Monday, January 18, 2010

The Power of Personal Experience

By Sherri Langton
2010 FCWC Faculty

The August of my sixteenth year, I did something I’d never done: be a live-in babysitter for one week. The married couple (the man was my sister’s boss) wanted to attend a Christian camp in the Colorado mountains, and they offered me $25 to stay at the cabin and watch their four girls. I didn’t realize my guardian angel would be there as well.

The week had its challenges. I struggled to fit in with a family I barely knew. I came down with a bad case of homesickness and fought depression. The topper occurred the morning the adults attended their Bible study at the lodge. While the oldest girl, Kristin, was popping popcorn on the stove, the oil from the pan dripped on the gas flame. Poof! Instant ignition!

I remained amazingly calm. Telling the older girls to get help, I balanced the baby on my hip and turned off the burner. In seconds, the flames extinguished. By the time the adults made it back to see if the cabin had burned to the ground, all was well.

I earned more than 25 bucks that week; I got a wealth of material to make a story. Months later in my high school creative writing class, I poured my babysitting experience on paper and concluded it with what I’d learned: that nothing since that week in August had been too hard — for me or for my guardian angel.

My teacher loved the story. She awarded it an A and read it to the class.

I’ve come a long way since that creative writing class. Over the last twenty years, my personal experiences have appeared in magazines and book collections. With these and my work as an editor, I’ve learned the ingredients of a good story and what makes it marketable.

Would you like to know? Join me in my workshop From Personal Experience to the Printed Page at the upcoming Florida Christian Writers Conference. I look forward to hearing your stories!

Sherri Langton is associate editor of the Bible Advocate magazine and Now What? e-zine. She is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, Today’s Christian Woman, and other publications. Sherri has contributed to several book collections, including Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause. You can find her on Facebook.

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