Monday, August 5, 2013

A Writer’s Testimonial

During this year’s banquet, I was shocked, thrilled, and humbled to receive a number of awards for my contest entries.  I felt validated as a writer.  But most importantly, I was thankful.  The Southeastern Writers Association (SWA) has been instrumental in my growth as a writer, increased confidence, and publication success.  I decided to share my story to motivate writers, both aspiring and established, to attend future workshops, and to thank the wonderful people of the SWA who have made such a difference in my writing career.

For more than 20 years, I had professional careers in banking, accounting, and internal auditing.  In 2004, I became a dad to a beautiful daughter and have been “Mr. Mom” since her birth.  When she began Pre-K, I decided to pursue my fourth career – writing.  I wrote a manuscript based on my life as a stay-at-home dad, as well as a number of children’s stories.  Yet only few close family members had read them.  The time had arrived to get out from behind my computer.  I came across a website for the 2011 Southeastern Writers Association workshop and, after much thought and prayer, registered.  As I drove toward St. Simons Island where the workshop is held annually, I felt like a lost puppy and wondered what I had been thinking when I signed up.  I’m glad I didn’t turn around.

At the registration desk, Tim and Sheila Hudson greeted me.  I remember saying, “Here I am, but I don’t know if I belong here.”  Sheila said, “Sure you do.”  A few minutes later, I sat around the dinner table talking with other writers, many of whom have become my friends, sounding boards, teachers, and inspiration to continue my writing journey. 

The workshop rocked!  I plugged into as many sessions as possible and asked lots of questions.  I met with a New York City literary agent – twice.  The instructor who evaluated my children’s manuscript liked it so much that she contacted Holly McClure, a local literary agent.  She and one of her employees met with me for over an hour the next day and let me share my work with them. Though I didn’t walk away with a contract, I had better direction for where I needed to go.  

Cappy Hall Rearick did a session on newspaper column reporting.  Through group discussions, I came up with a plan to get my work published in a parenting magazine.  I was also thrilled that my children’s story won honorable mention in the Young Child and Juvenile Writing category during the awards banquet.  I left the workshop with more confidence and a plan.  I learned that it would take a lot of time and work to build my writer’s platform, but it was essential to begin the process.

Patrick receiving an award from Jan Kellerher,  June 2013

Motivated by the workshop, I put together four sample columns and submitted them to the editor of a local parenting magazine.  She called me the next day and offered me a monthly gig.  I earned my first publishing credit in September 2011, when Moments Magazine published my first column of “moMENts.”  

The drive to the 2012 SWA workshop seemed much shorter.  I was greeted with hugs and handshakes and had five great days of listening, writing, and learning.  Once again, the instructors were top-notch.  I pitched my book idea to the literary agent-in-residence.  She requested that I send her my manuscript and wrote back with her feedback.  Although the manuscript needs more work, I know it’s getting there.  My essay won an honorable mention in The Hal Bernard Memorial Award for Nonfiction at the awards banquet.  Again, I left the workshop pumped.

Near the end of 2012, I decided to self-syndicate reprints of “moMENts” to other parenting magazines across the country as I continue to define my niche and build my platform.  As of this writing, my work has been published 46 times in eight states and two Canadian provinces.  It’s exciting to update my website,, a website made better because Charlotte Babb, a writer I met at the 2011 conference, took time to answer my WordPress questions.  “Writers helping writers,” that’s the SWA motto.

This past April, I attended a function at my wife’s work and had an epiphany.  Since my daughter’s birth, whenever I’ve been asked what I do for a living, I’ve responded, “I’m a Mr. Mom.”  This year, when someone asked my occupation, I responded, “I’m a writer.”  Wow!  I am a writer!

The 2013 workshop couldn’t roll around fast enough.  I’m lucky I didn’t get a speeding ticket driving to St. Simons.  Once again, I received great instruction and spent quality time with other writers.  The awards were great, really great, but of secondary importance to the knowledge and friends I have gained. 

I have lots to read, learn, write, and rewrite, if I am to realize my dream of becoming a NY Times national best-selling author.  But I also know I’m making strides in the right direction.  I’ve been blessed to meet many wonderful people – fellow writers who share my dream, professional literary agents, talented instructors, and board members who devote their time and energy to make SWA successful.  Thank you all.

I must thank one other person, Harry Rubin.  I had the pleasure of sitting with Mr. Rubin during lunch at the first workshop I attended.  I could tell he was instrumental in the Association’s success when he was given an award at the end of lunch.  At this year’s banquet, Lee Clevenger, SWA President, said that the SWA would not be here today if Mr. Rubin had not used his personal funds a number of years ago to keep it up and running.  

Thank you, Mr. Rubin.  You made a big difference in this writer’s life.  It is because of you and the SWA that I can say “I am a writer.”  

~~ Patrick L. Hempfing

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