My earliest recollection was a story written in crayon. It wasn’t a big prize, a publishing contract or the gateway to success, but the golden stars glistened like a precious metal on a story of a boy who built a rocket ship.
Over forty years later I picked up my pen, and enrolled in a creative writing class at the community college. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, but on my list of things to do in my retirement years. With the economy plummeting, savings dwindling and the stock market on a downward spiral, retirement seemed an unreal goal. So, before I reached the age of retirement, I picked up my list and began at number one – write a novel.
Although I hadn’t attempted as much as a short story. writing had, nevertheless, been a passion of mine and after moving away from home as a teenager, I wrote long letters home, embellished with daily life in the west country of England. I described, the milkman, the postman, the farmer next door. I told stories of the tiny gosling that wandered into my kitchen lost and muddy, of the meadow I found full of bluebells and the winding stream trickling over rocks under a canopy of trees. Each letter was a short story in itself.
The excitement I felt after enrolling in the class when I was in my late forties quickly waned. Each week, a petite bun headed lady, wearing a kimono one week and Scottish tartan the next, each accompanied by white trainers, spoke of publishing, famous authors and her childhood. None of which helped me in my endeavor to write a novel.
“Forget outlines and just write,” she suggested.
And I did.
I poured out words that had been colliding in my mind for years and before long I had three chapters of my first novel.
She reviewed the first chapter, suggested I kill off the main character and find a way to destroy the fishing village where the character lived. Obviously, the teacher and I were not on the same page.
Discouraged, I chatted with a fellow student and it was then that my writing career, like a paper airplane unsteady and without an engine, took flight. She introduced me to a writing group that met weekly.
Among published writers, I felt nervous and wasn’t sure if I wanted to subject my work to further criticism. But at that first meeting, I discovered the difference between criticism and critique. What I came away with was valuable notes. Not only were the group writers, they were also readers and their suggestions and words of encouragement made me want to improve my craft, learn more, spend time with people on the same journey.
It was at one of writing group meetings that a member suggested my stories were like cozy mysteries so I researched the genre and killed off, not my main character, but her aunt, immersed the protagonist in a fictional fishing village and studied books like The Breakout Novel by Donald Maas and purchased Margie Lawson’s lecture notes on editing. With a thirst for knowledge, I attended workshops, writing conferences and joined Cowtown Crimesolvers, who are affiliated with Sister’s in Crime. I contacted agents, publishers and sent short stories to e-zines, but apart from the acceptance of a few stories for anthologies, my writing and novel were declined.
“Rejection is a speed bump in the road, not a brick wall,” said Jeffery Deaver during an author interview and my road had become littered with speed bumps.
I continued writing and joined the thousands of writers who, in November, took the challenge to write a fifty thousand word novel in one month. NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, was the idea of a few West Coast college students and has turned into a global event. I sailed over the last day of November with over fifty thousand words and was declared a winner, proudly printed the winner logo, and stuck it by my computer. Now what?
The answer came in an e-mail from the folks at NaNoWriMo. Along with the winner logo, I was entitled to a free proof of my book from Createspace, an affiliate of Amazon. Once my manuscript had been formatted, I uploaded it to the Createspace site, used their wizard to design a cover and sent off for my proof.
I recently uploaded the file and cover image of my eleventh book. I don’t expect a gold star, and I won’t be getting advances from a big publishing house, but each month Amazon sends me a check, thousands of people are reading my books and most of all, I have something to pass on to my children and grandchildren – a little glimpse into the imagination of a girl who once wrote about rocket ships and trips to the moon.