UD writers’ workshop founder earns praise

Teri Rizvi publishes her first book.

Teri Rizvi, executive director of strategic communications at the University of Dayton, founded the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2000, but didn’t begin putting her own experiences into book form until the pandemic brought her public world to a halt.

The result of her efforts was her first book, “One Heart with Courage, a Collection of Essays and Stories,” which has already received awards, contains personal experiences with adventure, daring, caring, courage, love, hope and faith.

“I’ve written all my life – had some published, mostly journalism, and had wanted to write a book,” she said. “I’d leave feeling empowered after each workshop and thought about writing one – but then life comes back, gets in the way, and you don’t get around to it.

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“During the pandemic, when everything shut down and then slowed down, my husband came down with COVID and I thought ‘If I don’t do it now, when?’

“That prompted me to get to work, and I started telling friends I was working on a book, so I had to do it. One friend volunteered to do the illustrations, and I reached out to David Braughler, owner of Braughler Books, a publisher who had taught at our workshops before. I asked him questions about writing a book and getting it published.”

Braughler volunteered to help for free, since she’d told him all profits of the book would go back into the workshops. “He got the copyright, a Library of Congress number – all of the back-of-the-house stuff.”

Rizvi started going through a file of all of her stories and experiences that date back to her college years – essays for UD’s Magazine, Christian Science Monitor in London, Dayton Daily News op ed pieces, USA today and more.

“At first, I looked at them through a journalist’s eyes, then just compiled and put them in order, did some editing, and added more updated ones. A book is overwhelming, but organizing essays is easier; they’re small, personal moments about humanity, friends, family and faith.

“A jurist who was a friend in college, did a Zoom call and volunteered to edit it for me. I was so grateful, because she could look at it with a fresh eye, and she saw how it could be organized by theme.”

The prelude to the book includes a piece which reads like a prose poem, that came from an administrative retreat, intended to get to know one another. “Dr. Eric Spina had us all write on ‘Where I’m from …’”

Rizvi grew up in Vandalia, and her Dayton-area roots seep through the piece, although her essays and stories take the reader into many countries and cultures.

An early story in the book describes going to London with friends after college, where she met and dated a Pakistani; in a later essay, she returns to London to find out if it is “true love” and the couple ends up marrying. Despite his parents’ original objections, they have both a Catholic and Muslim marriage and the parents welcome them into their family and community.

Other entries, which include their two sons’ adventures, her mother-in law’s death, and many other moving accounts of life, are included.

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At 64, she’s worked under three UD presidents, and remains a practicing Catholic while her husband, Zafar, practices his Muslim faith.

“I think faith is a moral compass for how you live your life, but it’s been politicized. Religion shouldn’t be worn on your sleeve, it’s much more private.”

Her finished and published book, published by Braughler Books, which also made it available in Kindle form, more recently became available as an audiobook.

“A friend in town connected with a voiceover artist friend in Boston, Sheri Saginor, who contacted Braughler and said she’d read the book, loved it, and wanted to do the narration free for an audiobook. She sent me a sample chapter that captured the spirit behind the words. We were in close contact during her process, although we’ve never met.

“There are so many universal themes in the book that people can relate to – when you ask the universe to help, that’s what happens.”

Contact this writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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