My Road to Becoming an Author

Meet Theresa Leschmann, Author, 

Today I am launching a new blog about my attempts to make it as an author in an ever changing world of publishing. This is a learn-as-you-go operation for me but then isn’t pretty much everything in life? What fun would it be if we could simply read a book and know exactly what to do for every choice we make or every new thing we attempt?

I guess you need to know a little bit about me as a writer if you are going to accompany me on this journey.

Me at 3

My life as a writer started out with me being a reader. I was a voracious reader as a child. The school I attended sent home those little Scholastic Books flyers and I cajoled my mother into buying me one or two books every month. I read everything from “Black Stallion” and “My Side of the Mountain” to “Nancy Drew Mysteries” and anything published by Alfred Hitchcock. 

I never considered writing as a career while I was growing up but then I never really considered any career. By the time I was a teenager, I had aspirations of being a singing star but they weren’t terribly rooted in me. I took some voice lessons, did some community theater and moved on. 

It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I began to le the thought of doing a little writing tumble around in my mind. I had a pen pal, James Bell, overseas who loved my letters and encouraged me to explore writing. For years I thought he was simply being kind. I got some great reviews from family members over my annual Christmas letter. If ever there was an endorsement to write professionally, what better one to have than friends and family gushing over my annual Christmas letter? Still, I was not moved to quit my day job. 

A few years later, I took a job at a small town library. I was surrounded by books and discovered more authors than I could list. I also discovered Loretta Ruff, a fellow library worker who encouraged me to accompany her to a meeting of the Writer’s Guild in our area. I went a few times and enjoyed the atmosphere. A couple of months later, I read an anecdotal piece at an open critique night which was well received. I later learned they received everyone’s work well but it still help boost my courage to take even more baby steps. 

A guest speaker at the guild meeting was the editor of newspaper magazine in our regional newspaper. We spoke after the meeting and she hired me, on the spot to write one or two pieces a week for the magazine. I was so excited as I had no journalistic training or experience. Still, it didn’t take long for the thrill of writing about medical center openings and baby pageants to wear off. It proved invaluable experience though. It laid the groundwork for the path my writing has taken since then. 

So after getting my feet wet with personal correspondence and some pieces in the local paper, I was itching for somewhere else to test my skills. It wasn’t too much later that I talked to Tammy Morris, a longtime friend about the online writing she did. She was writing for several content sites and beginning to make a little money at it and encouraged me to give it a try. 

I began writing articles for several content sites and while writing news, articles and how-to’s is radically different than writing fiction, the experience helped develop me as a writer. Not only did my writing improve because of the increase in volume I was turning out, I met a wonderful community of people I had never known existed. Writers are for the most part, a very helpful and non-competitive group of coworkers. 

One of the sites I wrote for sponsored a flash fiction writing contest. We were to write something from a prompt and keep it under 1000 words, I believe. I entered the contest and didn’t even earn an honorable mention but my whistle had been whetted. By this time, I had found several other local friends who were also writers. We agreed to start doing writing prompts together and began critiquing each other’s work. The feedback was by and large positive but even when it was negative, it helped me learn and grow as a writer. I used a series of those prompts to help me begin a novel I had been mulling over for a while and I was hooked on writing fiction. 

I also turned out a few more short stories and posted some online where they languished in undiscovered obscurity. That’s okay. I didn’t expect to be an overnight success then, any more than I do now. The novel idea got shelved as I was drawn more and more into content writing for the immediate financial reward it provided. And I was a little unsure of myself as a fiction writer. 

In 2010, a group of friends and I all decided to enter NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – an event held every November where you chain yourself to your computer and try to churn out 50,000 words by the end of the month in an effort to write a novel. It has to be something new, not something you have already started. So I used October to prepare. 

I didn’t make the goal by the end of the month but I did complete some 37,000, by far the largest body of work I had ever completed. I was ecstatic over my progress and to me it was success. The book, however, was also shelved in favor of completing paid work.

The biggest compliment I had received at that time was an invitation to join a group of writers who were self-publishing anthologies of short, dark and twisted stories – right up my alley. I was delighted to have been asked and the first story I submitted provided me with a much needed reality check. As I opened the email, I was overwhelmed by the red print liberally splashed across my work from the group’s resident editor. I was initially inflamed and it took me two days before I could look at it calmly. 

It was the best thing that ever happened to me. My relationship with that editor was a bit bumpy and I didn’t always agree with his recommendations but I learned a great deal from him about the craft of writing. I stayed with that group for a couple of years and published stories in five books with them before deciding to try my hand at doing it solo.
After leaving the anthology group, I floundered a bit. I realized that for me, having no deadlines to meet in terms of writing fiction meant I just didn’t do it. Oh, I had plenty of ideas but there always seemed to be something else that needed to be done. Laundry, making dinner, writing those pesky but-oh-so-valuable articles for clients that helped pay the bills. Fiction writing just waited and waited.

As the popularity of eBooks took off, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t give that a try. After all, aren’t eBook sales similar to the page views I was earning pennies for on content and news sites? So I deliberated over what project to tackle first. Should I finish the novel I had started for NaNoWriMo? Maybe I should do some more short stories and publish m own collection. Perhaps I should finish the first novel I had started from the writing prompts. Or, I could do a historical fiction series that I had been toying with based on my home town. Oh the choices!

I started with the series because it had been calling to me for some time. I ran into an obstacle and set that aside. Next I picked up the NaNoWriMo novel and started to reread what I had written. I began sharing chunks of it with the writer group I am currently part of and they loved it – at least that’s what they told me. So I have been diligently working on that since January 2012 and hope to have it finalized by summer’s end. I am hoping to send it to a few traditional publishers and see what happens.

In the meantime, I decided to put out those short story collections which bring me to where I am today. I hope my career as a writer continues to take as many twists and turns as it has so far. The journey has been exciting and educational. And I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.


  1. Great introduction! I, too, have been struggling with the confidence to branch out into fiction. Although I have been writing short stories since I was a little girl and have started 8 novels, I keep wondering if I'm just wasting my time. I plan on finishing every single one of my novels though because there's something inside of me that makes me feel like I just HAVE to write. Besides, I much prefer to finish projects that I start!

    1. I have that quirk, too, Amanda. I have to finish things I start. I plan more posts about my journey to writing fiction but I can tell you now that Have numerous projects in the works and taking the plunge to publish one has given me the push I need to go back and finish them. I hope you find your courage!