The Burning Hearth July 2020

Gather around the hearth

Welcome to The Burning Hearth. I hoped that COVID-19 would be retreating in our collective rearview mirror by now, but sadly, this is not the case. I hope you and your families continue to be safe and well this summer, and are using this rare moment in time to slow down and forge deeper connections with those you love .

For the June/July pairing, I teamed up with author Amanda Zieba to share our creative nonfictions on that moment when we first knew we wanted to write. Amanda also shares responses from other authors about how they came to writing. Enjoy!

Famous Authors, School Supplies and the Writer's Itch
by Amanda Zieba

If you surveyed a random panel of authors, they would likely agree that the question they get asked the most often is some version of: “When did you begin writing?” or “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?”.

Anne Lamott says she became a writer because, “I want to and I’m good at it.”

Neil Gaiman responds in this way.

“I knew I wanted to become a wrier pretty much as far back as I can remember. When I was about three, I remember inventing a poem and running to my mum and making her write it down and dictating my poem to her. And I loved the idea of being a writer. I like the idea of being the things other kids wanted to be as well: I wanted to explore distant planets and ride dragons and things like that. But mostly, I wanted to be a writer.”

Jennifer A. Nielsen says that “For as far back as I can remember, I have shared my brain with imaginary characters. I figure it’s okay if I talk to them as I’m working on my stories, as long as they don’t start talking back. I began writing in elementary school. My first attempt at a full-length story was in 6th grade when I wrote about a girl who becomes trapped in her daydreams and that world becomes real.”

Maggie Stiefvater, my favorite author, discusses her answer here:, but one major take away for me was this line from the blog post, “I did try, once, to take a creative writing class at my college, but they told me my writing wasn’t promising enough and turned me away. I wasn’t crushed. I was a writer and I was going to learn how to write no matter what.”

My answer to the question, “When did you begin writing?” sounds like this.

My love of writing began somewhere around middle school. To be completely transparent I will say, my love of office supplies began around middle school. More than attending school, I loved the back to school shopping that preceded it. I loved (and still do love) brand new notebooks, liquid-ink pens, fancy planners and fresh packs of markers.

When the time for back to school shopping came, I would scour the ads, searching out the deals and then, despite my preparation and knowledge, insist on walking up and down each and every aisle so that I could make the best choices. Back at home I would neatly label everything with the precision tip of a never-before-used Sharpie and then… my fingers would start to itch. I just had to write something. I had to fill those waiting pages with words. Even though school was weeks away I couldn’t help but crack the covers of the notebooks, bust out the markers and pens, and write.

I usually wrote letters to friends or doodled my name hundreds of times. It didn’t really matter. It was more of an act of physical and artistic pleasure than anything else.

It was also around this time that I fell in love with reading. I believe the combination of these two loves (reading + office supply hoarding) that eventually birthed my desire to write. In school I wrote much longer responses than necessary for assignments and took beautiful notes in class. Somewhere along the way I realized that I could write other things… more interesting things… things that I wanted to write, not just things I was told to write. And voila… I became a writer.

The more serious answer to the question, “When did you begin writing?” is that after I got my teaching degree (The school supply loving extended in other purposeful directions as well!) I couldn’t shake the writing itch. One of the first years my husband and I were married he coached three seasons worth of high school sports, which meant I was home alone, A LOT. I used my free time to dive back into my love of writing. I toiled away on a Young Adult science fiction novel for years before I met the owner of a small indie press who was looking for a writer to extend a series of chapter books for kids about orphan train riders. Eventually this woman taught me how to self-publish my own books. With this magical knowledge in hand, there was no stopping me. I self-published the science fiction novel and its sequel, a picture book, and a writing workbook within the span of three years. And now, in 2020 I am the author of ten books (, with more on the way.

So, if you find yourself obsessed with office supplies or letter writing or books… you may be on the first steps of your writing journey. If you can’t find enough hours in the day to read and spend what little time you have left over daydreaming about adventures you’d take the characters on… you might already be on your way.

P.S. If you are finding yourself in need of that magical knowledge that can lead you on your self-publishing journey, I’d love to help. Check out the Take Action Author Plan ( or my Self-Publishing Coaching Package ( for one on one help to get started.

Author Bio

Do you want to know the best thing about a story? Everyone has one to tell. And that’s why, as a word nerd, Amanda Zieba has the best job in the world. In addition to ten books written for children and adults, she works to help other writers tell their own stories through courses, workshops and retreats. Amanda is a critique leader and board member of her local writing group, and also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two sons. You can connect with her at her website: or on social media.



For my August/September pairing, I’m teaming up with fellow Red Oak Roundtable author Christine Baerbock. I have yet to choose a theme, so for the time being, it’s a surprise.

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