It is through the eyes of another that we discover there’s more in us. It’s where we find potential for excellence deep within our soul. If we dare to receive their opinion with open arms, then we will learn more resides in our abilities than ever before thought.

Northern California Publishers and Authors (NCPA) announced in June that submissions were being accepted for its next anthology More Birds of a Feather. Another pet theme storyline—my favorite topic! I was elated and couldn’t wait to submit my story about kids (baby goats, that is.) More Birds of a Feather will be my sixth anthology contribution overall (four with NCPA and two with Inspire Christian Writers.)

Anthologies are a benefit of membership well worth their weight in gold. My goal in participating in each anthology is to learn and grow as a writer. Every editorial comment has done just that. Another major perk with published anthologies is free advertising. Why would anyone turn that down?

I submitted my story entitled Goat Mountain to the NCPA anthology committee and waited. Although I strive for perfection, I expected a correction would be needed here and there for grammar and punctuation but what I received instead was this: “I believe this one could use a little stronger, more direct opening.”

What? I need to redo the entire opening paragraph? How can the editor say that? He does not know me. He does not know my writing voice. The editor provided an alternate opening and though intriguing, was far from thoughts in my brain that I’d ever put into words.

What am I going to do? I hadn’t submitted Goat Mountain to the committee until I felt it was my very best work and now, I’m supposed to rewrite my opening paragraph?

It’s very important for me to have the reader know that what I write is always from my heart. The way I’ve come to craft my inspirational stories is my brand. I didn’t want my work to appear in a book if it wasn’t reflective of my authentic self. I didn’t have peace with the editor’s rendition of my opening paragraph, so there was no other alternative but to respectfully withdraw my story.

Lucky for me, the lady who manages submissions is my friend and someone I’ve known since becoming an NCPA member eleven years ago. Norma knows me, my voice, my heart. She wouldn’t let me bow down and respectfully withdraw because I saw no other alternative. Norma stuck with me. She said to take a few days to ponder, make changes, and then resubmit my piece.

I read through Goat Mountain yet again, this time through an editor’s lens. I began to see that my opening “hook” was quite factual and dry. There was little emotion or impact. Boring! I began analyzing my story. What descriptive words would allow the reader to feel they were about to embark on an exciting adventure at Goat Mountain? How could I captivate the reader in a way that they didn’t expect?

When I finished my creative thinking session, I couldn’t get over how ideas on crafting the hook emerged. I couldn’t believe that what I ended up writing was actually in me. Huh. Who knew? Norma knew, that’s who.

Thank you, Norma, for not allowing me to sell myself short. Thank you for pushing me to write the powerful story you always knew I could. You caused me to dig deeper; to realize that I did have it in me.

And thank you, Mr. Editor. You helped me grow as a writer. If you hadn’t indicated that my story needed work, I would have thought I had topped out at my best.

Friends, always be willing to learn. Allow the critics to be your teachers in the classroom of life. They are just as important as your supporters. You can’t become who you are truly meant to be without the two.

Denise Lee Branco

(This blog post also published in The Pen & Press, NCPA November 2019 newsletter, page 6)