How One Woman Changed the End of My Story

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8-12-13I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old.

It was funny how I came to this realization. I was sitting at a yellow Formica table in my mother’s kitchen with an aunt, my sister, cousins and a very special friend, Carmen Rodriguez.

As the women gossiped and laughed, I interrupted their conversation rather urgently.

“Some day, I’m going to write a book,” I said with conviction. I had no idea where the thought came from or why I chose that moment to declare the first truth I ever knew about myself.

It just slipped out.

My mother looked at me, laughed and said, “You will never write a book.”

Carmen immediately leaned in toward me, pointed her finger, and said, “I believe that someday you will write a book.”

In a flash, she saved me from the embarrassment of achieving too highly for our lot. After all, I didn’t come from a family of doctors and lawyers. Like many in this country, my grandparents were immigrants who came to this country with little money but plenty of hope.

My parents were able to reach comfortably to the middle class yet my mother never graduated middle school. I supposed she wanted to remind me of my roots and the limitations she faced in her life.

Sewing with a View of the Monterey Bay

In the following years, Carmen and I spent many afternoons together. We would eat at Blum’s in Carmel and shop for fabric and Vogue patterns. Then we would gather in her sewing room, an upstairs space with a vast view of the Monterey Bay and two sewing machines.

While she helped me with difficult zippers, button holes, and kilt skirts, she would tell me that I was smart and capable.

She encouraged me to attend college. And she urged me to write “that book” before she died.

After years of dabbling in poetry and then working as a journalist, I started a book.

I still haven’t finished the novel I started in 2000 (I know!) but in 2012 I did publish my first book, which I dedicated to Carmen.

She received her copy on her 97th birthday and we both celebrated the fruition of my prediction.

I Never Thought I Would Write Nonfiction

I never thought I would write a nonfiction book. Stories and characters constantly whirl through my thoughts.

I once saw a girl somersaulting at a July 4th outing and I imagined her tumbling among the stars and falling into another dimension of life. When a new family moved into the neighborhood, I imagined the mother struggling with cancer in the years ahead and felt the husband strain as he would try to raise their two girls by himself.

Stories like that come to me all the time.

Yet, I allocate little time these days to fiction writing. Instead, I keep my nose buried in the virtual pages of the Internet.

We Can Change the End of the Story

I recently attended a concert featuring Janiva Magness, a celebrated blues singer, former foster child and now an ambassador for Foster Care Alumni. She urged members of the audience to consider becoming a foster parent so they could “change the end of the story” for deserving kids – just as a foster parent had done for her.

Carmen wasn’t a foster parent but she did change the end of my story. And thanks to her, I went to college, pursued my dream and wrote a book.

So how can you and I encourage kids today to believe in themselves and follow the seemingly impossible life of being a writer or even an astronaut?

I guess one way is by helping them to keep the dream alive, right? And to encourage kids who come our way to always believe in themselves.

Just think what the world would be like if more people did something as simple as that.



Social Media Just for Writers by Frances CaballoAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media strategist, trainer,  and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Editor for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapterthe San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

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  1. Frances,
    Great story. I was 9 when I began my writing career. It was right after “Jaws” was released. I started writing my own stories, and never stopped.

    Still, being from generations of (struggling) artists, I’m more apt to steer my kids toward more lucrative careers and maintain the creative juices during their free time. Although, in the end, I don’t think it will matter what I say.

    Thanks for the story.

  2. Frances-
    This is a wonderful post, it brought tears to my eyes. My sister recently got me thinking about all the wonderful people who encouraged me as a child and how they probably didn’t know how much they were helping.
    So glad you finally got that book written and don’t give up on the novel.

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