By Joyce Burns Zeiss


Writing is one of the hardest things I do. I am an extrovert. Sitting down by myself and composing my thoughts onto a page is an act of supreme discipline. But I do it because I must.  When my parents read to me as a child, I realized that authors, the ones who wrote the words on those pages, were the most important people in the world and I determined that I would be one someday.

That someday turned out to be in retirement. Though I wrote stories and articles occasionally, I never had the confidence to declare myself a writer until I joined Off Campus Writers Workshop. There I met other aspiring writers, heard inspiring speakers, and dared to turn in some manuscripts for critique.

Through my writing, I plunge into the topics that are most important to me, stories that need to be told because they grab me and say, “Write me.” That is what happened when I wrote my young adult novel, Out of the Dragon’s Mouth, the story of a young girl’s escape from Vietnam.

My friend asked, “Who would want to hear my story?”

“But your story is the story of your people”, I countered. “It’s important that everyone knows what you’ve been through to come to America.”

I write sporadically, and usually when a deadline is imposed. Life is so interesting it’s easy to be torn from writing to living, and yet writing is so important to living that I make sure I have deadlines that call to me like a taskmaster and say “You’d better get busy.”

My lack of discipline may explain why it took me eight years to write my novel. During that time, I joined a novel group where we studied the writing of current authors in addition to being critiqued. Writing for critique groups keeps my writing sharp and clear and the input of other writers often helps me through my periods of writer’s block. I usually write on my computer in the living room, settled in my favorite armchair.  Evening is often the best time; the day is over, and my mind is uncluttered with the to do list that hogs it in the morning. In the summer, my front porch in the cool of a lazy summer morning is where the muse awaits.

The writing life has propelled me into a different world. Though the act of creation is a solitary affair, the community of writers is large and diverse. Being a part of Off Campus Writers Workshop, the Society of Midland Authors, Chicago Writers Association, and The Writers in Glencoe has satisfied the extrovert in me. Promoting and selling my book has also allowed me to meet my readers and connect with other authors.  And It has given me the satisfaction that I have become one of those people who puts the words on the page.


Joyce Burns Zeiss is author of Out of the Dragon’s Mouth, (young adult historical fiction). Flux 2015.