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Zoom Session with Writing Coach Melissa Petro

I admit it. I’m an approval hound. I mentioned this in my recent post about my Visions Group, how I love to get my homework done so they’ll acknowledge me for my accomplishments.

Same held true during my relationship with my writing coach, Melissa Petro, which ran from late February to late September of this year. We met every other week, first in person, then by zoom. I never thought I’d get past the rewrites for Chapter 1.

Melissa had been my Memoir instructor at Gotham Writers Workshop. I enjoyed her class (my third at that institution) and learned more about the nuts and bolts of creating memoir. What was the Major Dramatic Question of my story? Was I treating each of the characters in the book with positive regard? Did every chapter have a beginning, middle and end? Details, details!

After several months of trying to write my book on my own after her class, I decided I needed help and contacted Melissa. She gave me massive notes on Chapter 1. Two weeks later, I sent her my edits and received back another set of massive notes. I was getting warmer, and she told me I was going in the right direction, but I was missing something.

I rewrote a third time going through every ‘track change’ edit and addressing it. By the third or fourth session, Melissa started nodding. “Much better!” That was all I needed. A little encouragement, recognition of my progress and a willingness to keep working with me and teaching me what I needed to know. By the fourth or fifth month working with my writing coach, I had begun to hear her voice in my head. “Melissa would say…” or “Melissa would want…” and I began self-correcting my manuscript.

Once we began meeting virtually via zoom video, I recorded our conversations and played them back second by second, again making edits along the way. During one video call, Melissa began with a big smile on her face and beamed at me. “You’ve got this!” she said. I’m keeping all of those for posterity.

It’s not that I don’t know that I’ve improved. I was sensing that my writing was going well. I also have a writers group that gives me high praise 98% of the time. I knew I wasn’t a dud. But my inner flame needs fanning. I can do some of it internally, but those external bellows of love and approval are icing.

My writing coach provided the impetus, direction and praise that raised the bar for me and motivated me throughout the process. Knowing that I’d be speaking with Melissa while I was staying in Vermont kept me on track each day there to produce pages to send to her. When I got back from that writing retreat, I wanted to have all the rewrites for our next session.

I can’t say enough about the women (and one man) who’ve coached me in different areas of my life since the late ’90’s. Having one person 100% in my court is an experience I’ve benefited from 1000%. I can’t imagine life without one.

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