Debra Winegarten first became a central figure in my life in August of 2015 when she and I tied for third place in the Story Circle Network’s Life Writing competition.
I didn’t meet her, however until April 14, 2016. It was my first Story Circle Network conference, I was deep into writing my memoir, and excited to be meeting in person the women in our Works-In-Progress (WIP) writing circle. I had come to appreciate these women writers for all the experience and wisdom they share, but because I hadn’t met them in person, I had difficulty keeping them straight in my mind. I looked forward to putting faces to the names that held such meaning for me.
I walked into the bookstore and on the wall was an arrow with the words “Famous Author” written inside it. My eyes followed the arrow pointing to Deb sitting at her book table wearing a mischievous grin. There are several images of her in the heart collage photo pointing to herself with that same grin. Deb knows she is good and she doesn’t take herself seriously.
She does, however, take her mission seriously, both as a writer and a publisher. She is committed to “Transforming Society One Story at a Time.” She is a master marketer. As an extrovert, it comes easier to her than for some of us more introverted writers. I learned a lot in the workshop she offered at the conference. I often try to channel her energy for my own efforts.
One evening, the WIP writing circle had dinner together. Deb and I made a what-was-for-me special connection. She showed us the galleys for the children’s book she had been telling us about online, Almost a Minyan. It is a tale of a little girl who makes a breakthrough in her temple by being allowed to form a minyan after the death of her grandfather. Deb looked at me and said, “You get this, don’t you?” In the mid-70s, as a part of the first wave of women attending seminary in large numbers, I did.
After I returned home, I took increased notice of her posts. “The Debster,” the name that perfectly captures this part of her personality, wow’s our group with all she accomplishes in a week. (On Monday, we share what we intend to complete during the week and on Friday report in on what actually happened). We couldn’t help but be impressed with her unbounded energy and enthusiasm for life.
In addition, she continued to cheer us on with great writing suggestions as well as teaching us marketing tricks of the trade. In addition, she taught the members of our writing circle how to make Outrageous Requests. I have saved many of those e-mails. As an introvert, making these requests is a challenge for me. But I began to practice channeling Deb. If not for her, I would never have had the courage.
Deb goes by many names, and Devorah is the one that fits for this public speaking/book selling experience. She won my heart when she shared with our WIP group an amazing story of ministering to a woman who had just lost her husband. She added,
All that to say that it’s really, really clear to me that what I’m doing here has nothing to do with selling books. Or even writing books. There’s something else going on, it has to do with my purpose in life. From what I can tell, the books are just an excuse or a vehicle for me to interact with people so that whatever gift I’m supposed to share with them can comes through.
It is clear that she cares deeply for people.
Shortly after we met at the conference, my daughter faced a weeks-long health crisis resulting in her moving in with me. I kept the WIP group updated on what was going on. I think it was sometime after that Deb began to refer to me as her “third-place-award-winning sister” and I began to be the recipient of her “deep care” for people.
I’m giving a final exam the afternoon of September 7th, I could go straight from school to the airport, and have plenty of time to grade the exams on the plane. Looks like I can get a round trip flight for $300, that’s a great deal.
That way, I could ‘woman’ the table for you if you wanted to go attend sessions and schmooze and meet people. I mean, you know, we third-place-winner sisters have to stick together and support each other and everything. And someone has to be your paparazzi and help make you famous on Facebook… What do you think?
I was floored at her generosity.
She posted lots of pictures on Facebook and wrote to our WIP group saying,
Greetings from San Francisco where I’m watching in awe as Linda alternates between selling the heck out of her new book and providing pastoral counseling love as (mostly women) caregivers stop by her book table and share their stories.
She wasn’t kidding about the heart-wrenching nature of this disease her ex-husband carried and gave to their children. I’ve had an encyclopedic lesson in a few short hours. She’s sold I think 14 books so far and it’s only 2:30 pm here, she will certainly sell out all the books she brought.
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Linda did magnificently this weekend, exceeded her own expectations in several areas. I won’t give anything away, they’re her brags to tell. I’ll just say that it was a privilege to witness her metamorphosis first-hand.
But that wasn’t the end of her generosity. She continued to coach me related to marketing and cheering me on.
When time approached for the 2018 SCN Conference (July 19-22) and my business coach nixed my plan to attend, Deb offered me a full scholarship, frequent flyer miles, and rooming with her at the hotel. Because she knew I’d have difficulty accepting her generous offer, she asked me to do her a big favor…sell her books at the conference. How could I decline such a big-hearted offer and opportunity to return the favor. Besides, she’s just plain fun to be with.
For now, I just want to introduce you to Deb, my third-place-winning sister of my heart. And I realized as I wrote that I needed to write to sort out what Deb means to me. Yesterday I wrote and wrote and wrote and last night when I went to bed, I realized that her real purpose in my life is not because she taught me about marketing and making outrageous requests, not because of her generous gifts of support, as valuable as those are. For Deb, those are the “vehicle for me to interact with people so that whatever gift I’m supposed to share with them can come through.”
Deb’s gifts of support touched the soul of the little girl who still resides within me…the little girl who was neglected and felt like a bother. With a wonderful person such as Deb reaching out to me unbidden and so generously … well, my soul is stronger as a result. Deb is a gift I will always treasure and carry in my heart and soul.
Life intervened and attending the SCN conference did not go as planned. That will be the topic of my next post.
For now, please bring into your memory someone who has touched your heart and soul and made a profound difference in your life. And if you are so inclined, I’d love for you to share your story in the comments.