One of my greatest delights at Mount Hermon was interviewing Marci Seither, and I am excited to share this conversation with you. Marci lives with her husband, John, in a small town nestled in the Sierra Mountains. They are the proud parents of six awesome children, ages 25 to 11, who have provided them with volumes of great material, symphonies of laughter, and loads of laundry.
I am pleased to introduce to you, Marci Seither, two-time winner of the Guidepost Contest, and facilitator of Inspire’s “How to Write for the Guidepost Contest” training class, Saturday, May 19, 2012.
I love the story you tell of how you started your writing career. Would you share it with our Inspire writers?
I never thought I’d be a writer. I wasn’t a reader in school. When I had to write book reports in High School, I made up the stories and got A’s. I was probably the only student at Ponderosa High School who was ever demoted from the electric typewriter to the manual. That’s how bad of a typist I was. It’s proof that God will take the least likely person and do something with her for His glory. Yet, I’ve always told stories. That didn’t make me a writer. When we lived in Minnesota, I wrote to my mom in e-mails or faxes, keeping her up to date with what the kids did. She told me, “Honey, you should submit some of these to a paper and get published because they are so funny.” I told her they were only funny because she knew us.
“No, no,” she said. “Everyone in the whole office loves getting these.”
“The whole office?” I asked.
Another friend told me, “If you ever want to write, I’ll edit some of your stuff.”
So I said, “I’m going to get some of this off my bucket list and make my mom happy.” I took a stack of my e-mails to my friend and we picked out what we thought would be the best one to clean up. It was a humor piece about making Valentine cookies with my kids. We made six for each kid. Then we added a stick of gum. That ran in the local paper and I ended up with a column. When the editor returned from vacation, she said she loved what I wrote and asked me to write a humor column once a month. I can’t use any of those stories today because they are so poorly written. That’s how I got started and it’s been an incredible journey. It wasn’t something I thought of pursuing, but I’m still at it. I still think of myself as a mom who writes.
Tell us how you got the Word on the Street Girl position.
I got that because I’m a pain in the rear. The paper switched editors and I knew Gloria. I completed a writing correspondence course and worked for the Auburn Journal. I learned when God closes a door that means that something else will come up and it’s important to wait with anticipation.
I took a story idea to the editor at the Colfax Record, but she said she had that covered. The next week I was back in her office. “Is someone covering Operation Mom?” I asked. “I’ll be there taking photos.
“Well, okay,” she said. “If you want to take photos and write a small article, go ahead and have it to me by Friday.”
I made sure I had it to her by Thursday.
“Okay, this looks good,” she said. “And by the way, we need someone for the Word on the Street. Would you be interested in taking photos and doing the Word on the Street?” I interviewed 312 people each year and took their photos for three years.
Tell us how you won the Guidepost Contest.
I won the Guidepost story contest in 2010. At the time my editor said, “Some day you might grow past the Colfax Record.” Some of my stories were published in both the Auburn Journal and the Colfax Record. That was 20,000 readers and I was happy with that. I told her, “No, no. I am sticking with you. Your last day is my last day. I would donate a kidney to you.” I enjoyed that working relationship and the freedom of thinking of the stories, writing them up, taking them in and having her say, “Yeah, we’re gonna use this.”
I thought of my life as a pie and writing was only a piece of it. Writing for the local paper consumed most of that and I was still a mom who wrote. Then last year I won the True Grit award here at Mount Hermon. Someone said this will be the start of a new career for you. You’ll look back and say, “This is when my career took off.” My response was, “No, no. I’m the Word on the Street Girl, and I work for the Colfax Record.” I thought God might have something for me, but I don’t feel I can close the door on this. On the way home from Mount Hermon I got a text message that Gloria would be transferred to Loomis-Lincoln. I laughed and thought whatever God had in store for me, I would wait with anticipation. I’m still transitioning into whatever that will be. The point is, we are not in control of where our words go. We are in control of waiting and preparing for when God establishes the work of our hands.
Would you tell us what is involved in winning the Guidepost Contest and the True Grit Award?
They are a little tied together. The True Grit Award is in honor of a young woman who died of Cystic Fibrosis. I was in Kay’s mentoring clinic with her. Her name is Lauren Vyhoff. The True Grit award is for someone who perseveres despite adversity. Someone who doesn’t give up, someone who has true grit. It has nothing to do with writing ability.
In 2010 we lost our home in foreclosure. We were in construction and our home was part of our collateral for our business. Devastating. It was a house we built from scratch. My husband was the builder. We had a lot of sweat equity, inheritance for our kids. At that point I almost quit writing. I told my husband my dreams were shattered. I just wanted to be a WalMart greeter.
What inspired you to write for the Guidepost Contest?
My friend, Lisa Bogart. I’m in her knitting book. We had such a fun time. We’ve known each other from Mount Hermon. She interviewed me for her book and said, “It’s too bad we only see each other once a year. Wouldn’t it be great if we both won the Guidepost Contest? And we could both go to New York and be roommates for a week?” We started helping each other by critiquing each other’s work. Then when we lost our home, I told my husband, “I don’t want to spend 47 cents to be told I’m a loser again.” I didn’t want to go to the post office and pay the money for the stamp.
Lisa knew what was going on and she wrote, “I know things are hard. Just send it.” So I did. I didn’t think I could write anymore because I was in grief. When Guidepost called me, I thought they wanted me to renew my subscription. Then they told me I won. I wanted to call Lisa, but then I thought, this was the second time she entered. What if she didn’t win?
Lisa found out she won but she didn’t want to call me because she didn’t know I won. We both called Kay Marshall Strom and told her and she wrote to both of us and said, “I’m so proud both of you are going to New York together.” That changed everything for me. No one knew about us losing our home, but a story came out in the paper that I was going to New York and that we just lost our home. I didn’t think they would want me to write for them because I thought they wanted reputable people working with them. It was a good thing. It told me the Lord still has a plan. Stay the course. The True Grit is a “stay the course” award. I was humbled because I know people go through stuff that’s a lot worse.
The story that won the Guidepost Contest was a ghost written story about how prayer changes things. It was a story I had written for the newspaper during National Red Cross week. The paper wanted a human interest story with CPR Saturday as their sidebar. “Get people to care about that,” the editor said. I knew someone who was part of a dramatic rescue. Although he didn’t have a CPR certification, he prayed, “Please Lord, tell me what to do.” The title of the story was “One Man’s Call for Help is Another Man’s Answer to Prayer.”
You said you won a second Guidepost contest. How did that happen?
Everyone who has gone through the workshop, can go to a refresher course by submitting stories to a second contest. I just found out I won with my recent submission and I leave for the workshop on April 18.
So you’ll be able to tell us about that at Inspire’s “How to Write for Guidepost” training class?
Thank you, Marci, for taking time to tell us about your writer journey. We are inspired by your enthusiasm and perseverance.
Author of more than ninety articles and stories, Sue Tornai, lives in Carmichael, California with her husband, John, and dog, Maggie. She leads an Inspire critique group in Fair Oaks, California and facilitates writer’s workshops. Visit her at www.suetornai.com.