By: Sandy Bush, Vice President, Pennwriters
It’s been far too long since I’ve shared a new “snippet” for my website blog, “Sandy’s Snarky Snippets”. Covid did its thing, stole creativity, time, and drive from me, but now it’s time for me to move on. No more excuses. But, what to talk about? How about the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh, PA in May 2023? Or maybe, how Pennwriters helped me become a published author.
I’ve been a member of Pennwriters for a long time, but many years passed without my ever attending a conference. I’d wait eagerly for our bi-monthly newsletter to arrive, and look longingly at the news about upcoming conferences. The newsletter was my only real connection to Pennwriters at that point in my life; that and mailing a check to the Treasurer once a year to pay my dues.
As the stay at home mother of two young daughters, it wasn’t possible for me to traipse off to a writing conference. I kept up with my writing, publishing in a local newsletter through the YWCA called The Mother’s Center. It was through this experience I learned I loved interviewing people, and developed a theory I still hold true: Everybody has a story to tell.
As my daughters grew, I had more time to myself. I had a number of part-time retail jobs, and stayed busy with volunteering at school, but I wanted more. It was around this time I made the decision to go back to college. Penn State (York) accepted me, and I dipped a toe in the pool, starting with one class. I was able to transfer my credits from Millersville, and steered myself toward a major in CAS (Communications, Arts, and Sciences).
After a year, my husband persuaded me to go full time and finish the degree I’d been chiseling away at for so long. During my final semester in my senior year at Penn State, I started an independent study with one of my English professors. I wrote an outline for an idea I had for a novel, and a chapter by chapter synopsis. It was the story of a financial advisor, so tormented by his crazy, wealthy clients, that he fears for his sanity and ponders finding a different career. Professor M. loved the idea and offered to edit for me. I started writing. My graduation was slated for December 2009.
Summoned to the Office of the Director of Academic Affairs several weeks into the semester, I learned my professor and my independent study were both terminated. Dr. Ph.D. interrogated me about my relationship with Professor M. and my own integrity (“Exactly what is this independent study you’re working on?”). I left his office fighting back tears of frustration and anger. Professor M.’s apparent “inappropriate behavior” none of which involved me, would cost me graduating in December. I would be shy three credits.
The only explanation I ever received from Professor M. was a voicemail message saying, “Sandy, please don’t hate me.” I never spoke to him again. I never learned why he got fired. As a student, I wasn’t privy to these details from Dr. Ph.D., or any other administrator.
In Spring 2010, I took two classes: A Government Class, which secured me an internship with the PA House of Representatives, and badminton. By May 2010 I earned the degree I’d worked so hard to get, and carried the banner for CAS at commencement, as well earning a minor in English. Hands down, one of the happiest, and proudest moments of my life.
After graduation, I continued to work on my novel, Money Man while working full time for Rep. Seth Grove. I loved my job, but with the many public service events I needed to attend–often evenings and weekends, I grew frustrated with the lack of time I craved to finish my book. With my husband’s blessing and encouragement, I resigned from my job with the PA House, and dove into finishing my novel.
Deciding I needed to become more involved in the writing community, I ran for Area 5 Representative for Pennwriters, and was elected. In May 2015, I attended my first Pennwriters Annual Conference in Lancaster. Terrified and exhilarated, I made many new friends, pitched my novel to an agent, and had one of the best weekends ever.
It took me almost eight years from the time I submitted my outline to Professor M. to published my novel in 2018. I could never have done it without the connections I made at my first Pennwriters Conference in 2015. With the editorial guidance of Demi Stevens, I published my book through her Year of the Book Press in Glen Rock.
Since then, I’ve published the sequel to Money Man, Money Man Marooned, and served as Area 5 Rep., Secretary, and Vice President of this amazing organization. I am so proud of the hard work accomplished by this volunteer organization, whose only goal is to help writers of all levels improve their writing.
As Vice President of the Pennwriters Board of Directors, I want to thank the Conference Coordinators Wende Dikec and Kathleen Shoop for a fabulous job. Every conference is different and special, but this one was phenomenal!
So, rejuvenated, pumped up, and scheduled for some fantastic Pennwriters online Zoom classes, I applaud my fellow Pennwriters, who never fail to inspire, teach, and support me and my writing. Thank you, my friends.