The Red Road of Opportunity Thanks to The Informer

SC-1_030edited copyBy Sharon Chayra

Las Vegas Informer

In the third grade and lured by the prospect of a goldfish, I entered a writing contest. I worked on my essay for a day straight, which, to an eight year-old is equivalent to one month. Writing was never a passion but animals certainly were and a fish would be a welcome addition to the dog, cat, parakeet and hamster at home.

On the fated day, the school’s third grade classes assembled in the only room large enough to contain us: the lunchroom. It didn’t matter that were seated like sardines with the aromas of warm tuna fish sandwiches and soured milk containers wafting from nearby garbage cans, we were at the Academy Awards of Rose Warren Elementary.

So you can imagine my delight when Mrs. Lane called my name as the grand prize winner! There is still a photo somewhere of me gleefully grasping a bulging plastic bag tied with a newspaper rubber band containing an orange, finned creature. I walked home that day taller and prouder than ever and triumphantly presented my prize to my mum and dad who promptly placed it in a glass trifle bowl.

Welcome home Freddy-Fish.

Fast forward a few decades and I still grin thinking about that elementary school experience. Before that time, there was little that made me stand out. It makes me wonder if that experience spurred my interest in writing or was a reflection of a natural talent I hadn’t realized? It certainly helped me during the angst-ridden teen years when I cleverly (or so I thought) penned a number of obtuse iambic pentameter verses.

Today, I’ve been afforded many opportunities to write. Since I’ve never taken a journalism class, it seems ironic that anyone would pay me to assemble letters in such a way that they share information, boast accolades, instruct medical students, pose provocative questions or simply blather on, but they do. I am truly grateful for each opportunity.

The thing about writing is you have to do it a lot in order to get better and it’s never ending. There is always something to learn: a style convention, descriptive brevity, grammar, spelling, flow, tone and storyline. It’s continuous which is why those who are great writers stand apart if only for grit alone. It may seem like their works are effortless, but I’m relatively certain their soul was rendered on the rotisserie of a computer, and in some cases, a Selectric typewriter or Steno pad.

Many hope to create their own written brilliance sufficient to place them between Plato and Plath or at the very least a cover story for TIME, but the truth is that few will ever make it there. That’s not to say that one should ever give up dreams of a literary work or musings about everyday life.

I recently wrote narratives accompanying beautiful photography that brought to fruition a passionate idea of two friends. The book—Timeless Beauty—was self-published, but it has already earned a very warm reception. Thankfully, we had an exceptionally talented editor in Marcie Braden who made the awkward, elegant. Editors are to writers what blood is to the heart; with it you live with vitality, but without it you die a miserable death. I’m grateful to my editors, even those who have crucified me for using words I didn’t earn or eviscerating me for not reading the AP Stylebook. They did me a favor because they helped me improve and helped harden my skin for the inevitable rejection known by every writer brave enough to bare their nakedness in a manuscript.

There are plenty opportunities to exercise your writing muscle without being savaged including poetry slams, writer’s workshops and specialized library and Meet-Up groups. If you’re really serious about disciplining yourself—which is the most critical aspect of a good scribe—participating in NaNoWriMo is a must.

Having the honor to know people who have written best-selling books, award-winning exposes and publishing seminal research, I am in awe of their application of the craft. Among these artists are Phil Simon, Oksana Marafioti, Molly Ball, Abraham Verghese, Glen Puit, Steven Freiss and others. These are my role models as are the literary giants like Twain, Eliot, Austen and Shakespeare.

That’s why in The Informer’s third year of publication, I’m so very proud to be associated with such a progressive and well-read newspaper. My editor, Joe Buda, deserves the greatest praise because he took a chance on my rather esoteric column called The Red Road. Through this outlet and the guidance and encouragement of The Informer team, there is opportunity to hone my craft while working with true professionals. It doesn’t hurt when people email when they were somehow touched or entertained by my pontificating.

Writing isn’t just exercising your fingers, but being given a sacred opportunity to connect, share and exchange. It’s not haphazardly tossing sentences like hot spaghetti, rather it’s the thoughtful preparation of a meal that will feed someone, sate their hunger or provoke it.

I may never be a best-selling author, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take my role at The Informer—or any other outlet—casually. I just hope they continue for many years so that some other awkward third grader might one day use these pages to show herself just what she was made to do.

Happy Anniversary to my Informer colleagues, publisher, editors and friends!

Mitakuye Oyasin.

Sharon Chayra

Sharon Chayra is an award-winning writer and president of a medical marketing firm based in Las Vegas. A traveler of life, Chayra integrates her science background with spirituality resulting in common sense observations to others on their life’s journey. Given her heritage of Apache and Scottish, she is a born storyteller and documents experiences about personal growth, culture, laughter and health into the written and visual word.

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