The courage to write from the heart

Local woman publishes book of essays.

Credit: Marissa Belle Photography

Credit: Marissa Belle Photography

On this Thanksgiving Day, people will gather to share food, friendship and fun. Most will take time off from work and take moments to celebrate their connections with those they love.

For Teri Rizvi of Butler Township these connections have always felt magical. A graduate of Ohio University (OU) and a trained journalist, Rizvi’s life has given her the gift of many personal connections from across the globe.

“Every year the OU dean would select a half dozen students to go overseas for an internship,” Rizvi said. “I ended up going to work for McGraw Hill in London.”

And it was there that Rizvi would meet her future husband, Zafar, a native of Pakistan. Rizvi said he was intrigued that she was a journalist, and they grew closer as they got to know one another.

Credit: Marissa Belle Photography

Credit: Marissa Belle Photography

“He had no plans to stay in London,” Rizvi said of her husband. “He always thought he’d go home to Pakistan.”

But after Rizvi returned home to Ohio, Zafar kept calling and writing to her and she admits, her parents thought she was a bit crazy. After graduation, Rizvi returned to London for an additional nine months, working for ABC News as a general assignment editor during the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

“We decided to get married,” Rizvi said. “But I didn’t think I was going to be moving to Pakistan.”

Eventually the couple decided to live in the U.S., they settled in Ohio and raised two sons together. And though the couple has always lived with two cultures and two religions, they have managed well.

Rizvi eventually did go to Pakistan, where she saw firsthand the major cultural differences. Throughout it all, she wrote – about her experiences, about her family and friends and about everyday life.

“In high school I had a creative writing teacher who encouraged me constantly,” Rizvi said. “And I just kept writing.”

She wrote as a stringer for the “Dayton Daily News,” and eventually snagged a job with the University of Dayton as the director of media relations. Over the years, she worked for three different UD presidents and founded the annual Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2000, which was created to encourage writers to stop procrastinating and just write.

“Bill Bombeck (Erma’s husband) was going to be donating Erma’s papers to UD after she passed away,” Rizvi said. “We decided to have the first workshop as a way to publicize this gift.”

The first workshop did get national press coverage and it’s been wildly popular ever since, with people attending from across the nation. The event sells out within hours every year.

Then the whole world changed when the COVID-19 pandemic became a worldwide health crisis the likes most people alive today had never experienced.

Rizvi’s husband contracted the virus and fought off a mild case, while she worried about their futures. What would happen to their work lives and what would all the political and racial unrest do to this country?

Credit: Marissa Belle Photography

Credit: Marissa Belle Photography

“As the months of pandemic life stretched toward a year, I began to think about compiling my writings into a book,” Rizvi said. “If not now, then when?”

Erma Bombeck heard three words from an English professor when she was young that changed her life. “You can write!” and indeed, she discovered she could.

“I realized it was time to take those words to heart,” Rizvi said. “To have the courage to share my stories and through this book, encourage others to share their own.”

“One Heart With Courage,” Rizvi’s first book, was published in October. The book begins with a prelude, which describes Rivzi’s journey from life before 2020 to what transpired during months of lockdown and isolation.

What began with Rizvi pulling together pieces she had written over the years, ended up becoming the story of her life, on paper. It begins with a simple piece about growing up in Vandalia in the 1960s and ends with “Words of Thanks” to the people who supported her along the way and for the family and experiences that have shaped her life.

“There is a section about two cultures and one world and a chapter about faith,” Rizvi said. “And there is also a section on the writer’s journey – my journey.”

But it’s those magical relationships – those friendships she describes as priceless, that she says are to be cherished most of all.

“I truly value friends. It’s the greatest joy in life,” Rizvi said. “I’ve often written about the beauty of human connection. Nothing in life is ever perfect and no time will ever be the best time. But life is short and it’s how we use our moments that matter.”

“One Heart with Courage” is available at bookstores and on

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