She stepped outside her comfort zone and it paid off.
Betsy Weir, of Thomson, was one of 12 winners in the 16th annual Porter Fleming Literary Competition. She placed first in the nonfiction category, which came with a prize of $1,500.
"It helped validate what I do, which is very satisfying. That's the main thing," she said.
She wrote an essay about a family member's experience with illness. Although she has been writing for years, this was her first venture into essays.
"Writing poetry is my biggest love, but it was interesting to try a different genre," she said, adding that she might try it again.
In this case, Mrs. Weir said, she already had her subject and the essay was the only way she knew to use it.
Organized in 1991, the competition is held in memory of Porter Fleming, a prominent Augusta resident and philanthropist. This year's competition had more than 300 entries in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and play writing. Three winners were awarded in each category, with first place receiving $1,500, second $750 and third $500. Judges were published authors and professors at Augusta State University and Paine College.
"It is an honor to continue a competition that gives writers a forum to showcase their work and have it reviewed by highly acclaimed judges. The writers are then able to have their work appreciated by their peers at the awards ceremony in Augusta," contest chairman George Barrett said.
Mrs. Weir said she attended the ceremony Sept. 26 at Morris Museum of Art. Having her work "appreciated by her peers" helped her become a prize-winning writer. Mrs. Weir belongs to the Authors Club of Augusta and the Augusta Poetry Group. The clubs meet regularly and critique one another's work.
"You have to have thick skin to do that," she said with a laugh.
Two years ago, Mrs. Weir placed in the poetry category of the competition. Last year, her poetry won second place in a competition at Kennesaw State University. For 15 years, she has kept up her writing "on a pretty regular basis." Before that, she liked writing but was busy working and raising a family. Mrs. Weir has been married to her husband, David, "for a long time," and they have two grown sons and four grandchildren.
In earlier days, Mrs. Weir said, she did clerical work, bookkeeping and accounting.
"Working with words is like working with numbers, getting the words to balance in the end," she said.
Her past also includes writing stints with local newspapers. She encourages anyone who has ever wanted to write to just "do it."
"It's invigorating. It's exciting to me. I like working with words," she said.