Friday, August 15, 2014

Teachers as Writers-Why They’re a Good Fit

by Jewell Tweedt

Exactly 30 years ago I was a disillusioned young teacher looking to make a career change. Searching through help wanted ads I came across a job listing for a Merchandising Assistant. Now I didn’t know what that was but I did have some retail experience and a lot of chutzpah. I applied for the job, was interviewed by the president of the discount chain, and got the position. I spent fifteen years with the organization and received several promotions. Why was I successful? Because as a teacher I had skills that transferred: I was organized, I was creative and most importantly, I could follow through.

The skills that are useful as a teacher also help in business and writing is a business. It’s creative and fluid but also a business. Writers produce a product and market it, if they finish the darn book.

Organization- Teachers juggle curriculum, meetings, parents, discipline and instruction. Most of them are trying to get better at their profession. Writers juggle their stories, interviews, signings, self-discipline (sometimes I’d rather go outdoors), writing and re-writing. They are always trying to improve their product and themselves.

Creativity-Teachers are always looking for new methods to interest their students and themselves. They research new sources, and collaborate with others. Writers are always looking for new ways to tell a story, write it better and collaborate with writers through local groups and national organizations.

Inspiration can come at any time and any place. This year as I was teaching a unit on American westward expansion I told my students about how women made money during the California Gold Rush by cooking and sewing for miners. Some women became quite wealthy.
As I looked out over my group of teenagers I asked, “What if a teenage girl got stranded in a rough camp. How would she survive?”  The ensuing discussion led to my latest book, Gold in My Pocket-A Gold Rush Diary. Laura Webb is a fifteen year old who is stranded in Black Gulch, California with no family, few friends and gold in her pocket. Over a three year period she defends her honor, supports herself and finds her own way (and some romance).   

This book was easy to write and to finish: I had the background knowledge, primary sources and about 75 female students to pull character traits from. Plus I’ve written a series called The Back to Omaha Adventures so I had some experience to draw from.

Follow-through- Not only do teachers plan, they instruct and assess. That takes preparation and time. Then assessments are given, work is evaluated and recorded. That takes follow-through. This past year I had 140 students under my tutelage. How did I manage that AND write a book? By having a plan and setting a time to write. Each afternoon after school and before I started chores and dinner I’d write. For 45 minutes I’d write as much as I could in the diary. After dinner I’d edit and rewrite. Then I put it away. Life balance is important otherwise it’s too easy to get overwhelmed.

Effective writers know that too. Everything takes longer than it should. Work needs to be edited and the darn book must get finished! Changes occur with titles, covers, even agents and publishers. But isn’t that true in most endeavors? It doesn’t matter if you’ve never earned an educator license, everyone teaches someone or something and can develop these qualifications.  Take a look at your organization, creativity, and follow-through and you’ll see why you as a teacher and a writer are a good fit.

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for Jewell's Christmas novel, When Christmas Bells are Ringing.

Click to Buy 
When Christmas Bells are Ringing is the fourth and final book in the popular Back to Omaha Adventures Series.

Widow Connie Simonson is too busy with her restaurants and an active son to even consider a romance.

Dr. James Connor is so dedicated to healing the townspeople of Omaha that he forsakes his own needs.

But Christmas is coming and a mysterious stranger can't help but interfere-she answers to a higher calling.
Time is running out-can she deliver a second chance for love as Christmas bells are ringing?

Gold in My Pocket
March 27, 1850 Dear Diary, Papa struck it rich this morning! He found his nugget. It weighs over seven pounds. He came racing into the store to show me before he went to the assayer’s office. It looks like a big ugly rock to me but he was cradling it against his bony chest like a baby. I wanted to go with him but he said it was too dangerous. He’ll be back to take me to dinner at a new café to celebrate. I can’t wait. I’m going to go wash my hair and press my best calico dress. Maybe now I’ll have my papa back. I’m going to try and convince him to take me east, on the next wagon train or ship. We’ll build that cottage and we’ll be a family again. Praise God!
March 28, 1850 Dear Diary, Papa never came back. I waited and waited by the back door.
When will I learn?
 March 31, 1850 Dear Diary, He’s dead.
Jewell Tweedt is the author of the fictional series, The Back to Omaha Adventures, and the newly published diary, Gold in My Pocket. She is a field editor for Our Iowa Magazine, teaches American History and loves reading, old movies and anything Okoboji.      



