you intentionally (or accidentally) become an expert in something? Is there a way to “pay it forward” by mentoring or teaching someone else the skills you’ve acquired? Have you ever settled into a routine only to have life change on you?

My Trip Down Memory Lane – 2017
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