Have you ever given yourself a birthday gift? One that no one else could give you, so you gave it to yourself? That’s what I did for my 40th birthday - I gave myself the gift of becoming a fulltime writer. This gift meant walking away from the high school classroom where I taught 9th and 10th grade English. It meant hearing, “You shouldn’t have quit your day job” ad nauseam. Still, laptop in hand, I ventured out to my favourite coffee shop day after day and most evenings to write my first novel.
That was the summer of 2005. I completed Whispers from the Heart that fall, staying close to the essence of being an English teacher. I created Madison Ragnar, a high school English teacher who teaches To Kill a Mockingbird. That is where the similarities between my personal life and that of Madison’s end and fiction began. One of Madison’s students commits suicide and his fellow students are left with a teacher and a theme from Harper Lee’s classic to deal with the shock and loss of their classmate.
Madison’s students struggle to understand death and suicide while Madison is faced with healing and moving on from her past. A theme of self worth threads throughout the pages - both inside and outside of her classroom.
When I set out to write Whispers from the Heart, I didn’t do character developments and outlines the way many authors do. Instead, I sat down and allowed my characters to invite themselves in. I allowed the storyline to direct itself. I welcomed Phil with surprise and wonderment when he suddenly showed up well into the book, but clearly played a pivotal role in Madison’s life.
The adventure that writing took on that summer was, for me, the realization that I gave myself the best gift possible…the gift of my creativity.
Since then I have published a nonfiction book, Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age, and Write from the Heart, the second novel in what is now the Unforgettable: Write Your Story series. Remember Me, God? will be the third in the series and is forthcoming this fall.
In the six years since my 40th birthday, I have begun ghostwriting for celebrities and public figures. Many people have stories to share, but can’t find their written voice. That’s where I come in and am allowed to continue to use my creativity in writing books for others. It means showing up with no personal agenda or self-serving twist to their book. It means finding their voice and helping them put it down in a story. It’s one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges I’ve encountered.
One of the greatest rewards came recently when I wrote a blog post that has made the biggest impact on me as a writer. I wrote a blog about two women who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that has gone viral via Twitter and Facebook. The blog has resulted in record numbers of hits and, more importantly, has embraced a community that greatly appreciates the voice I’ve given them. Those who are suffering from CFS are reaching out to me to share their stories and with gratitude that I shed some light on an often misunderstood and unrecognized disease. I’ve been humbled by this experience and have realized that sometimes the less we write, such as a blog post versus an entire book, the more impact we can have. It has given the term re-gifting a whole new meaning to me.
Heather Hummel is a "photonovelist" who blends her love for photography with her award-winning career as an author. Her published works include: Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw Hill, 2008), - Merit Award of the 2009 Mature Media Awards, Whispers from the Heart (PathBinder Publishing, 2008), - 1st Honorable Mention of the 2009 New York Book Festival, Write from the Heart (PathBinder Publishing, 2009) Heather is a ghostwriter for celebrities and public figures and her books have appeared in newspapers such as: Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living, a combined circulation of nearly 15 million.