I think I’ve been writing since before I was old enough to write. My mom has a poem
I dictated to her when I was five:
“When you are a baby, you are a little seed.
When you are a child, you are a little bud.
When you are a grown-up, you are a beautiful rose.
And when you are old, the wind blows your petals away.”
All right, so what if it didn’t rhyme? When I was six or seven, I made my first book by stapling two pieces of cardboard and some notebook paper together. I was in love with Laura Ingalls’ Little House books, but I did not live in the Big Woods, or on the Prairie. At the time, we lived on 11th Street, so my story was called “The House on 10th Street”. It was about a house with a mean family that lived in it, and the bad kids drew all over the walls. The house was very sad. Then a nice family moved in and fixed up the house. The house lived happily ever after.
I stuck with writing poetry until seventh grade, when I wrote my first novel, a hundred-plus page mystery written on notebook paper, called “The Tunnel Murders”. I don’t think there was a single murder in it, actually. It was more like a bad soap opera rip-off. With smooching scenes! I can’t believe I let my grandmother read it.
In high school, I was more interested in being a rock star and a movie actress than being a writer. I kept a journal and I wrote lots of horrible songs with obscure lyrics. A little too obscure, perhaps. Blood and dragons were mentioned a lot. And no, I will not post any of my song lyrics here for your amusement.
During our senior year, a group of us published our poems in a chapter book, titled Revolutionary Pen and Ink. It led to a short-lived lit magazine, named Back Alley Review. We were interviewed in Coast Magazine! We were famous! Umm, or not.
I went to college and studied theater. One day in Fundamentals of Acting, our teacher held up a picture of a bunch of rocks and told us to write a scene based on that picture. Two hours and seven pages later, the class was over and I was still sitting in that tiny arena theater writing a short story about a girl who grew up in Hollywood and met Lucille Ball. I’m not sure how I got from rocks to Lucille Ball- but I should have known that day I was in the wrong major. It wasn’t long before I switched to English and began down the path of becoming a Serious Writer. I wrote serious and depressing literary short stories until I finished school and began teaching seventh graders. Two revelations occurred to me then:
- I was not meant to teach middle school.
- I was not meant to write literary adult fiction.
I quit teaching, and wrote a middle grade fantasy, set in ancient Ireland. And then I wrote another middle grade story, about a girl who could talk to dolphins.
(And then I went back to school for a nursing degree because I really like to eat.)
Then I wrote my first YA paranormal. I got an agent. The book didn’t sell. I had an idea for a book but I was scared I wasn’t ready to write it. I wrote another instead. It didn’t sell. I decided to write the scary book idea, a fantasy about a girl growing up in Imperial Russia. The agent didn’t think it would sell. I got a new agent. We revised this book over and over before submitting to publishers. It didn’t sell. We revised it again. And it sold. Along with its two sequels.
So don’t give up, and don’t panic. Keep calm and… keep on writing. Everything happens for a reason. Even if you don’t take the path you thought you needed to take.