Sunday, April 03, 2022

ABC 2--A Tribute to Verda

 I began writing for publication back in the Dark Ages. A few of you Ancient Ones recall those days—telling stories around the fire while the wolves howled in the distance, typing submissions on typewriters with Ko-Rec-Type near at hand, sandwiching carbon paper between the white pages, sending articles in the mail to potential publishers, and eventually seeing our names in magazines or newspapers—in ink, on paper.

Without email or social media, we somehow managed to have a network of writers. Through them, I heard of Verda Glick and her Writers Workshops By Mail.

Verda and her husband Eli had moved to El Salvador as missionaries early in their marriage and eventually made it their home for good. In addition to all her other responsibilities as a pastor’s wife and mother of a large family, Verda was a writer. And on top of all that, she mentored other writers.

As I understand it, every time she received enough requests, she began another writers group. Each group had about six participants, and Verda was an active part of all of them. I think there were ten active groups when I joined, around 1995.

The process was a bit complicated, but it made sense. We were constantly circulating two contributions. On the first round, everyone critiqued everyone else’s chapters, writing in the margins in a specific ink color. The second time around, you got to read what everyone further down the line had commented.

Then you removed your oldest contribution and set it aside, presumably to edit before you sent it out for publication. You wrote a letter to the group, if you wished, added a new manuscript, and mailed the whole packet to the next person on the list.

 I tended to keep the packet too long, which meant I had to add postage stamps for the next person. I’m sure I overshared in the letters and, being a young and fledgling writer, I took everyone’s comments way too personally.

One woman in particular was fiery and opinionated, freely taking issue with the content of our chapters and telling us all how we ought to live, believe, and write. I held a deep hatred and resentment toward her.

At that time I was still enmeshed in the Ella Enchanted curse, where I felt compelled to do exactly what I was told, no matter what it was or who said it, which of course leads inevitably to resentment.

During this time, I had taken a few classes on essay writing and memoirs at the local community college. They were enormously helpful, not so much for the skills I learned as the affirmation that essays were my niche.

I shared about this in a letter to my workshop. Later, I wrote a letter in my usual angsty style about feeling lost in the writing/publishing world, and what direction I should take?

Well. This particular lady—it’s probably good I don’t recall her name--fired back at me, and I’m pretty sure this is verbatim, because it wore a groove in my brain: “Stop taking those silly classes and get on your knees for a few hours instead, and ask God for direction about what to write!”

I was so offended. How DARE she?? It was none of her business!! I LIKED those classes! They HELPED.

I fumed and stewed about this.

Of course I didn’t say this in my letter, because I didn’t know how to be direct, but I think Verda picked up on the tempests blowing in the group. I don’t remember what she said, only that her words were like a soothing ointment on a flaming rash. She affirmed me, my skills, my calling, my classes, my journey—all of it. She sounded calm and good-humored, and she didn’t agree with the other woman or chide my anxiety and immaturity.

My wild feelings settled down, and I found a path forward. A couple of years later, I got a job writing a column for the newspaper and went down that path for the next 19 years.

I don’t hate that feisty woman in the group any more, now that I know she’s allowed to think what she wants, and I don’t have to do what she says.

A few years after the heated exchange in the workshop, I met Verda at the Christian Light Writers and Artists Workshop. She was smiling, motherly, and comfortable. She gave me a huge hug and acted honored to meet me.

Recently, Verda was losing her battle with cancer, and the family invited her friends and readers to send her messages.

What do you say to someone like Verda who is nearing the end of her life?

I went to my magical modern computer and composed an email.  Oh Verda, I'm so sorry to hear the cancer has spread but grateful that He is WITH you and giving you peace. Thank you for your enormous influence on my life and especially my writing. What a gift you are.

I was surprised and delighted to receive a reply. Verda said: Huh?? Me?? Influence YOU and your writing? I don't think so. But oh how you made my day!

How could she not know how she had blessed me? I’ll bet there are hundreds of us, and she had no idea.

In some ways, with the newspaper column ended, I’m once again an angsty young writer trying to find a path forward. I think if she were here, she would give me a hug and assure me that I have what it takes, and it will all work out.

I need to go cry for a little bit now, so I will leave you to think about how you can influence people in your world simply by being gentle, supportive, wise, and affirming, mixed with excellence in your field and warm hugs when the opportunity arises.

I actually located one of the first critiques Verda wrote after I joined the group. This was for an essay about Paul's grandpa.


  1. I love this. If I remember correctly, my mom was in a minister's wives circle letter with Verda back in the day.

  2. Now we want to read the original essay! What a beautiful tribute to a woman I have heard of but never met.

  3. May her memory be for a blessing!

  4. I also now want to read the original essay. What a sweet memory.

  5. Some of the passages in today's post are so soothing! Praise God for such a mentor!

  6. I miss Verda and her lovely newsletters about her family and her friends. I confess I didn't want to believe she was leaving us. My letter to her when her family asked to send her letters of encouragement was in my eyes rather lame. But she loved my letter and said she is grateful for our friendship though we never met in person.
    Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to Verda. Now I think I'm going to go cry!😭

  7. Thanks for sharing this! So encouraging! I began typing stories on a heavy, metal, manual typewriter that was missing one or two keys (I had to add these letters in by hand at the end). Hearing your memories about the old days was fun! I wish I'd had a Verda in my life...

  8. Awe a wonderful tribute to Verda. She has always inspired me. I have great memories of her family coming to the states for a visit and her and Eli with their tribe of blond haired sons came to the school I attended. Eli usually led in a school chapel which happened every Friday. Verda often visited the classrooms and shared about happenings in El Salvador. Now her only daughter is married to one of the owners of the business my husband works for. I spent a short time with her since her Mother's passing. It was a joy to share together our memories of Verda!

  9. Reading everyone's wonderful memories of Verda makes me want to cry again.😭