by Michelle Van Loon

“Oh…hey, I was just thinking of you. Our local National Public Radio station is producing a Saturday morning children’s show and they’re always looking for skit scripts. You seem like a creative person. Would you ever be interested in writing something for them?” Sherry, an acquaintance from church, pulled me aside after a service to lob that unexpected question at me.

I was in my early 20’s and working full time in an office job for which I had neither the aptitude nor skills. Every day felt as though it lasted a month – and not February, either. No one on earth knew that I was a dedicated journaler, nor that my first childhood career dream was to be a writer when I grew up. Sherry certainly wasn’t privy to that information about me.

But God knew her question would change my life.

I went to my local library and checked out every book about playwriting on the shelves. My teen years spent listening to Christian radio dramas ranging from Sailor Sam to Unshackled were a helpful point of reference. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t write a usable script for Radio Jam – Live!, a 1980’s show title if ever there was one. I knew I had something to say, and just needed to figure how to say it so it would be meaningful to the kids who listened to the show each week. It was an honor to see my first stumbling attempts produced and broadcast on the program.

I’ve been writing ever since. That first amazing round of acceptances was followed by plenty of rejections through the last four decades. (In fact, I received a rejection email from a publisher just last week.)

Few of us receive invitations to write or speak that are packaged as a flashing neon sign reading “Do this!” like the one I received from Sherry. But I believe many of us have an invitation to tell some part of our story.

Consider this your neon sign.

Of course. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is; it has to be said by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, say it in our own way…Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try, to put down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.

–Madeline L’Engle, from Circle of Quiet HT

When Amanda and I launched this site nearly two years ago, we wondered if anyone at midlife and beyond would be interested in sharing their insight, experience, and wisdom on topics ranging from church to fashion to caregiving. We’ve been gratified by the quality and variety of submissions we’ve received, as well as the conversations some of these posts have helped to shape. PerGen readers have exceeded our expectations!

We’ve had to do a bit of editing on a few posts and have had to turn down a few other submissions along the way. We know there are some of you who visit this site and might be feeling the tug to try creating a post for us (or for other sites you frequent). We know others who’d like some feedback on their work, as well as guidance about what some “next steps” for their writing might look like.

Part of our shared desire for this site is to empower and pass on the words of other men and women at midlife – voices that have often been muted in a culture that values youth and innovation over wisdom and experience. PerGen cofounder Amanda is a veteran writer and editor. In addition to her job as a book editor at Moody Publishers, she’s written for a variety of print and online publications, nonprofits, and corporations, and taught college writing courses for several years. And since I penned those first scripts for the radio in the 1980’s, I’ve published plays, articles, curriculum, and five (soon to be six) books. Both of us have lots of experience mentoring both beginning and veteran writers.

We’re considering offering writing coaching to our PerGen readers. We’re still working through what this might look like (a cohort working through a series of specific assignments? individual mentoring?), as well as what a reasonable cost might be for this service. It is our desire to keep growing the PerGen community, and this is one practical way to do so. We believe in your voices, friends, and want to do what we can to amplify them in this space and beyond.

If you’re interested in knowing more as we make info available, or have questions or ideas for us, please click here to shoot us an email.

Cover photo by Santiago hernandez on Unsplash