  1. Hi Jewell:

    I think the common denominator here is that good teachers are plotters and that gives them a big advantage when going into writing.

    I don’t know if you’ve experienced teachers who pantser through classes and have no lesson plans to leave substitutes -- but I can tell you it’s not a pretty sight.

    I’d love to read your Christmas book and the one about the Gold Rush. I like the theme of that book.


  2. My thoughts are teachers understand the workings of a child's mind. When I'm with my grandchildren, my creativity explodes!
    Super post!

  3. Great post! I've always admired how organized and creative teachers are.

  4. wow. great post. i love where you got the idea for your book "Gold in My Pocket". And your explanation on how you got your book written dove-tails so nicely with what Ruthy posted yesterday.

    I'm learning it's all about baby steps and doing the little stuff that eventually adds up to BIG stuff.


  5. Jewell,
    Lovely post. I especially took note of the following:

    "Life balance is important otherwise it’s too easy to get overwhelmed."

    An important lesson that's sometimes hard to learn.

    I brought Georgia peaches and freshly baked pound cake for a morning pick-me-upper! Enjoy!

  6. Hello Vince,
    Good teachers ARE plotters but as you know when we work with kids anything can happen so being able to improvise comes in handy too.


  7. DiAnn,
    I agree.
    Nothing can jumpstart me like a class of 13 year olds. And I mean that in a positive way.;)

  8. Hi Jackie,
    Most teachers are and take a great deal of pride in their profession.Thanks for visiting today.

  9. Hi DebH,

    Glad you liked it. Small steps do add up. I was at a meeting last month with Mary Connealy and she was advising a new writer to sit down and write 300 words a day.

    Great advice because it all adds up.We women are so good at multi-tasking that 300 words isn't much at all.

  10. Hello Debby Giusti,
    Peaches and pound cake! Yum! Soon as I find my car keys I'll be over.

    Life balance is important.That's why I love summers.I can concentrate on writing. Then when fall rolls around I can shift priorities to teaching and write a smaller amount in the evenings. Thanks for visiting today.

  11. Jewell, what a great story! When I was in school, I loved writing journals for my history assignments. :) I'm sure I'll love your book!

    Those are great points about being a teacher. I was a scientist in the days before children. But I did teach part-time several years ago. It definitely made me learn to be prepared ahead of class time! I spent way more time than the job called for.

  12. Hi, DiAnn! It's great to see you here.

    I can't wait to have grandchildren to try out your theory! So far, I only have a grand-dog, and he seems to inhibit creativity by trying to lie across my laptop keyboard for attention. :)

  13. I've noticed many writers were once teachers...Thanks for the opportunity to win your book, Jewell. I love anything to do with Christmas! :)

  14. Jewell the blurb for Gold in My Pocket is chilling. Really well done and I have to find out what happens!!!!

  15. And thanks for quoting my advice. For good or ill I seem to never be able to quit giving advice!

    BE AFRAID!!!

  16. But Mary, we love your advice! Like push your hero off a cliff, or crash a wagon or drop in a dead body or… wait, I think I detect a pattern here.

  17. I found when I was teaching, my creativity often came in handy. I had to be creative and think outside the box to come up with ways to help the children learn when the normal methods weren't working. I also wanted to make learning fun and exciting.

  18. Missy,
    Many kids still like to write diaries/journals as school projects. Each year I have them keep a journal as if they were on the trail with Lewis and Clark.
    I thought this was my original idea until I came across a book by Stephen Ambrose where he writes as one of the explorers. Oh well, great minds think alike! Right! ;)

  19. Jennifer,
    Everyone is a teacher someway or somehow.

    I like Christmas books too- especially with hot coffee and the snow falling outside...

    Anyway you're in the drawing. Good luck.

  20. Jewell, the other thing I liked to do was write about the future (cars on tracks in the air, etc). Yeah, I was probably influenced a little by the Jetsons. :)

  21. Hi Mary,

    I was near your neck of the woods yesterday. I met with the lovely Friends of the Library ladies of
    Mo Valley.

    Thanks for having me here today.

  22. Wilani,

    I know what you mean. You sound like the upbeat kind of teacher I want in the room next to me when I'm pulling my hair out.

    Yup, we have those kinds of days.

  23. Missy,

    I loved the Jetsons. I wanted to be daughter Judy, she was so dang cute with that high ponytail.

