A first novel was baptized this past Sunday. It happened in three-plus columns of The New York Times Book Review (July 5, 2009). The book’s title is Night Navigation, and the author is Ginnah Howard.

With the review, there is a photo of Ms. Howard. In it, she is looking at the camera but also gazing beyond it into a far distance. Though I only knew her for a short time, I do believe I know she has had her eye on that long road for decades. The fact is, her very favorable Sunday Times review can inspire us all.

I first met Ginnah Howard in a writer’s workshop in 1990. There were about a dozen of us in that room each day for two summer weeks in Saratoga. Lynne Sharon Schwartz, our workshop leader, ran a tight ship. We worked hard, went to lots of stellar readings and, to varying degrees, believed in ourselves as writers who would “make it.”

Ginnah, like me and two or three or others, was unusual: she (and we) were beyond the age when we dreamed of finding success young and having long and glamorous careers as famous writers. That success has actually happened to two of our classmates, Christina Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban, The Aguero Sisters) and Matt Klam (Sam The Cat and Other Stories and too many magazine publications to list.).

But this is about older writers and older dreamers, about putting one foot in front of the other. In 1990, Ginnah was north of the age when she would be a young phenomenon. She was going for something more by being in that workshop. She was honing her craft, believing she could learn enough and apply herself enough to become what she wanted to be. Now, 19 years after she showed up every day in that writer’s workshop, she has gotten there: That Times review of her first novel says that “the strength of this story pulls Howard’s readers along, unable to turn away.”

There are a lot of writers out there reading this. Some of you are saying, “I’ve always wanted to write,” and perhaps even, “I should have gone to a writer’s workshop.” Ginnah’s Night Navigation stands as a roadmap to your getting to one now. There is still time to register for workshops that are happening this summer, and there are many all around the country year round. And there’s next summer and starting to plan for it now. There’s Ginnah’s novel out there waiting for us to read and telling the story within the story. (You can hear a little of Howard herself in the video below.) A mature woman began to believe in this book nearly two decades ago. And a much older woman just published it as her first novel. The truth is, self expression doesn’t have a schedule. I can’t wait to read Night Navigation, and I hope I get to read something by one of you soon (or even later) as well.

(Editor’s note: Laura Sillerman, WVFC co-founder, is our poetry editor. If you want to try your hand at nonfiction, all are encouraged to check out the submission guidelines at Women’s Voices for Change. We’re always looking for fresh voices!)

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