As writers, we are on a journey. It's a long trip, full of potholes, rough roads, traffic we often can't find an easy way through, signs saying "road closed," and most of all, frustration. The completion of that journey is publication, and is almost always worth that long and tiring trip. Where do we start the journey, and how did we get the impulse to put everything else aside, and...go for it? We all have different stories to tell, and this one is mine.
I was ten years old when I first published. It was a very long poem, not in rhyme, which told about the antics of my three kittens. I was living in a boarding house in Rock Creek, Maryland, with my parents while my father was stationed in Washington, D.C. ( It was during this time that I first saw Congress is action, but that is another story.) My mother thought the poem was great...of course!...so she sent it off to a long-since defunct magazine, The Children's Digest. It was published, I think I received a whole dollar, and I was an author!
The second time I published something, I was twelve years old, and living in Seattle, Washington, while my father was stationed there. We had just come back from Alaska, and before that, from the Philippines. ( yep, I was an Army brat.) I had a Quarter Horse mare, the first horse I'd owned since we left Texas and the ranch. I'd been training her to show, when suddenly she went blind. The vet had no idea why. I was heartbroken, but she was such a good mare, I refused to give up on her. So I continued her training with voice signals to indicate when she came to a jump, or when she needed to turn left or right to avoid running into the fences. I did show her about four months later, and she won several classes. After the show, I wrote an article about her, the training, and her success as a show horse. It was published in the local papers, the major Houston, Texas paper, and in a horse magazine. I guess in those days, "rights" were not a big issue like they are today.
Never in those childhood days did I ever think of writing as a profession. My dream was to become a Musical Theatre singer, which I did at the age of 13. In fact, it wasn't until I was in college that I ever wrote anything that could have been published. I took an Anthropology class, and one of our assignments was to do a project for one of the cultures we had been studying. I chose Japan, and wrote a 20 page book of Haiku poetry. I guess it was pretty good, because my professor had it published for the college library. That was the only other time I attempted poetry of any kind until later in life.
Writing was not even a hobby during the days I was raising my children, nor when I went back to college to finish my degrees. It wasn't until 1996 that I once again wrote something that could possibly be published...some day! I was sitting at the computer one evening in December, 1996, catching up on some horse-related work ( my husband and I had a ranch, and bred, raised and trained Appaloosas), when from out of the blue, an idea came to me about a cockatoo parrot and the North Star. Crazy, huh? But that idea turned in the first of a series of short stories about Great Father ( my name for God, Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, or whatever one wants to call their religious Supreme Being) and his Great Beasts...Lion, Elephant, and Cheetah. And of course, various other characters like Little Donkey, Keira the African Grey Parrot, Goofy the Goffin's Cockatoo, and so on.
There were stories like The Cockatoo and the North Star, my first one; Santa Claus and The Red Light Bird...where an African Grey Parrot with its red tail takes over for Rudolph who has a bad cold, and leads Santa and the reindeer on their Christmas Eve journey; Who Stole The Fourth of July?...where Goofy steals the July 4th day from the calendar, so the Beasts can't celebrate, therefore there won't be fireworks' noise to hurt Elephant's ears; The Search for The Rainbow...where the rain has disappeared from the Great Forest, taking with it the Rainbow, so all the flowers and grass and trees and birds are gone, and Great Father has to send Lion, Elephant, and Cheetah out to search for the Rainbow. There were a couple of other stories, including one about Halloween and the three Great Beasts meeting up with a little dragon who had been banished from his home because he couldn't spit fire, and a would-be ghost who had also been banished because he couldn't become invisible.
These stories were written over a couple of years, passed around to friends with kids...who loved them, but then, ALL little kids love stories about talking animals....and then were put away and for the most part, forgotten about.
Christmas, 2005...my daughter sent me a box of books for Christmas: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books and Get Them Published; The ABCs of Writing For Children; The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children; and Children's Writer's Word Book. In this awesome gift, she also included a note which said ( paraphrased to be polite) Mom, get off your butt and start writing again!
In July, 2006, I took her...and myself...seriously, and signed up for the first of three courses with the Institute of Children's Literature.
My journey continues...
Until next time,
That's a wrap.