1. My elementary school was down the block from the public library. After school I’d go there and “volunteer,” usually alphabetizing books in the children’s and YA section. I found Prince Caspian there one day and checked it out. From then on, Narnia has been my favorite children’s book.
2. I took Typing as a senior in high school. My friend, Lisa, and I were the only two seniors in the class. When we’d finished our daily lessons, we started writing a serial based on our childhood nicknames – Petey and Pickles. I’m not telling you which one was me.
3. I wrote a poem for my senior yearbook – an extremely angsty, pathos-ridden poem which only a melodramatic teen could write. Unfortunately, it’s preserved for all time. Oy.
4. I won two tickets to a Pirates baseball game on my birthday. My good friend Linda – who shared my birthday – assumed I’d be taking her. Unfortunately, I was not allowed anywhere by myself, even in high school, so I went with my dad. Linda was not pleased. Neither was I.
5. In college, I wrote another poem. I thought it was okay. Eventually, I showed it to my sister and she gave it to her husband, Mike, a musician and song-writer. He set it to music. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.
6. Mike is a writer, too. He’s written fabulous stories, but the only published work – for now – is a Dungeons and Dragons module called “Journey to the Rock.” Yep, we’re a geeky family and proud of it.
7. My first roommate, Pat, owned an electric typewriter – holy cow! Awesome! I “borrowed it” the first week of school to write my fantasy novel on and didn’t give it back for months. What homework?
8. My then boyfriend – now husband – Rich and I took some classes together in college. One was Creative Writing. I found out he has a wicked sense of irony and I don’t like people critiquing my work. Nothing much has changed.
9. Fan fic. Yes, I wrote it when I was a teen. Mostly Mod Squad and Star Trek. Some Dark Shadows. I remember the blue-lined notebook paper and how my hand would cramp. Good times.
10. I was so happy when I was finally allowed to stay up until 11 PM in high school. Mostly because Starsky and Hutch was on at 10. Oh, how I loved that show. My love of bromances – strong male friendships – was born in that red Torino. More fan fic followed.
11. Marriage is hard. We made a lot of mistakes. But we could always bond over watching Kolchak on Friday nights or B movies on Saturdays. Make that C movies. Or perhaps D. Anyone remember “Battle Beyond the Stars?” Fan fic usually happened before I fell asleep those nights.
12. I kept writing, but, once my daughter was born, it turned into ABC coloring books. One English/Spanish coloring book. And I found out my husband could tell a great story sitting at the top of the stairs with our little girl beside him.
13. Computers. Home computers. With a delete and insert key. You have no idea if you’ve grown up with them what they’ve done for writers.
14. Seriously, I used to type my brother-in-law’s stories (on a typewriter). One little mistake and you had to start over. There was no “repagination” button.
15. I still use journals, though. Now that the Internet is a thing, it can be distracting working on the computer. Facebook games keep calling me.
16. I probably have 9-15 journals stashed around the house and in my purse. Few are completely filled. As a certain Tok’ra once said, I enjoy the sensory feel of writing.
17. And I can do it during events a bit less obtrusively than it would be to pull out a big laptop. Like at baseball games. Or at church. Don’t tell anyone.
18. We moved to Virginia in 1996. We started a Youth Group at our tiny little church. And I started writing Murder Mysteries. Rebecca, Elizabeth, Alicia – none of those would have been completed without you.
19. If you ever try to write a Murder Mystery for 25 people with characters, plots, schemes, and clues, you’ll find out NOT to TRY IT. Especially when, once you’ve handed out the clues, you’re leaving it up to the others to make sure they reveal them.
20. But the bunch of us sitting at Dairy Queen talking about which poison to use to murder the cheerleader was hilarious.
21. I always thought they were way too easy. And then I found out my mind isn’t like others’. Hardly anyone ever got the right answer. I found that out when I wrote an actual mystery novel. I hope to revisit it someday and get it right.
22. Fan fic found me again after I started teaching. There it was, glorious and welcoming, on the Internet. People liked the things I liked. Talked about the things I wanted to talk about. Fandom. It’s a beautiful thing.
23. SAVE DANIEL JACKSON! Google it.
24. I’ve gone back and deleted some of my first attempts. Bad. Very, very bad. But, boy, did I learn a lot. From those critiques I still cringe at. From others who drew me into their stories and taught me how to do it. From talking with other writers, some of whom I actually got to meet in person and not just as electrons on a screen.
25. So, fan fic. It still happens. It’s like comfort food for my psyche when my original novel is breaking my heart. I love fan fic and I always will. You should try it. I hope to be reading and writing it forever.
26. Writing is hard. Pulling words from thin air and putting them on paper isn’t always the hard part. Getting them to affect your readers the way you want them to? Yeah, that’s the ridiculously difficult part.
27. I know what I want to say. What I want to reveal about characters, plots, events, schemes. I have it outlined and I know what my MC is about. I know his past and his future. I know the world he inhabits. That doesn’t mean my telling you about it is effective.
28. Finishing my first draft was an accomplishment. Amazing. It felt like winning. So, when I heard my first readers’ feedback and went back to re-read it myself….
29. …it also felt like losing. Like failure. Because it needs so much work. I’m dealing with that now. Revising. Adding. Deleting. Changing how the entire book is written. And it’s hard.
So, here we are, today, leap day, 2016. Time to take a leap – of faith. Of confidence. To keep trying.
Whatever you’re working on, I hope you can take that same leap, too.