I met Norma Beasley years ago when she attended a workshop I gave at a community church, and since that first meeting, I have learned so many fascinating things about this wonderful, talented woman.
When I offer a workshop, Norma is usually the first one to sign up and the first one to show up the day of the event. Her enthusiasm for writing and for the friendships she’s developed in Writing Your Life classes is without limits. She continues to learn all she can to hone her craft and has a darn good time along the way.
I’d love for you to get to know Norma Beasley as I am privileged to know her and hear more about the fabulous project she’s working on.
WYL: Can you please tell our readers a little about yourself and your project?
Norma: I was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, a small university town, home of the University of West Virginia Mountaineers, about seventy-five miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
At two and a half years of age, I was an orphan, never knowing my parents. I have no siblings. By the time I reached seven years old, my paternal grandmother could no longer care for me and sent me to live with my maternal grandparents. My granddad, a restaurateur, cared for me until I graduated from high school.
I attended West Virginia University and earned a BFA degree in art. Then, I became an art instructor in Richmond, Virginia, but left the teaching profession after one year to pursue a master’s degree in art at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York.
I received my MFA degree in 1967. A year later, I was hired by Harcourt, Brace and World, school publishers in New York, as an art editor. In 2003, I retired as a managing art director after thirty-five years of service at Harcourt. I now reside in Orlando.
WYL: What motivated you to start writing your book?
Norma: My writing journey began in 2007 when I decided to join family members in organizing our first family reunion. I did not come from a large, loving family but realized we had two octogenarians [someone who is between eighty and eighty-nine years old] among us who were about to pass away with gobs of family history, but they never had the opportunity to share such information. I wanted to take a memento to share at the reunion, but I didn’t know what to take or how to write about anything significant.
One weekend while browsing through the Orlando Sentinel, I saw an announcement about a writing presentation at a local church. I decided to attend. Patricia was the guest speaker that day and mentioned her First Saturday Writing Workshops, which sealed the deal for me. I signed up for classes.
Not long afterward, she offered nine-week classes in the afternoons where class members studied the craft of writing by accomplished authors. We had critiques and published a class anthology after each spring and fall session. We also gave public readings. That’s how I got started in my writing, and I never looked back.
WYL: You’ve shared an experience I’ve heard from many others: having a desire to preserve stories of loved ones and not knowing where to start. Then somehow, things fall into place—a person takes an important first step of attending a workshop or signing up for a class. Then they’re on their way to achieving their writing dreams. I love when that happens.
Congratulations on having that desire, being open to the opportunities presented, and taking action. Well done, Norma.
What is your hope/goal for your book? How has Writing Your Life helped you accomplish these desires?
The classes with Patricia have brought great joy into my life, more than I had ever imagined. They add sustenance to my life as well, and she is a great teacher. Always well prepared, pleasant, and accepting of everyone.
The audience for my book is young adults (ages eighteen to thirty). Many of our youth have lost their moral compass in navigating life, and their spiritual evolution is practically non-existent. Life requires mental toughness, self-reliance, and perseverance to be successful. One’s perspective and attitude are critical as well.
It is my hope that our youth recognize a power within themselves that can act as a guiding force for good. I call this power the master within. Others know it as the still small voice. It is softer than a whisper, closely aligned with intuition, yet unmistaken.
What I thought was a bummer in my early life became a blessing in disguise. True, I missed out on a mother’s love and father’s protection, but I met many friendly people along the way who were helpful in my evolution as a young woman. I hope my audience will be inspired by my stories and become the very best they are meant to be.
WYL: Those are beautiful hopes, Norma. What process have you developed in your writing practice to help you achieve these goals? What writing rituals do you have?
Norma: I don’t have any set writing rituals. The only ritual I have is to say a prayer every morning before I begin my day. Just sitting on my patio in the morning with a cup of coffee is enough to inspire my writing. I’m grateful for that opportunity.
Sometimes I begin a story. Sometimes I finish one. Sometimes I only write a paragraph. I feel close to nature. It’s quiet. The birds are chirping. Squirrels are jumping from limb to limb. The stray cats have dropped by to say “hello.” All is right with the world in those moments.
WYL: What words of wisdom do you have for those who are aspiring to take the next step in their writing journey?
Norma: Always write to your strength—what you know and like. To do otherwise would not be true to self.