Scratching chalk onto the blackboard of a high school classroom years
ago, I might have thought about the knifing which occurred there shortly
before I started student teaching. I also might have wished I’d majored in
Journalism or Creative Writing. I still do.
I did my share of writing in school, from my first story in fourth grade,
which drew ooh’s from my classmates when I read it to them, to book reports
and term papers. Writing came easily, so I served on my high school news-
paper staff, doing features and a regular column. I was also interested in
poetry, and several of my poems appeared in the school literary magazine.
Writing runs in my family. Many people can say that, but can they
also say those same people steered them in the wrong direction career wise?
They didn’t mean to, of course, but when my mother, who worked at a
newspaper in her earlier years, switched to teaching secondary English,
it had an impact on my life. My older sister took a similar position years
later, and it sent a definite message: Teach High School English.
Not long after I started my English Education major in college, my sister
switched to a newspaper job. If she’d done this earlier, perhaps I would’ve
looked into it, since writing was one reason I chose an English major.
My last two years in school were traumatic, since I lost twelve hours in
transferring to a large university, and I had killer English classes with an
unbelievable number of books to read. I then started a busy student teaching
schedule, preparing four different lessons each day. I knew teaching wasn’t
right for me almost immediately, and it didn’t help that I was at one of the
roughest high schools in the state of South Carolina. (There was another
knifing shortly after I left.)
Needless to say, I didn’t go into teaching. Instead, I worked at a printing/
newspaper office for about a year, but the only writing I did was my wedding
announcement (and thank you notes). Shortly after Rick and I married,
we moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where I worked in the International Students
Office at Texas Christian University. Typing student newsletters gave me
a taste of writing, and I seemed to gravitate toward it any time I could.
After we moved back to South Carolina, Rick kept asking me about my
summers at girls’ camps, and he finally suggested I write a book about my
adventures. I thought it was a good idea, so I started what is now a tween
novel, The Legend of Feather Lake. I didn’t accomplish much writing during
the next few years, however, but moved to the country and I found myself
getting bored, so I wrote–sometimes until one or two in the morning. I
finished my first draft while there, and we moved to a town a couple of hours
away. We were so busy, it was two years before I started working on my novel
again, but I eventually typed my draft on our electric typewriter and sorted
through the unorganized pages, cutting and pasting (literally) until I had
a cohesive story.
A friend suggested I go to our town’s writers’ meetings, and I started
working to polish my craft. By the time I went to my first Writers Conference,
I had something decent to show a publisher, and she was actually a little
interested. Then came months of editing and rewriting, and I started another
book: The Caribbean Code, which I initially wrote as a Nancy Drew book.
When we finally got a computer, typing was so much easier and I made
more progress. I wrote quite a bit while at a receptionist job, and I wanted
to write almost all the time. I cranked out a couple of adult novellas and
novelettes, and even some television scripts. I’ve published poetry and some
articles, but I haven’t yet acquired an agent or published my fiction, which
also consists of short stories, a couple of picture books, and more adventures
for tweens, including one based on my experience as an extra in the movie
remake of That Darn Cat.
It’s been a long journey from that story I read out loud in the fourth grade
until now, but I like to think the ups and downs have contributed richness to