  24. JEWELL! Next time you're coming north let me know. I'll come if I can.

    I'd love to see you in action. :)

  25. Interesting observations, Jewell! Welcome and thanks for sharing your thoughts in Seekerville today!

    A million years ago (at least it feels that way) I thought I would become a teacher. Then life interrupted in the form of our two daughters born a year apart, and my career intentions got sidetracked by motherhood.

    But I think you're right--both the innate skills in a teacher-type personality and those we develop both through experience and out of necessity are great assets for a writer. Congratulations on the success those skills have brought you in your writing!

  26. Oops, I see VINCE is raising the plotter/panster debate again.

    Read my lips:


  27. Jewell, I wanted to be Judy, too! And I also wanted all those gadgets they had.

  28. Very interesting, Jewell. I taught for 10 years and currently I am working as a substitute teacher. So I could relate to everything you wrote about teaching. One advantage to being a substitute is that I am working with all different age groups, which can give me more background for my writing.

    I do have a question, though. How do you find time to write in the evenings and still do lesson plans, grade papers, etc? When I was teaching in the classroom, I had no time to do anything except school work. You do sound super organized.

    Please enter me in your drawing. I love Christmas books! I start reading them as soon as Halloween is over.

  29. Oh, WOW, Jewell ... talk about gold!! You're sitting in a bloomin' goldmine there, girl, teaching a class of teenage girls!! Based on that input alone, your novel has to be fascinating and fun!!

    I definitely concur that teachers are a VERY good fit as writers, ESPECIALLY those who teach English composition and drama, such as the case with my prayer partner and best friend! ;)

    This dear friend teaches middle school and just wrote a Holocaust novel for that age group based on a guest speaker who came to her school. Seems this guest speaker had a harrowing escape from Germany when she was only 15, becoming the lone survivor of her family who all died in a concentration camp. The moment my friend heard this woman's story, she arranged to interview her and get her permission to write a historical novel loosely based on it. I am happy to say my friend has had a request for the entire ms. by a New York publisher, a feat that ties in nicely with the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust this year.

    Further proof that not only are teachers fully equipped with all the necessary attributes you mentioned needed for being a writer, but they are sitting smack dab in a treasure trove of ideas and characters and feedback!

    You said: "How did I manage that AND write a book? By having a plan and setting a time to write. Each afternoon after school and before I started chores and dinner I’d write. For 45 minutes I’d write as much as I could in the diary. After dinner I’d edit and rewrite. Then I put it away. Life balance is important otherwise it’s too easy to get overwhelmed."

    OH, AMEN TO THAT ... a theme that dovetails nicely with Ruthy's post yesterday as well. Thanks for your insight as well.


  30. "Everything takes longer than it should."

    So true!!

    Your book sounds wonderful :)

  31. MOrning Jewell and welcome to Seekerville.

    What a lovely post and ecouraging since I am a retired teacher. As Vince said, being a plotter helps in both professions-smile

    Thanks for sharing and have fun today.

  32. Hi Jewell! I loved your post because I've been a teacher in some capacity for several years. It's encouraging to think that my teaching skills can help with writing. I've never actually thought about the similarities before. I also had to smile at the name of your character, Laura Webb. That's the name of one of my closest friends from school growing up : ). Blessings to you! Stacey Daniel travelingstacey(at)bellsouth(dot)net

  33. Hi Jewel! Your tips are great, and I m sure being a teacher comes with tons of inspiration: from your teaching curriculum, subjects, students, parents, even just whatever you overhear in the hall!

    I will definitely checkout the Back to Omaha series. My hometown, so very near and dear to my heart!

    Have a wonderful day, and I'd love to read Gold in My Pocket as well!

  34. Mary,
    I will. I'd pull you into the conversation too. Tag-teaming is fun! I may be going to Logan in the fall. I will let you know.

  35. Myra,
    Life does get in the way. I had a long, long gap between teaching careers. I'm getting good at reinventing myself. It's part of the jest of life.Thanks for joining in.

  36. Julie,
    It's a pleasure to hear from you. I've admired your work for a long time.

    I keep a notebook on my desk and when I hear a gem come out of the mouths of these kids I write it down. Not the four letter ones of course! ;)

    Someday I may get a book out of it.

  37. Hey, Sherri.

    Thanks for stopping in. The books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Kindle.

  38. Hi Sandra,
    Thanks for your comment. My goal is to someday be a retired teacher!

    Have a super day.

