Unforgettable Moment as a Writer

Freeda Baker Nichols at her book signing at Hemingway Writers' Retreat in Piggott, Arkansas

Freeda Baker Nichols at her book signing at Hemingway Writers’ Retreat in Piggott, Arkansas

My most unforgettable moment as a writer happened some years ago.
It was not when I made my first sale, nor second, nor even third sale although that qualified me to join the American Pen Women.
I’m often encouraged by attending writers’ conferences where it’s exciting to meet editors and agents, but my unforgettable moment did not happen there. Nor did it happen because I’m a member of Writers of the Foothills, By-liners, Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas or the Oklahoma Writers Federation.
The moment came after I’d spent years of “becoming a writer.” Actually, I was feeling sympathetic toward my husband because he had dealt with my temperament, my discouragement, and at times, my tears as I attempted to write.
One day, feeling successful over my published work, I looked at my husband, and said, “It must be difficult to live with a writer.”
“I imagine it would be,” he replied.
At once, my head came out of the clouds.
Because of his comment, I took an objective look at myself as a writer. One of my published articles had brought 25 worn dollar bills to my hands. True, the film for the photograph had cost $8. And I put 40 miles on the Plymouth. But the person I interviewed offered me a free canoe trip on Little Red River. I took a rain check and sent the article out to two more editors. Maybe, just maybe, one of them would also pay $25 for the story of a new canoe business along the Little Red.
The very first payment for my work was $18 for a short sketch—a Mother’s Day piece which appeared in the Arkansas Gazette. I wrote it one day when I was in bed with the flu. The local editor turned it down, but I sent it to the state paper on Tuesday before Mother’s Day, knowing they required six weeks for seasonal pieces. The article appeared in the daily paper the following Sunday. Tears of joy slipped down my face.
“Those are the kind of tears I like to see,” my husband said. “Happy ones.”
They are the kind I prefer to shed.
Not all tears actually spill over, but often they threaten to. Like when I find my mailbox empty and before I remember that an empty mailbox doesn’t mean a rejection.
Rejections come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. My early ones were form letters, causing me to think that maybe a computer read my manuscript. Now, I receive nice rejections. How can that be? They have personal messages and handwritten signatures from real editors.
Acceptances are important and unforgettable because they make me part of the writing profession– a highly competitive field. Checks are important because they help pay for my computer, paper, pencils, postage and groceries.
All writers start with a desire to write and a dream to succeed. Hard work is merely a stepping stone upon which writers must stand in order to see their byline in print.
Seeing my byline in print was the next best thing to being paid for my writing.
May I suggest to new writers, keep your head out of the clouds and watch for your own most unforgettable moment! It will happen!

Books by Freeda Baker Nichols

Books by Freeda Baker Nichols


A U.S. Air Force Boeing KC-97L Stratofreighter...

A U.S. Air Force Boeing KC-97L Stratofreighter (s/n 52-2630) RAF Mildenhall. This aircraft is today on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boeing B-47A Stratojet 49-1902 refueled by Boe...

Boeing B-47A Stratojet 49-1902 refueled by Boeing KC-97. (U.S. Air Force photo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You carried a duffel bag
and carbine rifle aboard the KC-97.
As your plane taxied for take-off,
I held our baby son
more tightly.
See you in a little while.
Your words beat inside my heart
louder than the plane’s big engines
which roared into another country
some hours later.
Your letters came regularly, at first,
then stopped
Missing in Action the uniformed
officers came to tell me.

Your name is engraved
on the Wall of Vietnam Veterans,
forever in my heart
and in the heart of our son
who enlisted yesterday.
See you in a little while.
His words echoed yours
as he departed.
My words stuck in my throat,
reached into my heart and
chipped at the ice caked there.
I watched another determined
young man report for duty
and I begged, oh, please
Dear God, please.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

Holding Memories

Beside the sea she knelt on dampened sand
at water’s edge where jumbled seaweeds sway
close by the spot she last held Cindy’s hand
before tsunami took control that day.
The heap of tangled heartache has no end.
Please let it stop, she prayed, then saw the sky
was red as flames–a warning to extend
to sailors. Please keep him safe. He must not die!
Oh, calm the waters on the raging sea.
Protect his boat as waves rise high and fall.
Give him God Speed and bring him back to me.
Her voice grew dim in roar of summer squall.
Request denied, she wandered on the beach,
her loved ones close in heart–but out of reach.

Copyright, 2013, Freeda Baker Nichols



To the Rescue

My pocketbook is a favorite thing;
I keep it close like a diamond ring.
It’s the first thing I see in morning light
and the last thing I put away at night.
It’s soft yet sturdy, is tossed here and there;
I keep telling myself: treat it with care.
Once, it was new and stood out like a star.
Now, it is greasy from fries spilled in car,
has crayon mark on its long leather strap,
been used like a pillow for grandkid’s nap.
Its zippered compartments hold stuff, you see,
like checkbook, tissues,  my extra car key,
safety pins, paper, phone numbers, a card,
last year’s receipts from big sale in front yard,
lipstick, toothpick, one old quarter, one new,
dog-eared pictures, bottle of Elmer’s glue;
trident, spearmint, my state’s license to drive.
It contains nothing I need to survive,
and yet I take it wherever I go,
vacation out West, I had it in tow.
In desert, we stopped to rest for a while.
As husband checked engine, I said that I’ll
sit down at this picnic table nearby.
I jumped when I heard a sharp, sudden cry.
“Bring pocketbook!” husband said with a shout.
“Need your key! Car’s running and I’m locked out!”

c Copyright, 2012, Freeda Baker Nichols

Replacing the Toothpaste Cap

When my husband leaves
the cap off the toothpaste tube,
sometimes I complain,
but more often than not,
I replace the cap.
His dogs adore him;
they lick his hand,
and stick close by.
His horses trust him.
They neigh their
thanks in the evening
when he takes them feed.
He tells me, “See why
I must be home by dark?”
He removes his hat,
gives a firm salute
when our flag passes by.
He opens his Bible
night and morning
in total commitment.
He speeds but not enough
to get a ticket, won’t
park in a handicap slot,
though he’s qualified.
When I say, “The doves
are few this year,”
he replies, “Love you too, Dear.”
And that’s why, most of the time,
I replace the cap on the toothpaste.

c Copyright 2012, Freeda Baker Nichols