Workshop Participant Patricia DeGrace, who initially participated in our workshop for the spouses of wounded veterans in 2012, recently published her first book, The Soldier and The Bear. The story is based on her husband’s experience with his service dog, Bear, after serving in Afghanistan.

What led you to apply to participate in the WGI workshops?  

The opportunity was presented to me by Wounded Warrior Project. I have always had a desire to write but never had the guidance or confidence to do so professionally. So, I was very excited to participate. 

Had you written before the workshops? 

Yes. I did, but nothing I felt was worthy of publishing. I’d already started 3 books but lacked the belief that “I” could successfully become an author. After my time with The Writers Guild Initiative, this changed completely. 

Did you come in knowing what you wanted to write about? 

Yes. I definitely did. Although I wasn’t sure if my writing was the quality needed to publish a book, I did know that I was to write about my husband’s war experience and his service dog as well as other books about my own life experiences. I feel called to share our lives for the sake of helping others. 

How long did it take you to complete the initial drafts of your book?  

I’m a little ashamed to say that it took me about 2 years from start to finish to complete my first book The Soldier and The Bear. The truth is, I did not make it the priority I should have. I allowed every-day life (daily household tasks, taking care of my husband and family, working, etc.) to distract me from writing. The desire was strong to complete the book and become a published author but I just wasn’t as intentional in carving time out to write, as necessary, to publish sooner. 

How did participation in the workshops help you in the various stages of the writing process? 

For me, writing at its core, is bringing my vision to life through words crafted very carefully with the intent of having the reader experience precisely what I want them to. Doing this takes patience, time management and creative “out of the box” thinking.  The mentors were instrumental in helping me understand just how important these things are and did so through the various class assignments and activities they assigned to me. The way they guided me on how to flow a story and bring the reader along was so incredibly instrumental in building my confidence. Their constant encouragement pulled me from a place of not feeling like “I’m good enough to measure up to other authors” to a place of “I don’t have to measure up. I just need to be me”. Writing has so many stages and when writing different types of books those stages may vary. What always remains the same is the need for patience, time management and creative thinking. 

What was the publishing process like for you? 

Insightful and exciting to say the least! I can now see how so many people publish books. It wasn’t near as difficult as I was making it out to be, but I tend to over think things, and that is why I believe it took me so long to complete my first book, The Soldier and The Bear.  Seeing my name on an actual book, with my photo on the author’s page, was mind blowing. I don’t think it actually sank in until I found “my” book online at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon.  It’s quite humbling to know that people are interested in my writing and spending their hard-earned money to buy my book. Then to have people ask for my autograph after purchasing their copy, was beyond belief. My greatest desire is to help others through my writing and I believe I’m on the road to accomplishing that. 

What was the journey from finished book/manuscript to published book? 

It was an incredible learning experience and for the record, I’m still learning. My publishing company “Christian Faith Publishing,” has been phenomenal in guiding me through every phase, explaining every detail along the way. I was incredibly impressed at how many times they would review my work, make edits, send it back to me for approval and do the same all over again for each area of work they assisted me with. From content to editing, formatting to graphics and cover design to promoting the final product, having a professional publisher, specifically “Christian Faith Publishing” has made publishing a book a very comfortable experience. Getting a book published proved to be a quest in analyzing details and making sure all my T’s were crossed and my I’s were dotted, as my mother would say! 

What are you working on now? 

Now I’m working on a children’s book series called Bear Tracks and a novel called Kaleidoscope. Bear Tracks focuses on teaching kids about service dogs through the perspective of a service dog named Bear. It’s a mini book series in which “Bear” from The Soldier and The Bear explains what his days are like as a service dog. One book is called Bear Goes to School. Another is Bear Visits the Doctor. There are a number of others as well and all are geared toward 6-12 year old children. Not many people understand service dogs and how they help people so this is my way of sharing this information. Kaleidoscope is a conglomeration of my life stories. A beautiful picture of how beauty can be found in some of the most broken places.  

 What inspires you? 

Life! Life inspires me. I am always intrigued by the stories of how every-day people handle every-day life. There are so many inspiring stories out there, hiding in the shadows and so many of them can be found right outside our door. I’m also inspired by music. Music often takes me to places I’ve never been or have long forgotten. Both inspire me to write from an intensely emotional place. Finally, traveling inspires me. I absolutely love to travel and experience new cultures. It reminds me of how much alike we are as mankind and stirs my creative juices. 

Have the WGI workshops impacted your life in ways other than writing, if so, how? 

Absolutely! The confidence I walked away with has poured out into my family life as well as my community relationships. I truly feel unstoppable.  

 What is your writing process? 

To be literal in answering this question, I make sure I am in a nice clean room with fresh scents of flowers in the air, I turn on instrumental spa or violin music very, very low, I grab my favorite drink for that hour of the day, be it coffee/water/tea and take about 10 minutes to push everything else out of my mind. Then I plunge forward and begin to write. 

What is your “interesting writing quirk” ? 

I have to have a freshly cleaned room to write in. Clutter makes me anxious and in a weird way in causes my thinking to be “cluttered” as well. My quirk is the room must be clean and smelling good.  

What is the best piece of advice you learned or garnered from the WGI workshops?  

*DON’T OVER THINK OR OVER EDIT YOUR WRITING! I put that in caps because, overthinking and over editing was the bondage I broke free from when I attended WGI. I spent so much time thinking, then editing, then thinking again, then editing again, only to going back to the beginning of my work time and time again making changes. This delayed my final publication by years. Just let your writing flow until you complete your story. Then review it, make edits and get it over to your publisher once you’re happy. Just don’t over think and over edit. It will drive you crazy! 

What is the most surprising thing you have learned from writing? 

That I am actually very good at it. I don’t mean that pridefully, I just mean that I discovered a skill or gift if you will, that I never really knew I had and now I cannot wait to share it with the world. I write, all for the sake of helping others. Not because I want anyone to know who I am, because that doesn’t really matter to me, but solely because I believe that as we all journey through this thing called life, it’s so important for us to encourage and inspire each other by sharing our own stories of hope.  I want to share stories that do just that.  

 Do you have any guidance or advice for current participants? 

I was told at WGI “If you write, your’e a writer”. This spoke volumes to me, so don’t stop writing. If you truly want to be a writer, then press in and write. Don’t put yourself (and don’t let others) in a box. Let your heart lead your writing and you will discover a freedom that you’ve never experienced before. Finally, someone once said “If it’s important to you, you’ll make time for it”. Don’t let the things that matter least, matter most. You will be overjoyed with the end result! 

If you would like to purchase Patricia’s book, click here.  

https://www.betterworldbooks.com/product/detail/the-soldier-and-the-bear-1098004914
*This article was initially published in our Fall 2019 newsletter.

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