  39. What a tribute to teachers. And mommies are teachers too!

    Welcome Jewell!

  40. Hi Stacey,
    That's funny about your friend's name being Laura Webb too. I usually name characters from old friends and family but this one came out of the air. Maybe your Laura was sending out vibes.


  41. Stephanie,

    What part of Omaha did you grow up in? I was raised near 35th and Center Streets then moved to 132nd and Center.

    Please do check out the Back to Omaha Adventures. Book one Faith of the Heart is only available through me but the others are on Amazon. I can get you a copy if you want.


  42. Hi Tina,

    Thanks- mommies are the most important teachers!!!

  43. Great post, Jewell---and as a former teacher (for 21 years) I agree with your words!
    Especially true about having that balance--very important in all areas of life, I think. :)

    Grabbing a Georgia peach and cake that Debby Giusti brought--YUM!

    Thank you again for sharing with us today, Jewell.
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  44. Hi Jewell,

    Another teacher here. (high school business) Love the positive slant you put on us.

    Your books sound great.

    Fresh coffee brewing.

  45. Hi Patti Jo,
    Greetings from Iowa. We don't have the good peaches too often but we do have great sweet corn this time of year. I'm always glad to hear from another teacher. They understand what it's like to stand up in front of kids everyday and keep things rolling.

  46. Jewel, I grew up near 60th and Redick (now Sorenson Parkway) area, near Immanuel Hospital. I now live in the 144th and Maple area, but we're looking to move closer to Bellevue. Hubby works down there and I work downtown, so shorter commute times mean more time to write!

    I'd love one of your books! We'll talk next time the I.N. group has a get together!

  47. Hello Helen,

    Sounds like the teachers are taking over Seekerville today. Thanks for reading my post and check out the books on Amazon. You might like my book,Faith and Hope-Grace's Story.Grace is a teacher with a secret that could destroy her life.

    Enjoy that coffee.

  48. Stephanie,
    Sounds good. For years I lived not far from Immanuel near 93rd and Fort. My doc is based out of Immanuel so I know the area well. Small world. Looking forward to the next I.N. get together. Talk is of going to lunch somewhere soon.

  49. Hi Jewell:

    Teachers also make good diplomats. They get to see about every human personality type before those psyches develop enough guile to hide their true natures. This is also part of the teacher/writing story as well.

    I find all your covers to be fascinating. Seekers like posts on cover art. Perhaps you can tell us more about yours.

    I’ve seen all your covers and they are particularly interesting – especially for Indie publishers.

    Did you design the covers yourself?

    While each cover has an individual look and feel each still expresses enough fusion to be recognized as part of a group. However, one of them, “Gold in My Pocket” looks like an expressionist painting. At first glance I thought it might be a part of an Edvard Munch painting. (I went to Norway to see his work in person so that’s a compliment. :))

    What happened? You had four really beautiful realistic art covers and then you went abstract!

    Did you pick the covers yourself? What message is the “Gold in my Pocket” cover designed to convey to a potential reader? I associate a cover with abstract art like that one to be seeking readers who are into high literary works. In fact, the more abstract a cover looks, the more I think it is a mystical, new age, philosophical, or poetic work.

    BTW: Your ‘click to buy’ link to “Gold in my Pocket” goes only to the paperback page with no mention that there is a Kindle version. I took that link and was very disappointed when I discovered you did not have a Kindle edition. So what a surprise I got when I went back to get a second look at your cover artwork by using the Amazon search engine and found myself on the Kindle page! This page has no mention that there is a paper version of the book.

    I think a little plotting would help to get these two pages to cross-reference. Not that the way you have it now is wrong; it would just be more efficient and productive of sales to plan for both contingencies with the use of cross links.

    Also,the blurb and the artwork were so compelling that I immediately downloaded the Kindle book. I’d hope to have it read by tonight! I think the idea for “Gold in my Pocket” would qualify as ‘high concept’.

    Now what can you tell all us “Indie” fans about those covers?


  50. Sandy,
    I just realized I didn't answer your question.I do lesson plans at school while my kids are working on their projects.Then of course I come in early to get papers graded and I can chew a peanut butter sandwich and do other tasks during my 30 minute lunch.
    I don't spend a lot of time in the halls after school with the whiners and complainers.Who needs that negativity?
    Oh and twice a month I host a writing club in my room where kids come and talk about what they are working on.I am always surprised about how creative some of them are.

