When Jamila Beale attended Avon Grove Library’s writing club for the first time, she had no idea that in a little over a year she would have her own story published. A graduate of Penn State University with an aerospace engineering degree, Beale has taken on many different roles throughout her life: student, engineer, and mother, to name a few. Although writing is something Beale has loved to do since she was young, it had taken a backseat to pursuing her career and raising a family.
While attending the first Chester County Writer’s Conference in November of 2019, Beale learned the local library she visited with her children was starting a writing club called The Write Stuff for adults. She decided this would be the perfect opportunity to return to her passion and hoped that having accountability from fellow writers would give her the motivation she needed to take it seriously.
Members of the Write Stuff can submit their current works-in-progress of any genre — science fiction, fantasy, memoir, and children’s books are only a few of the topics that have been covered. The writers then receive feedback on their pieces from other members. The goal of the group is to help members grow in their craft as well as to encourage relationships among local writers.
Three months after the group was launched, the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm and Avon Grove Library closed its doors to the public. Since The Write Stuff could no longer meet in person, several members of the group, Beale included, continued to exchange their works via email and eventually began to meet again via Zoom.
Several months later, a representative from Toho Publishing reached out to Avon Grove Library with a call for submissions for their journal, The Best Short Stories of Philadelphia. Based in Philadelphia, Toho’s aim is to publish the best short stories Philadelphia and the greater area have to offer, with a special emphasis on making their book both equitable and reflective of the city’s demographics.
Having grown up in Philadelphia, Beale was thrilled by this opportunity. She decided to submit a story she’d been working on in The Write Stuff. Her piece, “Red Flags,” is a hilarious, fictional retelling of a real-life first date Beale experienced as a young woman. After sharing her story with the writing club members for a final round of revisions, Beale submitted her story to Toho and hoped for the best.
That winter, Beale received the exciting news that her story had been chosen for publication. She was pleasantly surprised to find out that the theme chosen for this year’s journal is “romance,” which her piece fit into perfectly. While the book launch process looked different from years past due to COVID restrictions, Beale remains positive and is thankful simply to have a place among the other authors featured in the journal.
“I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Beale says. “It’s really exciting.”
When asked what advice she would give to others hoping to be published, Beale recommends that they “join a writers’ group, read some writing books, and to check out all the writing blogs you can about perfecting your craft and take it seriously.” She emphasizes the importance of finding fellow writers and taking advantage of free resources at the library, both of which have played a major role in her own writing journey.
Since her publication, Beale has begun taking intensive writing courses and is devoting more time to developing her craft and bringing to life the stories that have been living in her head. She is hopeful for what the future has in store and grateful to the members of The Write Stuff for helping her grow as a writer.
“Just meeting this diverse group of people and their different levels of writing has really helped and shaped me.”
Area residents can learn more about storytimes, classes and programs at www.avongrovelibrary.org, which is updated frequently with new programs and details.
Readers can purchase a copy of The Best Short Stories of Philadelphia here.
Contact: Kati Davis610-869-2004 / email@example.com