Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Jenni Hesterman

Musings of a Novice Blogger
By Jenni Hesterman

A few years ago, I retired from a rewarding, yet hectic military career. Juggling motherhood and increasing work responsibilities, chaos encompassed my life like a thick fog, never allowing for quiet moments of reflection or the psychological “space” I needed to write.

All of that changed dramatically when, suddenly, I was alone all day, my family at work and school. Living in rural England at the time, I was also suffering through a long, dark winter season. With hours of deafening silence at my disposal and a clean slate, I was faced with a new crisis and riddled with questions. Writing what? Writing how? Writing for whom? I found it quite overwhelming, and had no support like I do now with The Writer’s Center, so I shelved my projects and started down a new path. To scratch my “academic itch” and fill my days with a productive (and paying) venture, I started teaching college classes online. This really got the creative juices flowing! Boxes of free text books and journals graced my doorstep, and my mind was occupied with more than just the fruitless search for the perfect antique sideboard.

As I settled into the new role of professor, I found myself writing some fairly long classroom discourses on emerging homeland security issues. Unsure whether my thoughts were being read (or appreciated), I frankly didn’t much care: I was writing again and it felt good! One appreciative student/reader suggested that I blog and share these musings with a wider audience. By this time, I’d started writing for a homeland security magazine, but was frustrated with the 2 month lag time from submission to publication. So perhaps my brilliant student was on to something!

My blogging adventure started as a guest writer for another site. Naturally, writing online is a different style, so I considered blogs I regularly perused. What aspects did I enjoy? What turned me off? Why did I come back (or run away)? I kept writing and honing my skills. Months went by and soon I had a growing readership, as well as a portfolio of published material. I fostered healthy debate. I was praised. I was hooked!

I recently took the plunge and started my own blog. The online tools are so easy to use that even a computer novice like me could set up a very professional looking site--for less than $30! Using a free online analytics tool, you can track your readership and gather data that helps hone your efforts and attract more viewers. Since I post daily, my personal “writing laboratory” has improved my skills and boosted my confidence across the board. Emboldened with my newfound success, I’ve tackled a much larger project--a book I am co-authoring with a federal agent about undercover operations.

Yes, the blog is well underway, but I still have one loose end to tie up--I never did find the elusive antique sideboard!

(For the curious, please visit http://www.counterterrorforum.com/)

Jenni Hesterman was the very first receipient of an Ann Darr Scholarship for female veterans. To learn more about this scholarship, click here.

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