As far back as I can remember, books have been gateways to
other worlds for me. I could open a book and my imagination
would take flight. As I grew up, there was always a part of
me that whispered “I want to write,” but the practicalities
of life took precedent.
When I moved away from my hometown in coastal Georgia, I corresponded
at length with friends and family. Back in those pre-technological
days, there were no emails or cell phones. You wrote a letter,
popped it in the mail, and waited a week or two for a reply.
beckoned, as did marriage, family, and career. There were
times when I was so busy I couldn’t remember when I’d
last read a book. In time, my schedule eased. and I heard
that little voice still whispering in my ear. Though I turned
my science job into a writing-about-science job, that didn’t
satisfy my need to write.
I found myself jotting ideas down on little scraps of paper.
I clipped interesting newspaper and magazine articles. I studied
faces and products in catalogs, wondering if I were to ever
write a book, would my characters look like this? I saved
photos of interesting gardens – I might need them someday.
About that time, I realized how different my carefree coastal
Georgia childhood had been than my daughters suburban childhood,
and I decided to write what I remembered about growing up.
This prompted calls to old friends and family, and a lot of
letter writing. I got it all down and sat back and thought
about my accomplishment – I’d written a book.
Could I sell it?
Writer’s Market in hand, I made a few submissions,
but I never advanced beyond an impersonal rejection letter.
On a visit home, I learned that a cousin was now the editor
of the weekly newspaper. When contacted, he thought my book
was great, and he offered to run one chapter each week as
a newspaper column. I was really excited. It wasn’t
a book, but it was publication. The columns were so popular
that the paper proposed printing a book of the newspaper columns.
Suddenly my work was a book again. My mother-in-law did the
illustrations, and off to the press we went. The hardcover
book, titled Remembering, sold through it’s
500 book print run.
Meanwhile, I took creative writing classes. I wrote several
very bad romances based on an old family legend. I got my
first agent, but that didn’t work out. I disentangled
myself and sought out the local chapters of Romance Writers
of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime.
I joined critique groups. I edited a writing newsletter for
two years. I learned how to write fiction. I transitioned
out of a science career into freelance writing, first as a
technical writer and now as a freelance reporter. My writing
improved. And so did my luck. The more I wrote, the luckier
I became. One contract came in, then another. The journey
is different now, different but better. I've spent time on
the high road and the low road, and I've found that the journey
is much easier when shared with friends.