When I go on book tours or visit book-groups, readers often ask me, “Did you always dream of being an author?”
I can’t say that I did…When I was a kid, I thought of being a doctor, a forest ranger or a soldier, all, at that time, “male professions”. Being a mom, a midwife or an author never entered my mind, but I was always a storyteller. I loved to entertain and would go on and on.
But there was a darker side to my storytelling. Even before I put pen to paper, I told stories in my mind, long involved ones to get myself to sleep. The sad truth is I grew up in a home where there was domestic violence. No one every hurt me, but every Friday night I could count on a fight, first just words, but then it would get physical.
My Dad, a truck driver, would get paid and stop off at the pub. Long after midnight, he would show up at the house. My mom would be waiting for him and things would get ugly. That’s when I would lie in bed and make up stories to sooth myself, not short stories, but elaborate novels that went on night after night.
Later, in high school, I excelled at oratory and wrote my own speeches. In college I majored in Drama. All these things, I’m sure inform my writing and have made me the Drama Queen that I am.
I am late bloomer as an author, but a deeper one because of that. I didn’t write my first book until I was in my sixties, had raised three boys, lived the life of a homesteader-hippie, become a midwife and then a nurse-midwife, so I had many stories to tell.
I meet a lot of women who are struggling to find time to write. There’s a reason I didn’t start, until late. Before that, I was just too dang busy. It wasn’t until my boys were out of the house and I stopped delivering babies, that I had the time or energy to get serious. I was also going through menopause and couldn’t sleep, so I’d get out of bed, open my laptop and begin to type. The stories just poured out of me, like water flowing over a dam about to break.
I never took writing classes, except maybe literature classes in college. I thought about getting my MFA, but felt I had to choose… write a book or get a degree to learn how to write a book. I didn’t have time to do both.
For my first book, I did hire an ex- creative writing professor as a consultant, for the tune of a few thousand dollars. It was like having private lessons and way cheaper than a graduate degree. What I learned from her is to write sensually, describe in detail, the smells, the feel, the sounds, the colors. I also read every book I could find on writing. (Well maybe not every book!)
What kind of advice would I offer a busy woman, who aspires to someday be an author?
Keep a journal. I have a whole box full and they have been the source of at least one memoir. Write poetry and short stories in the middle of the night. It doesn’t matter if no one reads them. Write one beautiful true thing each day.