I would write even if I never sold another book. Why? Because being a writer isn't what I do for a living, it's who I am. I think that's true of most writers. We are drawn to words, to characters, to stories. When we're unable to put our thoughts down on paper, something is missing in our lives.
When my third book, Back In Kansas, was released, I returned to my old hometown of Brookings, South Dakota, to participate in a booksigning and speak at the library. Among the attendees at my talk was my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Wrage. She told me she knew even "way back then" that I would be a writer because when given a one-page writing assignment, I handed in a four-page story.
Perhaps one of the reasons I feel compelled to write is that my life has always been filled with interesting "characters." My parents owned and operated a taxi company out of our home while I was growing up. I think I was the only kid in my class who resisted getting a driver's license when I turned sixteen -- because I knew I'd get put to work. But, strangely, once I started driving cab, I loved it. Every stop was a chance to meet someone interesting -- or quirky. And, believe me, every quirky passenger had a story to tell.
My parents sold their company and retired when I was in college. I like to think I stored up all those stories for later use, because I didn't get serious about writing until 1987, when I won a writing contest. That win gave me the confidence to submit articles to magazines; and, to my glee, a freelance newspaper article segued into a full time job.
Working for a newspaper sharpened my word skills and I also learned how to step back from my work and look at it with an editor's critical eye. I loved writing feature stories. Each assignment was an opportunity to meet interesting -- and yes, at times, quirky people. But in 1996, when corporate downsizing removed me from the "human- interest" story market, I found myself floundering and miserable. My husband -- my true life hero -- offered to pay me to stay home and write. With a nervous glance at the benefit package I was leaving behind, I took a giant leap and quit my day job.
The first thing I did was read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Her exercises helped me re-connect with my creativity. Before long, I'd found the focus I needed to start writing a book. I chose to target the romance genre because this is what I love to read; I chose to target Harlequin's Superromance line because Supers aren't afraid to tackle "big" stories, and with 80-85,000 words there's room to develop characters and more complex story lines.
I received "The Call" -- as my family refers to my first sale -- in 1999 when Harlequin Superromance offered to buy "That Cowboy's Kids." My dream of becoming an author had come true, but I soon discovered that the work was just beginning.
Writing is a job, and I take it very seriously. I go to my computer or laptop every day and write something -- even if I don't end up using it. I attend conferences and give workshops and read as much as my poor tired eyes can stand. They say if you're doing something you love, it's not work. And I agree. I love discovering new characters that come to me with their stories. During the process of getting to know them, a story unfolds, and once in awhile I'll bump into a character who reminds me of someone who passed through my life at sometime or another -- maybe even on a ride in my taxi cab.
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