After reading Nancy Fraser’s blog the other day about how she became a writer, I began to think about my own writing journey. As in, how the heck did I get involved in this mess?
The first story I remember writing was in elementary school, where I not only wrote but illustrated a tale of four sisters. Each had a different color hair: blonde, brunette, redhead, and black. And their names were in alphabetical order, beginning with A. I don’t remember their names and I certainly don’t remember the story, but I do remember a very large notebook where I drew their pictures.
In eighth grade I won $3 for a poem that was a blatant rip-off of Bambi. I have no clue where that poem went and I only remember the end. “Deer without a mother, standing in the snow.” Very emotional!
In college, I had an English professor who tried to persuade me to write for the school newspaper. But I never actually considered writing as a career. No, I wanted to be a psychologist, and diligently pursued a degree in that field. Of course, a degree in psychology involves a lot of writing, but that was only a means to an end.
I achieved the end—the master’s degree—at the same time I gave birth to a daughter and decided I had to find some sort of work where I didn’t have to leave her. So I went to a career counselor, who mentioned that the only thing I sounded excited about was a research project I was writing up.
So I started writing a novel. And I wrote confession stories that I cringe to think about now. I bought dozens of “how to write” books and began to collect my share of rejections.
By sheer coincidence, my husband had a customer who was the editor of the local weekly paper, and he mentioned my writing endeavors, and she mentioned that she was looking for someone to cover the local school board, so she had me go to a meeting and write up a trial story, and I passed the audition. As various people left I gradually took over coverage of other meetings and events, until I was covering all the news in my hometown, as well as a “good news” type gossip column, and eventually a humor column.
I had many adventures as a reporter, even a brief stint doing radio news on the local station and acting as a stringer for a bigger state-wide newspaper. But then I had another baby and packed a Harlequin Romance in my hospital bag. It came free with a bottle of Ivory dish soap, and I figured it would be mindless enough to keep me entertained when I was in a brain fog from giving birth.
But oh, my goodness! There were words in that book that I actually had to look up in the dictionary! I remember coming across someone having a “postprandial” drink. What the heck was that all about? (An after-dinner drink, by the way.) And I could no longer look down my nose at these stories. In addition to expanding my vocabulary, the stories really held my interest. In fact, I decided I wanted to write them.
Which I did on the side, using my experiences as a reporter as the basis for various stories. And after enough rejection slips to paper a small powder room, I finally sold my first book. (Which I’m trying to figure out how to self-publish as the first in a series, now that I’ve got the rights back. Soon, very soon!)