How a Lousy Novel Made Me an Author
Before I was able to write stories, I told them to myself and anyone with the patience to listen. Conjuring up tales during the Sunday sermon made the time fly, and spinning yarns for my younger brothers on long car rides kept them occupied. When I learned to write, I put stories on paper for school projects. In the upper grades, creative writing was all but obliterated, replaced by factual essays and term papers that left no room for imagination.
Book reports were the exception, at least the way I wrote them. Rather than check out the books from the library, reading them, and writing descriptions in the assigned format, I made them up — titles, authors, characters, and story lines. So much more fun, I thought, than reading a book. Yes, I admit it was deceptive. At first, I felt guilty until I rationalized my remorse to a manageable size. After all, I reasoned, composing a report on a made-up book was more challenging than regurgitating someone else’s story.
Was I worried the teacher might look for my imaginary books in the school library? You bet, but when she said she searched for the first book on which I reported and came up empty-handed, my rehearsed reply was, “I checked it out from the base library.” Being an Air Force brat came in handy sometimes. “Oh,” was her sole response. I hoped she had discarded as too intimidating any idea of calling the base librarian to check the truthfulness of my explanation. In hindsight, I suspect she knew I was dissembling, but instead of forcing the issue with a demand to bring the book to school, she said nothing more. Maybe she saw me as a budding author way back then.
In college, I focused on science, imagining it a necessary step toward earning a living someday. Creative writing took a backseat to APA papers, and I learned a new set of writing stylistics from point of view to word choice. Although not as enjoyable as creative writing, APA style taught me conciseness and clarity, characteristics from which all types of writing benefit.
My first writing gigs were over-the-transom submissions to magazines. I was a stay-at-home mom compelled to dabble in writing by a need for intellectual stimulation. Even though the early rejections were frustrating and hard on the ego, sending articles to publishers on speculation taught me to write a better query letter and to follow submission guidelines to a tee.
Armed with several sold articles that proved I could write, I landed a temporary assignment with a New York City magazine that covered local small businesses. In this arena, I learned to add humor to my writing to make an otherwise dull article on a sporting-goods store or beauty salon interesting to read. I must have paid my dues, so to speak, because the editor promoted me to writing celebrity interviews. I enjoyed meeting the subjects of my articles, stars of stage and screen, and the arts. On the writing end, I learned how to prepare for an interview, ask pertinent questions, and portray each individual in their best light with accuracy, honesty, and care to avoid entangling the magazine in legal hassles.
Later in my life, I went back to college for a master’s degree. The curriculum required a semester of volunteer work at a local charity. When I recognized the organization needed a newsletter, I designed one, and after brushing up on journalistic styles, wrote the first few editions. After that, another variety of writing, industry-specific content for a B-2-B website, became my focus.
Over the years, my writing life has run the gamut from creative writing to APA style, from newsletter copy to magazine articles, from celebrity interviews to small business reviews and industry-specific website content. Despite being paid for my endeavors, I considered writing a hobby; I never viewed myself as a real writer, never mind an author.
That changed several years ago when I wasted my time reading a novel by a prolific author. Disappointed and annoyed, I slammed the book shut. Even I could write a more compelling story, I thought. After a few weeks of playing and replaying that notion in my mind like the proverbial broken record, the repetition drove me to a challenge: put up or shut up. When my conscious self realized what my subconscious knew long ago, I put up and wrote a book. To my surprise, an author was born when I published Twisting Legacy this year.