Leanda Michelle joins me in the attic today to tell the story of how she started writing and her 14-year journey to publication. As I read this piece, once again I was reminded of how persistent and courageous we have to be in following our dreams.
Leanda is a writer and author, a workshop creator and facilitator, and an advocate and educator of alternative healing methods. She believes everyone has the power within to heal and rewrite their story.
She’s also a disciplined yoga and Pilates fan, loves capturing photographic moments in nature, is confident in the kitchen, passionate about travelling to sacred places and loves to sing as though no one were listening. Leanda aspires to uplift and empower others to live a meaningful life. Presently, she’s completing her novel.
Read on to learn more about Leanda’s interesting life and her writing.
What writing means to me
When I was 37 weeks pregnant with my third son, I had my first tarot card reading. While the reader did not reveal what my life’s purpose was at that time, he did plant a seed. ‘This baby can’t come soon enough… it’s like you’re bored with life.’ I clearly remember looking at him intrigued, as he’d summed up perfectly how I felt—how did he know? There had to be more to life.
Three years later, we moved away from the family farm in the Riverland of South Australia to Karratha in Western Australia. As a friend and Reiki teacher was leaving our house one day, she glanced at a glamour portrait of me taken in 1995, turned and asked, ‘Have you written a book?’
‘Well, you’d better get started.’
This prompted me to take a writing course via correspondence. I enjoyed the first ten modules: writing for magazines, articles, short stories, and plotting for a novel, to name a few. When it came to writing for radio, television and screenplays, I lost interest. It was the initial learning, though, that saw the draft of my first book written two and a half years later.
In the same year, 2003, I attended a writer’s conference in Romsey, Victoria. The property was owned by author, John Marsden. While there, an editor from University of Queensland Press gave me my first piece of feedback. They felt it was an interesting story, but told me to rewrite it fictionally.
I shelved it, and decided to have a go at writing children’s books and poetry instead. Six years passed. I busied myself with raising three sons, took on casual jobs to assert my independence, and supported my former husband in his work and business ventures. We moved again, this time to Gippsland, Victoria, because my husband missed the land.
Wanting to write and feeling unable to with so many responsibilities, my husband and I eventually separated. Ten months later he was killed in a farming accident.
Devastated and emotionally drained, I left my job in the aged care industry and devoted one year to rewrite my story, fictionalised. At first I wrote it for him, to share my former husband and best friend’s story. But I soon realised it was about me and finding my voice. When I’d completed it some months later, as luck would have it, I met a manuscript assessor in my local neighbourhood—she was in the throes of packing to leave town. She kindly agreed to read my story, and responded three months later saying that while she loved my story, it had lost all its emotional intensity and recommended rewriting it in the first person.
It took 14 years to publish my first book.
I decided then that I didn’t know enough about writing and undertook a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. Throughout this grueling one year intensive course, I found my voice.
It took 14 years to publish my first book. By then my voice and message had changed significantly, and my book became part memoir and part handbook. The title also changed four times.
I recall the day I intended to hit the publish button for the first time. I put my title in the search bar at Amazon to make sure no one else had used it, only to discover someone had published the same title only months previously! I sat on it for another day, consulted a friend, procrastinated and agonized, then hit the publish button anyway.
Since then I’ve published another memoir, ghostwritten an autobiography for a senior Gippsland resident, and have just completed the draft of my third memoir and a new piece of work of a different genre. I write the memoirs because it is how I make sense of my world. Writing is an effective form of healing. I share my adventures with others with the view to inspire them on their journey.
I write the memoirs because it is how I make sense of my world.
I was purposeful in my intent to self-publish, not because I believed a publisher wouldn’t take my stories, rather I wanted to learn about and be involved in every aspect of the journey into publishing.
If there is one message I can pass on, it is to never give up on your dreams. If I can do it, so can you. While English was my best subject at school, the only time I can recall writing anything noteworthy was in year nine when I shared how I felt about being bullied—I was awarded an A+.
It was never my dream to be an author. Once I found my voice, though, I didn’t want to stop. I found writing was the glue that kept my emotions intact. I healed from the inside, out.
I found writing was the glue that kept my emotions intact. I healed from the inside, out.
While I call myself a full-time writer, and love sharing my writing workshops in the local community, I also have another love—singing. Little did I know that I would share my life’s experiences through my written words and assist others on their journey’s path.
My writing dreams are to see one or more of my writing projects made into a movie and to write a creative masterpiece that is published traditionally—it’s a work in progress!
If you’d like to contribute a personal essay for Writers in the Attic, please contact me here. The topic is fairly loose—it can be about anything to do with writing or your writing life or what writing means to you. 600-1000 words is a good length.
I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces by sending a small gift as a thank you.
I love reading every essay I receive, so please don’t be frightened to take the plunge!