A Proper Goodbye: A Note from Jennifer Ziegler

jennifer_zieglerDear fellow writers,

This is my final week as Program Director for the Writers’ League of Texas, and I cannot leave without saying a proper goodbye.
My departure is for happy reasons: I have recently been offered a two-book contract with my publisher – an exciting but demanding project that will make it impossible for me to continue working a second job full time. As much as I love the Writers’ League and its staff, I feel I must take this opportunity.
This organization has been a huge part of my adult life, and I will be forever grateful to it. I first joined as a member back in the 1990s as I was finishing up my studies at UT. Later, after I was published, I taught League classes, sat on panels, and did presentations. In 2011, I was hired to coordinate the wonderful Project WISE program and, soon after, stepped in as Program Director. Throughout it all, I honed skills and grew as a person.
Becoming a full-time writer was always an ambition of mine, and I doubt I would have earned this new opportunity without the experience and knowledge I’ve gained through the League. The ride has been long and bumpy, but looking back, I can credit reaching this goal to three overriding principles reinforced by this organization.
First, I kept learning. Over the years I availed myself of classes, books, and presentations, and was able to draw from the knowledge I gained. One can never know all there is about writing or stay on top of changing styles and market standards. Case in point: With my first book, a mass market sci-fi thriller that came out in 1997, I struggled with plot and character, and I dreaded every revision. With my latest book, a contemporary middle grade novel, I still ran into difficulties, but I had a better idea of how to overcome them, and I welcomed the chance to return to the story and improve it.
Secondly, I became active in the community. Writing might be a solitary act, but writers should never lead a solitary existence. By joining WLT and my local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I was linked with like-minded individuals who could teach, inspire, commiserate, offer advice, and connect me with still more writers. These kindred spirits offered up invitations that allowed me to leave my laptop and venture out into the world. (Yes, the real world — the world all writers need to observe and be part of in order to capture correctly.) Above all, they understood me. I could talk about the voices in my head with people who didn’t suddenly remember appointments. I could truly be me.
And lastly, I kept writing. Through the heartache of rejection and the terror of writer’s block. Through the daunting, often frustrating process of finding an agent and publishing home. Through sickness. Through zero wealth. For better or worse, forsaking fun parties and missing out on binge-watching TV. I didn’t give up, even when it seemed impossible or crazy.
My critique group had a mantra: “Writing is hard, y’all!” It’s good to regularly acknowledge this truth, make peace with it, and recount all the reasons why it’s worth it. And ongoing education and communing with fellow writers always helps.
The Writers’ League of Texas offers support with the craft, business, and community of writing. Although community is listed last in this sequence, it must come first in practice. It is only by working together that we can develop our craft and better understand the business.
Although I am leaving the job, I am not leaving the League. I will continue to benefit from its programs and give back in whatever ways I can.
It has been an honor to work alongside you these past five years. Please visit me (and feel free to message) via my author website.
Thank you for everything, and keep on writing.
— Jennifer

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