Friday, August 24, 2018

Windham author illustrates what the power of yes can do for you by Lorraine Glowczak

Sayzie Koldys
The word “yes” might come easily to most people because saying no to others who expect a lot from us is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome. After all, we don’t want to disappoint those we love.

But seldom do we embrace a “heck yes!” when it comes to things for which we do not have any particular talent and might make us appear foolish. However, Windham author Sayzie Koldys did just that and, as a result, published an essay in the ever popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series with the theme, “The Power of Yes!”

You’ll find her story, “Six Years Before the Mast,” among other stories about adventure, change and positive thinking in the latest publication of the Soup series that came out on August 14th. This is her third published essay for the book series.

Ironically, she initially wrote her latest essay for another publication. “I wrote the first draft of ‘Six Years Before the Mast’ when the story was solicited by John Glassie for the ‘Lives’ section of the New York Times,” Koldys explained. “I’d pitched him something else, but he wanted to read about my life at sea. Ultimately, his superiors at the paper killed it, but I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to be edited by such a masterful craftsman. Eventually, I rewrote the piece for ‘The Power of Yes.’”

Koldys’ essay is about being willing to do something you’re not very good at and, in fact, might possibly fail miserably at doing. “We all gravitate toward the things we’re best at, and there are certainly benefits to honing the skills that come naturally to us. But we can also gain a lot by having the courage to persevere through our less easily mastered learning experiences.”

Koldys explained that she has always loved being at sea, spending days and weeks at a time out of sight of land. “But I didn’t have much sailing experience and I’m slow to transfer the concepts of physics and spatial relationships to the practicalities of maneuvering a ship,” she said.

“When I got a job as a deckhand aboard an educational tall ship, my failings were apparent to the entire crew with whom I shared an impossibly small living space. But if I hadn’t been willing to be a terrible sailor, I wouldn’t hold a U.S. Coast Guard license today. If I hadn’t been willing to fail over and over again, I wouldn’t have gotten better at something I love. Because I was able to find my self-worth internally rather than externally, I’ve sailed to some of the most remote places on earth, I’m able to sell with confidence my skills as a chef, I met and fell in love with the man who is now my partner, and I know that I can push myself, in full view of those who would see me fail, until I’m not so terrible anymore.”

Koldys has written many masterpieces before her “Chicken Soup for the Soul” fame. She stated she wrote her first book at the age of two. It was four pages long and was printed on construction paper. “It was about Snoopy,” Koldys explained. “It had a decent plot, if I recall, but only one copy was ever printed, and it was badly damaged in a flood, so I can’t be sure.”

Koldys admits she cannot recall a time when she was not writing, always producing a written form of fancy. But she explains, “It wasn’t until a short story of mine was listed as one of the distinguished 100 of the year in the 2009 issue of ‘Best American Short Stories’ that I felt I’d earned the title of a writer. Writing is such a part of who I am, and by its nature is rife with failure, so getting that affirmation from a well-respected source was an internal turning point for me,” Koldys said.

The “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series is not the only place one will find Koldys’s publications. She has also published in other literary and popular magazines and served as a staff member of the Idaho Review. She has also taught creative writing at Boise State University and Southern Maine Community College.

So, what exactly made Koldys say yes, accepting the role as an inexperienced deckhand? “Part of what drove me out to sea was a desire to get out of my own head, to be forced to stay focused in the present moment,” she explained. “Sailing requires all of your energy and attention, and in that way, it’s meditative.”

Being a writer for several decades already, she offers this advice for others who wish to become published authors. “The first [advice I have] is from Hank Moody, the screenwriter in “Californication.” He articulates it best when he says, ‘So, at the end of the day, if you can do anything else—telemarketing, pharmaceutical sales, or ditch digging, major league umpire—I would suggest that you do that, because being a writer…is like having homework every day for the rest of your life.

If you still think that sounds like fun, then learn to let rejection roll off your shoulders. If you’re pitching and writing articles, you can expect to have your ideas or your pieces rejected by editors more than 80% of the time.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stephen King, Louisa May Alcott, John Le Carré, H.G. Wells, Ernest Hemingway, and almost every other famous author you can think of experienced countless rejections before a publisher recognized their potential. Fitzgerald was even told, ‘You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.’

Which brings me to my next piece of advice: It’s important to differentiate between the writing advice you should take and that which you should leave behind. Learning which is which takes years and will come only with refining your own editorial eye. Read, read, read, and then read some more. And finally, the craft of writing can be learned. You can’t learn to be Alice Munro or J.K. Rowling, because part of what makes an author great is her own unique style, but you can learn to refine your own voice and be the very best writer for your stories.”

But it’s the most important advice that Koldys forgot to mention. It is the courage and art of saying “yes.” Yes to the things that are important to you and fill your life with amazing experiences – whether you’ll appear a fool or otherwise.

If you say yes – you may just have your story published in the next edition of a “Chicken Soup for the Soul."


  1. I love this advice and this writer.
    You deserve the title.

  2. Excellent article. Great advice. I love this writer - a title she richly deserves.


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