My mother taught me to read when I was three. I may not have been entirely ready to learn, because I recall a lot of screaming (from me, not my mother.) Regardless, she never was one to give up, and before long, I could read.
I started devouring books. A book of bedtime stories a couple hundred pages thick with no pictures was one of my favorites. It was designed to be a read-aloud, but I read it to myself.
I started writing stories before I could spell. I was about six and a half years old when I produced my first masterpiece, “Stragling Snaks,” (Strangling Snakes.) I wrote stories at home frequently—nothing to do with school assignments—just for my own pleasure.
I excelled at creative writing in early elementary school. My second-grade teacher made a big “TV” out of a box, and the authors of the best stories of the week got to sit in the box to read their work to the class “on TV.” I was an almost-weekly occupant of the box.
By fourth grade, I loved writing horse stories. Teachers tried to get me to expand my repertoire, but by this point, my parents had become strict about the content I was allowed to produce, and while the rest of the class composed ghost tales and made up legends about Greek gods, I wrote what I was permitted to write—mostly horse stories. My fourth-grade teacher wrote in my report card that I had “no imagination.”
When I was eleven, I wrote my first novel on 150+ single-spaced pages of foolscap. I had found my writing passion. Throughout my teen years, I wrote several more books and attempted to have some of them published. One manuscript came close, but after some back and forth communication about it, it was rejected at a senior editors’ meeting.
I kept writing. All of my first drafts were written entirely by hand. Thousands of pages. I’m left-handed, so I always had a blue ink smear on the baby finger of my left hand that I could never entirely wash off.
After I got married, I wrote a novel that checked in at well over 1000 pages. I submitted it to publishers, and that’s how I met my mentor, who I am still working with at StoryShopUSA.
John saw the raw potential in me and trained me to write well. He taught me how to take a story idea and flesh it out using active voice, engaging the reader’s senses so that the words jumped off the page like living things. He taught me how to hook a reader and how to write realistic dialogue. We worked on developing plotlines and using plot gimmicks and plot plants to give readers “wow!” moments. I worked one-on-one with him for about four years, produced a number of different titles, and learned a great deal.
I took a hiatus from writing in 2002, just before the birth of my second child. I couldn’t keep up, couldn’t find the quiet focus time, couldn’t justify the hours of selfishness required to produce books. Some people manage to write with small children, and my hat is off to them. I don’t know how they do it.
Fourteen years later, in 2016, a story started teasing me. It played in my head for about seven months while I determined NOT to write it down. I knew how stories consumed me once I started them. My youngest child was now almost ten, my oldest, seventeen. I still felt that I didn’t have time for writing amid all my other responsibilities. But the story won, and on a rainy evening at the end of July, I sat down and started typing what I was sure would be nothing more than 70 pages of silly romance.
Two and a half years after starting that story, I published the fifth in my series, completing the adventure of the Dragon’s Fire that my silly romance had grown into. And I’m still writing. There are so many more stories to tell. When I finish telling stories about Caledon, there will be something new to write. All my life, when I’ve finished a book or a series, I’ve thought, “I can’t do any better than that.” Then I think of something new, and away I go with it, and it’s better than before because age and experience generally improve writers.
I don’t regret taking 14 years off for my young family, but I’m glad that I’m making time to write now. Caledon has increased my confidence, taught me many valuable lessons about myself, and improved me as a writer and an editor. And I’m loving every minute.
Sometimes I only get an hour a day to write. Sometimes I get no time at all. But making time to do what I love is so important. I’ve found a piece of me that was missing for 14 years, and I’m not going back.