I’ve listened to many authors speak of their writing journey. Not one of them said they published their first novel in two or three years. They all told a story of how their first novel took them five to ten years from the birth of an idea to publication. I listened and then decided I’d be different. No way was it going to take me so long to get my first novel published. I was wrong.
Those of you who have been following me on Facebook and this blog know that I’ve been working on a middle grade fantasy called MYSTIC. My mantra for the past three years has been, “Yep, I’m still working on my novel.” It’s hard to explain to people why so many rewrites are necessary. Basically, it’s because I’m a beginner and when I was a kid I was outside playing sports and not reading books. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do.
The Making of an Author
Even though I didn’t read much as a child I did write. My earliest memory is of sitting on my grandmother’s bed writing a chapter book about a family during the Civil War. I was in first grade. I named one of the children in my story Philadelphia and needed help learning how to spell it.
We moved around a lot during my elementary years and I jumped from school to school. For a short time in fourth grade I attended Reber Elementary in Vineland, New Jersey and had a teacher named Mrs. Paterno. She put me in a pull-out group for creativity. We wrote stories. I loved it and I loved her for making me feel special. Thank you, Mrs. Paterno wherever you are.
Apparently, in middle school I joined a creative writing class. I don’t have any memories of the class but thanks to Facebook I’ve reconnected with someone who told me I was there. Later in high school I discovered theatre thanks to another teacher who gave me roles in plays and musicals. I still wasn’t reading but I was acting out stories and having fun.
Discovering Books in my Twenties
Then I met Eric. He carried a book with him everywhere he went. Once when he was in high school he got kicked out of his math class for laughing during a lesson. He had been reading instead of paying attention. Eric knew the names of his favorite authors and could spend hours browsing in bookstores. I’d always sigh and roll my eyes knowing I was going to be waiting a long time.
It wasn’t until I was expecting that my love for books blossomed. Suddenly, I needed to read everything I could about pregnancy and raising children. I was particularly interested in infant brain development. I’ve always told Arielle and Kai that the reason they’re musical is because I placed headphones on my abdomen and played Mozart and Bach for them while I was pregnant. They laugh. Anyway, things changed. Eric had to wait for me while I studied the parenting and psychology section of bookstores. I was in my early twenties and I had finally discovered a love for books. My writing also blossomed, I wrote several children’s stories and an adult novel.
A few years later, I took a college Education course on children’s literacy and it was life changing. Even though I was going to school to become a teacher I knew after that class what I wanted to do. Write! The professor introduced me to Patricia Polacco’s picture books and I adored them. I discovered her editor was Patti Gauch and I desperately wanted to meet her.
If you haven’t read Thank You, Mr. Falker you’re missing out. Oh, it’s beautiful!
The Birth of an Idea
I became a full-time teacher in October of 2003 and in November Arielle was in the car accident. I threw myself into teaching working twelve-hour days and spending weekends creating lesson plans. However, writing was still on my mind. Every time I introduced new books to my class I heard the voice inside telling me I should be writing too.
I learned Patti Gauch and Patricia Polacco were giving a conference in Ohio for teachers. I went. It was my first conference but also the first time I was completely alone since Arielle’s accident. I found myself on the hotel floor in a fit of uncontrollable tears. I had finally allowed myself time to feel and cry over what had happened in our lives. I fell apart but in putting the pieces back together I found my path. I was going to write a children’s book.
To be continued …