Once upon a time…
Trained as a journalist with a dream of living abroad, I married, produced my first three adorable children and figured that had squelched any plans of living overseas.
As it turned out, when the universe wants to help you, by golly, it helps you.
My spouse received a wonderful offer from his company that we could not refuse. Both of us were from small Texas towns and had always wanted to go somewhere. We packed up our three kids and headed to Africa for what we knew would be the biggest adventure of our lives.
I had written for newspapers and magazines in the states, creating news and feature stories from my observations. And so, when we hit Africa, I wrote several stories for The Star. I also had our fourth beautiful child.
In Africa, though, my writing took a turn. I discovered fiction.
I had the flu and tiring of the bed, I stumbled into the study and rummaged through bookshelves where dwellers before us had left behind Agatha Christie books. How had I not discovered her before? I devoured several in a very short time. These murder mysteries began lighting a spark inside me.
Fair Lady in South Africa published my very first short fiction (though not a mystery yet) while I tended an infant and shuttled three children back and forth to their two schools each day. Plus I was out and about with my new daughter talking to people and checking the pulse of a nation growing politically uneasy as the days passed.
A few months after I narrowly escaped conflict in Alexandra township, we were transferred to the Netherlands where our fifth and last fabulous child was born.
Now I had a newborn and a preschooler and three who went to the American International School in Rotterdam. My children had gone from living with apartheid to a school with 125 different nationalities. I was deliriously happy for their experiences!
Living in a skinny duplex I sent story after story out to various publications from the third floor while watching storms most of the season and becoming depressed with each rejection.
WOE IS ME WOE IS ME WOE IS ME!!
Life progressed. We returned to the states. Children grew up and I would later find myself on my own and that was when it clicked.
I began where any writer begins. With the first word.
I would write day after day, every morning from the moment I put my coffee pot on. Most times I would sit and write and never turn on the lights because I was more focused with no distractions. (I was an early riser.)
I can now say I’ve written in Midland, TX; Tyler,TX, Mesquite,TX; St.Louis, MO; Cleveland, Ohio; Johannesburg, South Africa; Zevenhuizen, the Netherlands; Colts Neck, N.J.; Conway, AR; Little Rock, AR; New York, New York; Denver, CO; Sterling, CO; Denver, CO; Littleton, CO. And, many other places as well.
That has worked for me. I’ve completed several books and with each one, I have become a better writer.
Having been published in The New York Times, The Plain Dealer, The Asbury Park Press and The Star, Johannesburg, South Africa, it’s tough to be working on fiction and not have reached publication with my mysteries.
But this is what I’ve discovered.
I began to realize there were networks out there I’d never had before. I began joining organizations like the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and others. And I am on the cusp of being published. I can feel it.
Querying agents brought me 75 rejections. But apparently, that’s nothing, which, most writers will tell you. Do I believe them? I must.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Every agent, editor or publisher doesn’t have to like your book. Just one person who will believe in you.
2. Attitude is everything. Keeping yourself upbeat despite rejection is a journey and it can be a joy, demonstrating your determination. Plus, that can be an inspiration for others no matter their goals. So win-win!
3. It’s important to keep writing on other projects, as well as that gem you have so much faith in.
4. Attend writing conferences. You will receive feedback there and make connections with other writers and editors and publishers and hopefully agents. The Gold Conference sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is in Denver September 20-22. You can sign up at www.rmfw.com.
5. Blog. What tremendous joy I have felt from connecting to others. Instant feedback and gratification to spur the writer on.
So stay tuned. I will keep you in the loop.
If you’re a writer, just begin!