Please welcome this week’s guest.
“What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.”
Those words arch across the page from an old coloring book I got when I was seven. The usual suspects are listed:
Marine biologist/dolphin trainer.
But one profession is listed in every entry: Author.
Since we all know that our seven-year-old selves are not to be argued with, I became a writer.
Well, not immediately. I first became a reader. But my feet were set on that writer course long before the rest of me knew it.
I read voraciously growing up. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas gifts I ever received was a stack of ten or so new chapter books. My grandparents were also big readers and I’d spend afternoons fingering the books in my grandpa’s bookcase. He’s the one who introduced me to Tolkien and Lord of the Rings, and his special note in my copy of LOTR is something I’ll treasure forever. Books surrounded me and not only shaped me, but shaped the people who were shaping me.
Rich literature and historical studies in school helped to further foster this love of reading and then consequently, a love of writing. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where I knew I “loved” writing. It was more that I had always been surrounded by words and as the years went on, I knew I couldn’t do without them.
But I wasn’t sure how I wanted to pursue my love of writing as high school was drawing to a close. I had a few degree choices I was seriously looking at and for some reason, I decided to pursue journalism.
I spent four years learning how to write and edit news stories, but I didn’t end up with a writing job right after college. As many of us know, the writing life sometimes has to find you. So I continued teaching dance (my other creative passion) and worked an office job until I started pursuing freelance work.
Not until I started to dive deep into the writing world did I realize I carried a lot of shame toward my degree. I didn’t realize it until I attended my first writing conference. Among many of the doubts I’ve battled over the years since I started freelancing, I felt ill-prepared with my degree, wishing I had majored in any number of things that seemed like they would’ve better prepared me for this writing journey.
One of the authors I met at my first writing conference was Lindsey O’Connor, a journalist based out of Colorado. Through the sessions, I began to reconnect my education with my passion. I stopped Lindsey in the hall at one point, and shared a few of my concerns and doubts. She was so genuine in reassuring me that I should be proud of my degree. The whole goal of writing is to tell a story, to communicate a thought. The fact that I had already been trained to tell stories neatly and efficiently was a point in my favor. The fact that I had not only been edited, but had practice in editing, set me ahead of most of the crowd.
For the first time, a different emotion welled up when I thought about my degree: pride.
I reflected on some of my favorite articles I had written while in school. A few always stand out. One was an interview with a professional cellist. I was so struck by the depth of his passion and the extent of his expertise. I left thinking, this is why I do what I do: people are endlessly fascinating.
I also got to interview three exchange students from Wales, two girls and one guy. They were so nice and let’s not pretend I wasn’t totally doing this interview for the accents. (Just kidding it was an assignment. But really.) I was blown away when the guy commented that he just loved the homes here in Oklahoma. Excuse me? You like our homes? That’s not how it’s supposed to work. But no, he was enthralled with the architecture, while casually mentioning his house was from the 15th century.
Again I left thinking this is why I do what I do: telling peoples’ stories or sharing some spark of truth that impacts someone else’s life.
And while it has taken me a few years to find myself on that writing road, that’s what I’m doing now: sharing a spark of truth. I love seeing my words make a difference in someone else’s life, whether that be encouragement or inspiration or just a new way of looking at a situation in their life.
The ways I’ve accomplished that have varied, but my current niche includes teaching creative writing and editing manuscripts. I started off freelancing about four years ago and have edited for online publications, written articles for a variety of industries, and worked as a copywriter at a local marketing firm.
I have four book children of my own that I self-published through Amazon. No they are not sci-fi, but I imagine that most of you know a young human, and perhaps you want to get some Christmas shopping done early. Like today, like right now as you click through to this handy link I’ve provided.
Joking aside (I’m not joking, I’d like to afford the good pens people!) my first book is geared toward older teens/college-age kids, and provides a fresh look at dating. You’ll discover fairly quickly by my writing that I’m a Jesus follower. That’s who I am, and while I don’t press that on to anyone, I would invite you to give that perspective a chance.
My other three books are a series called “Bloom: Fresh Devotionals for Girls” for ages 9-14. This series will help them navigate that amazing time in life called middle school. The golden years. Like a flower blooming, the topics of the book move from the inward workings of a girl’s heart to her relationships and how she fits into her community, helping her to bloom into all that she can be.
I published Bloom Book Three in April 2019 and it was a big milestone. I had been working on the series for four years and now I am not entirely sure what will come next. The ideas need some time to percolate and marinate, so I’m still far from putting out another book.
To all my fellow writers, I wish you writing grace. Don’t despair when the writing road takes unexpected twists and turns. When in doubt, stick your butt in the chair and write.
SAMANTHA HANNI is a freelance writer and editor, and is the author of “Change the Conversation” and “Bloom: Fresh Devotions for Girls.” Her work has appeared on Devotional Diva, To Love Honor and Vacuum, Families Alive and the OCHEC Informer. From teaching dance classes to leading Sunday school and small groups, Samantha has taught and mentored girls and young women since 2007.
She graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2012 with a degree in journalism. Her passion is encouraging other people and seeing God’s word make a difference in their lives.
She and her husband Kurtis live in Oklahoma City with their dog, Podrick.
You can find Samantha’s website at http://mrshanni.com
Or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/samanthahanniauthor/
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