Monday, May 5, 2014

My First Time: Bernie Brown

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Bernie Brown, a retiree from Raleigh, North Carolina with an M.A. in English.  Writing is her primary activity, but she also enjoys reading, sewing, watching movies, and traveling.  Her stories have appeared in several small circulation print magazines and e-zines including Punkin House Digest, All Things Girl, Still Crazy, and Whistling Shade.  She is a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center for the Arts.

My First Moment as a Published Writer

On an ordinary Tuesday in the spring of 2003 I drove into the parking lot of our townhouse and stopped at the mailbox.  Through the driver’s side window, I unlocked the cubbyhole for 730 and pulled out a Kohl’s coupon for 30% off, a bill from the City of Raleigh, and a copy of Writers Journal magazine.  The magazine made me smile.  I didn’t subscribe to it, but often bought it from the Barnes and Noble magazine rack.  My sweet husband Ken must have started a subscription for me.  He often surprised me in ways like that.

I parked the car, tucked the magazine and letters under my arm while unlocking the front door, and put them on the table to look at after dinner.

I was chopping onions and blinking away onion tears when Ken unlocked the door and appeared from his long day at IBM.  We gave each other a quick hello kiss and I said, “Hey, thanks for getting me a subscription to Writers Journal.”

While opening the bill from The City of Raleigh., he gave me a puzzled frown and said, “What subscription?  I didn’t get any subscription.”

There was a pause in which our tired workaday brains tried to figure out why I’d been sent a magazine to which I didn’t subscribe.  We both looked at each other hoping for enlightenment and, in the same moment, realized what that magazine with the yellow flowers on the cover meant.  That magazine that I had thrown aside to look at later just might hold my first-ever published story.  God knows, I’d entered enough of their contests.  We grabbed it and paged through it like desperate children looking for candy and there, on page 34 of the May/June 2003 issue of the Writers’ Journal the shining words of my very own story with my very own name looked back at me, the one that started with the required phrase, “The cold but weak lemonade . . .”

We whooped.  We hollered.  I made phone calls.  I danced around the kitchen singing, “I’m a published writer.  I’m a published writer.”  There was no dignity in the moment at all, just sheer happiness that refused to be contained.  I must have finished chopping those onions and making dinner, but I have no recollection of anything that transpired that evening that wasn’t connected to Me Me Me The Published Writer.

I went on to publish other stories, all of which gave me more doses of that same pride and happiness, but none as complete, none as purely thrilling as “The cold but weak lemonade . . .”


  1. Mmmmmm, and now I'm craving a glass of cold but weak lemonade. Congratulations!

  2. What a delicious feeling, Bernie!

  3. Woo Hoo, Bernie! What a wonderful rendering of that important memory. Congratulations!

  4. I like your use of sensory details in this essay. I can visualize everything.

  5. Lovely moment... congratulations Bernie!