WHERE I BEGAN MY JOURNEY
Because I’ve authored and published four novels, I call myself a writer. However, sometimes I still have trouble believing that’s me. I’ll be candid. I’m not like most of the writers I know. I never had a burning desire to write stories when I was young. Instead of curling up with a book as a child, I spent most of my time with furry critters, domesticating kittens, exploring creek banks with our family dog, or riding horseback around the farm. I grew up in Kansas flyover country, where my roots run deep.
Though I’ve lived in different states, Kansas is where I feel at home. I’m in my vintage years. It sounds surreal today to admit my earliest education echoed the TV show Little House on the Prairie, where I attended a rural one-room schoolhouse in the 1950s. I was the only child in my grade for most of those eight years. However, Mrs. McQuillan, my teacher for most of those years, gave me both individual time and often juggled my lessons with other grade levels.
My high school years were before area schools consolidated. Our class consisted of five students for those four years. Of course, there were disadvantages to being in such a small school; however, I now realize the most significant benefit. Every student was encouraged (perhaps even obligated) to participate in various activities: sports, music, speech, plays, etc. There were few tryouts where anyone was cut from a team—we were the team.
I had no desire to attend college. Instead, I studied a general course at a business school. I learned business skills like typing, dictation, bookkeeping, and composition of professional business letters. It wasn’t exciting. It was practical and useful when I found employment with an insurance company after marrying my high school sweetheart. It also gave me the confidence to own my home-based business when my children were young.
When the kids left home, I sold my business and delved into the creative side of myself by taking art lessons. I loved learning to use oils, pastels, watercolors, and acrylics. However, my walls began sagging with my artwork. That’s when a friend asked me to join her creative writing group. I was a wanna-be artist, not a writer. Yet, Mary kept pestering me until I accepted her invitation.
I started with simple stories and descriptions that soon led to exploring my emotions. I found it could be therapeutic to share my thoughts with the group. And the best part was—I was having fun. The more comfortable I became with using words, the more I let my imagination take me on journeys with characters I had created. I became thirsty to learn more about the craft of writing, so I started reading some of my stories at our library’s open mic night. And when they offered an author workshop, I signed up.
The American crime novelist, Nancy Pickard, presented a program that inspired me. I’d bought the book she and Lynn Lott had written, Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path. However, before I had time to study that writer’s guide, on my drive home, I already knew I wanted to develop something more from a short story I’d written. So I told one of my writing friends and my husband. And then, for the better part of the next year, I hid in my office over my second cup of coffee most mornings. I wrote about the heartache of a child taken away from her family. I studied the skill of writing, developed characters I loved, and achieved my selfinflicted challenge to write a full manuscript. I accomplished writing my first rough draft of The Rocking Horse.