Moving cross-country and around the world on a yearly basis as a child with her military family, Gena Bradford often felt untethered. But when her grandmother gifted her a diary, life started to seem just that much more stable.
“The blank page became a welcoming, unconditional friend,” she said. “Journaling was my way of processing life, praying, listening and recording life lessons.”
From then on, while journaling, writing poetry or experimenting with short stories and children’s literature, Bradford never stopped writing, but it wasn’t until her mid-30s – after raising four children and running a home daycare center for several years – that she finally had the chance to finish her English degree.
She remembered the words of encouragement from Linda Hunt, her writing professor at Whitworth: “Gena, you’ve got a hundred stories to tell.”
“All of us need cheerleaders in life – I will never forget that moment,” Bradford said.
Her writing process always begins with a blank yellow legal pad.
“I’ve learned not to critique my work, edit or judge it until I have a first draft,” she said, explaining how computer typos always break her concentration. “Just get the story down. Editing comes last.”
While at Whitworth, she discovered that she enjoyed teaching writing almost as much as she enjoyed writing itself. So, after graduating, Bradford taught at elementary schools and as an adjunct professor and a supervisor for student teachers. Eventually, she went on to lead writers’ workshops at churches.
“It’s a joy to watch participants publish their own books and articles … how a student’s self-esteem can soar when they share their story with their classmates (or) even get a story published nationally,” she said.
But with so many jobs and responsibilities, even something you love to do can take its toll. After teaching for several years and continuing to run a daycare, Bradford had started to burn out.
Bradford’s latest work, “I Can’t Rest Now, Lord! I’m Responsible: 30 Days From Burnout to the Heart of God,” is a 30-day devotional and guided meditation book for individuals struggling with burnout. Drawing from her own experience, Bradford hopes to help readers “recognize the need to give themselves permission to live a filled-up life instead of a poured-out one, lifting off the heavy load they’ve felt responsible to carry.”
After the devotional, Bradford hopes to release a memoir and several children’s books.
To aspiring authors, Bradford offered the following advice.
“Everyone has a story to tell of a crossroad experience, a special person or a memory they never want to forget. No matter one’s age, storytelling is a way people connect, identify with and affirm one another. Start with keeping a journal. Read books in the genre you are writing and books about how to write. Join a writers’ group … writers love to help other writers.”