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Writing with courage and heart

Writing with courage and heart

Rhonda Havig September 28, 2021

Teri Rizvi ’90 wanted to compile her personal essays for publication but could never find the time. When the pandemic went from months toward a year, she thought, “If not now, when?”

Taking to heart the mantra of UD’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop — “You can write!” — and its message of encouragement for writers to stop procrastinating, she fulfilled her dream of publishing a collection of essays.

“You can write!”

Since joining the University of Dayton in 1987, Rizvi has worked in a public relations capacity with three presidents, promoting the University through her writing. In 2000, she directed the first of what would become the biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop — an event honoring UD alumna Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49 that has become so popular it sells out within hours.

sunflowers illustrating a book coverIn addition to her work for the University, Rizvi has written essays and feature stories that have appeared in publications including USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian (London), University of Dayton Magazine and the Dayton Daily News. She recently released a compilation of personal essays in her debut book, One Heart with Courage

The title is inspired by the words of Martin Sheen when he received an honorary degree from the University of Dayton: “Remember this above all: One heart with courage is a majority.” In addition to the theme of courage, Rizvi’s stories include topics of spirituality, friendship and motherhood.

Several of the essays evoke the theme of two cultures, two religions and one world. Rizvi, a Catholic American, is married to a Pakistani-American of the Muslim faith, and she shares stories of her visits to Pakistan with her husband — who became an American citizen after they were married — and their two boys. During her first visits, she says she looked at the country through a reporter’s point of view and even wrote a comprehensive story about the education system that was published locally in the Dayton Daily News Magazine and internationally in The Guardian.

“Gradually, I became really part of the family,” Rizvi says. “Then I was looking at it through a writer’s eyes but also a family member’s eyes.”

She notes the tone changes in some of the pieces from an outsider’s view to a more intimate understanding of the people, emphasizing a shared humanity aspect of the stories.

Teri Rizvi
Teri Rizvi

Rizvi also illustrates a sense of community and shared humanity in stories involving the University of Dayton. One such story involves her Muslim son living with an eclectic group in a Marianist house in UD’s student neighborhood, where he attended Masses in the house’s attic and participated in service projects with his roommates. She shares her own rich experience of being part of the University community in accounts of her friendships with people on campus, including former University president Brother Ray Fitz and the late Joe Belle ’73, a longtime student development administrator. 

Included with the essays is an interview she conducted with Bombeck.

Rizvi is donating all proceeds from the book to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop endowment fund. Braughler Books, publisher of One Heart with Courage, is also donating all the profits to the fund. Their combined efforts, Rizvi says, will help keep the workshop affordable for writers and ensure it continues to inspire writers at the University of Dayton and beyond.

The book is available through online resellers worldwide — except in Pakistan. Rizvi, who did an interview with the Pakistani news outlet BOL, says she is hoping a bookstore there will pick it up.

So much goes into publishing a book that Rizvi marvels at how it all came together — including giving back to the workshop: “It was just kind of amazing.”

Rizvi says she hopes readers enjoy the stories and find the courage to say “yes!” to the dreams in their hearts.

The Literary Mama interviews Teri Rizvi about her new book. What secrets will it reveal? Says Rizvi, "Being a mother teaches you about true love, and you quickly realize there’s often no one more quotable than your children."

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