Rachel Wallace-Oberle started out like many writers do, at a small community paper, before she worked her way to the big bylines in magazines like Canadian Living, Readers Digest and even Chicken Soup for the Soul. The latest of the feel-good books, ‘Inspiration for Writers,’ brings together 101 writers to share their experiences, good and bad, and also features some words of wisdom from a writer in Elmira.“I think I wanted to share with the readers my love of writing and how it’s not just a job, it’s a passion. That when you have it, you can’t shake it and that it can take you to incredible places physically and career-wise and spiritually. I think the particular story I chose was one of my most meaningful experiences as a writer. I don’t know if I can ever duplicate that but it is one that really inspired me,” said Wallace-Oberle.
The story she shares in the book takes place in Haiti. While on assignment covering an organization’s globally recognized work, she spoke to Aricia Fleurimond, who would be the main subject of Wallace-Oberle’s piece for Homemakers Magazine on agricultural co-ops in the country.
During a whirlwind, tight-deadline assignment, it was the story of this woman that stuck with the writer. In sharing the story Wallace-Oberle hopes, like many other writers in Chicken Soups’s latest edition, to inspire and motivate.
She says gaining credibility was one of her biggest challenges as a budding writer.
“Writing is one of the hardest jobs. It’s a very difficult career path to choose and so you are constantly trying to prove yourself and get the next story and make contacts. For me starting out as a writer I was always looking for credibility and trying to establish myself as a writer and that takes a while.”
Though there are many occupational hazards shared by all writers, the landscape has certainly changed over the years: there are not as many jobs out there for writers any more.
“The writers scene has changed dramatically and there’s so many transferable skills, there are so many opportunities, and if you just have your mind set on one path you’ll be disappointed. When I said there weren’t that many writers jobs out there, I think that’s true, but there are a lot of different directions a writer can take.”
Wallace-Oberle has freelanced for well-known magazines, and now works as a senior writer with a software company in Waterloo.
“If you would have told me that five years ago when I really wanted to be an editor of a magazine I would have said ‘no, no way’,” she said.
In an interview with Aricia Fleurimond, the woman that much affected Wallace-Oberle at the time, she asked Fleurimond what she would say to other Haitian women. Perhaps it’s fitting to pose a similar question to the writer herself: what would she say to writers plying their craft?
“I think I’d probably say exactly what Aricia said to me: bon courage. Be of good courage, be strong. In essence, never give up, never ever give up. Your path may take a different turn than you envisioned but be open to that because you never know what opportunity lies ahead.”