How did you become a writer?
I've wanted to be a writer for a long time. It probably started when my best friend and I were going to make a book together. She was the writer, I was going to do the illustrations. But the words, the story, the characters, that was always what I loved. I spent quite a bit of time writing short, little things that never went anywhere. My first published work was in my college newspaper. I wrote the horoscopes. I got a lot of people asking me how I did it. I shall never reveal my secrets....!
My littlest sister said to my mother "I didn't know Mary Jane had ESP!"
Later, much later, when I felt like I'd missed my chance to be a broody creative writing major in college or to toil away until the wee hours of the morning on a novel (I had a hard time staying up late. Still do.) I took a book on how to illustrate picture books. When we got there, she told us we were going to need to write a story to illustrate.
Maybe it should have been called "Picture Book Illustration of a book you will be required to write!"
But then I might not have taken it.
Emboldened, I wrote. And Submitted, and submitted some pretty terrible stuff.
I saved ALL those rejection letters in files and folders. Eventually, I put them all in a binder, as proof of trying. Even though only one letter said that they'd like to see more. Later. When I got better.
For a long time after that, I didn't write.
I thought about writing. I wrote stories in my head. I imagined characters and worlds, and entire books.
But I was busy doing the things that fill our time. Kids. Work. Life.
Then, one day, I was telling one of my kids not to give up on something. You know how kids are - they don't let you say one thing and do another.
So, back to my desk. Because...time was passing! And I still had a dream!
I decided to put as much effort into writing as I was doing with everything else and see what happened.
I went to conferences, rejoined SCBWI, attended a NAMELOS workshop and a Highlights Foundation workshop. I called it my DIY master's degree. I read and read and read and I WROTE.
Then, with lots of support from the people around me who listened, read, and weren't too upset when I was grumpy from getting up early (yawn!) and working late (double yawn!). The stars aligned.
At least that's how it felt.
I started getting rejections with "stuff" in them!
I hit a groove.
Something shifted inside me and I found my characters coming alive on the page.
And then one day.....
Ah, that's a post for someday soon.
(Originally published February 13, 2016)