  51. Jewell I just did what Vince did.
    there are definitely two SEPARATE listings for Gold in My Pocket. They have separate for a book and a Kindle, separate list of reviews.

    I wonder what's up?

  52. I've been a 'Jill of all trades', including a primary grade teacher in the period before my children arrived, but I've never thought much about what great preparation that was for my writing. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Jewell.

  53. Vince,
    Thank you for your compliments on the covers. I have a fellow teacher help me with the covers and we selected the images from Createspace's choices. I too like the cover of Gold In my Pocket and now that you mention it,it is kind of Impressionistic. Actually I chose it because it was as close as i could get to a scene where someone might be panning gold in a river.

    I'll look into the links and why things aren't connected.Thanks again. I hope you enjoy Gold in my Pocket. The sequel, titled Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace, will be up for sale in a couple weeks. Please watch for it.

  54. Mary,
    I'll try to fix it but this is NOT my strong suit!!!

  55. Carol,
    Thanks for commenting. I'm glad to hear it was thought-provoking.That's the best comment a teacher can hear.

  56. JEWELL SAID: "I keep a notebook on my desk and when I hear a gem come out of the mouths of these kids I write it down. Not the four letter ones of course! ;)"

    LOL ... good to know, although I bet you hear quite a few from time to time ... ;)

    Thank you for your kind words, my friend, MUCH appreciated coming from a respected peer.


  57. Julie,
    You are welcome and once in awhile the kids let things slip but I give them the "I am a lady and don't allow that in my classroom" lecture. It works! LOL

  58. Jewell, you sound like a very organized person. Of course, I know that is the secret to working full time and still writing. When I was teaching I could never get much done during the day. But I probably also didn't have the best time management. And I was much younger when I was teaching in my own classroom. I believe I would be much more organized today. And I understand completely about the whining and complaining! You definitely don't need that.

  59. Sandy I try but I'm not as good as I should be. I can never find my sunglasses or that coupon I cut out...

    Thanks again for commenting.Jewell

  60. Jewell, that is a super excerpt from Gold in My Pocket! Oh my gosh, that last sentence is powerful and ominous.

    Thanks for the thought-prompting post, too :-)

    Nancy C

  61. Hi Nancy C.,
    I'm glad it got your attention. It was supposed to.

    Please check out the book on Amazon.


  62. Vince, I agree! Teachers are plotters with pantsers' souls!

    They have to plot lessons... but they have to use teachable moments, too!

    Jewell, welcome back! So nice to have you here.

  63. Hello Ruth,
    It;s nice to be back. I've enjoyed talking with people today. Thanks for joining in.


  64. Working today, I tried to stop in earlier but got called away and then Mr. Blogger had a disagreement with Ms. HP and they had words.... Brats.

  65. For all you awesome published authors! If your sales are down this week I can tell you why. I was in Walmart this evening for my weekly shopping trip. Would you believe they had pallets of bird seed and dog food parked right up against their shelves of books. There was no way you could get to the books to even look at them let alone buy them.

    I am not always able to buy a book every week. But I love to look at them read the covers and decide which books I want to buy when I have the extra money.

    I had to go running around the store to find someone to help me and then wait for them to get someone else to move the pallets. While I waited for someone to come I pulled my camera out of my purse. Apparently readers are not important to Walmart!

    The picture has now been posted on my timeline on Facebook.

    You don't mess with my ability to be able to get to books!

  66. Wilani,
    Good for you. People love books, people need books.

    I am glad you overcame the obstacles.


  67. I was looking for Love Inspired books in Shoppers Drug .. Not one! I will be looking for yours, Jewel! Great post, even for me, and I'm not a writer

  68. Marianne,

    Thanks i appreciate that. You can find my books on Amazon books and Kindle.

  69. Thanks to everyone who stopped in today at Seekerville and thanks to Mary Connealy and the Seekerville ladies for hosting me. I will draw a name tomorrow and send it to Mary to post.If your name is chosen please contact me at and I will send you your free book.

  70. Both my parents were teachers. I do know about all the different "hats" they had to wear.

  71. Hi Ruth:

    I know it is way too late for your to read this but if someone does and brings it to your attention, I'd like to comment on this quote of yours:

    "Vince, I agree! Teachers are plotters with pantsers' souls!"

    I can agree with that but I'd like to point out that "Plotters also have pantsers' souls". In fact, that hardest part in being a plotter is keeping your pantser soul from taking over!