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Writing is in the Words
by Uma Girish

It was a 500-word humor piece -- about how a cooking gas shortage in the city had threatened Grandma's elaborate traditional meals. I'd scribbled the piece on a lean day at the advertising agency where I worked. And then I forgot about it. When I traded my day job to be a stay-home mom to my two-year-old, I chanced upon the essay in the dark recesses of a desk drawer. I dusted it off, rewrote parts of it, and carried it to the editor of a local weekly.

"It's good. I might use it in the coming week's humor page," she pronounced in elegant tones. I clamped my dropping jaw and tried to act professional.

The newspaper slithering onto the doormat a week later was the loudest sound in our home that morning. My damp and frantic fingers flipped the pages and worked up a furious rustle. Blood pounded in my ears.

Party Pooper read the sweetest headline my eyes had ever come to rest on. The words that had flowed through my fingers onto a sheet of white paper were there, set in three columns for the entire city to read.

My eyes blurred over the print as a heady feeling washed over me. I was a published writer!

I rushed out the front door tripping over the cat, cleaned out the neighborhood store of its copies, distributed it to friends and family, made photocopies and mailed them off to everyone in my address book.

When the giddiness was down to manageable levels three weeks later, a check in the mailbox sent my heart soaring once again. Six hundred Indian rupees ($14 approx.)!!

Now that I'd had a nibble of fame I was greedy for more. Two days later I tripped into the editor's office, brimming over with confidence, a couple more humor pieces in hand. I was going to be given a Humor Column! It was only a matter of time.

"I'm sorry, we're closing down the humor page," she announced. I felt the weight of a steamroller sitting on my chest.

"No matter. Would you like to cover the opening of a salon for me?" she asked, as my mind sluggishly processed her request.

"No, no ... I don't do that kind of writing. I write creative pieces - humor, opinion, essays..." I wasn't about to go off and interview some lady who dressed others' hair for a living. That was a reporter's job!

"I'd take it if I were you. All writing can be creative. It depends on how you approach it," she offered. Reluctantly, I agreed. I mean, after all, she'd published my first piece. I could do it for her. Just this once, I promised myself.

The salon piece was the beginning of a portfolio that today contains over 300 articles, features, interviews, short fiction, how-tos and essays. As I interviewed the proprietor and discovered engaging tidbits about her life and her passion for the business, my mind was already whirring out the opening words. I came away from that assignment, my fingers restless to hit the computer keys. And then I remembered the editor's words. Yes, writing is all about bringing your words alive on a page. Whether it is a piece on a salon opening or growing tulips or fixing a leaky faucet.

That piece of advice stayed with me. It taught me something. And brought with it a rush of motivation that continues, eight years and three hundred clips later.

© Copyright 2004, Uma Girish

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