Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writer In Me

Since I was little I escaped through books and stories. One of my first books that I can remember loving to read was a Fairy Tale book that my grandma Betty Ashba had gotten me for Christmas. In those pages I walked the trail with Little Red Riding Hood and fought through brambles and thorns to see a prince awaken a princess that was sleeping in a castle under the evil spell of a witch. That book is one of my most precious possessions and it is valuable only to me. Those stories and countless ones I came up with led me discovering the writer in me. For so many years I shared what I put down on paper with very few people. One of the first stories I shared with my English teacher was a story I wrote on a dream I had about my uncle Gary. I had a great love for my uncle. He was young, funny, had an infectious laugh that I can still hear in my ears to this day, introduced me to Space Dust aka. Pop Rocks candy, and could make me feel like I was flying on a tire swing. Most of all he reminded me of my father, since they were brothers they favored quite a bit. I remember his wild hair and that he smelled like leather and soap. I had written about looking outside my window and seeing him standing there in an olive green t-shirt and jeans-probably what I last remember him wearing and he was smiling. He had died previous in an accident, but I remember feeling all the happiness I always felt when I was around him. The teacher called me to his classroom before the end of the day. I can remember being nervous because I wasn't sure what I was being called down for. Mr.Hensley was a wonderful teacher but I had really went out on a limb by letting him read the story. I remember sitting in the front row and waiting for him to get done watching the halls after school and then he came in and shut the door. He went to his podium and he had the few pages that had made up my story in his hand. He pulled up a chair and took off his glasses and looked at me. He placed the story before me on a desk and my first thought was, "Oh God, it's really bad!" However, that wasn't his reaction at all. He patted my hands and told me that my story had moved him so much because he'd had someone that had been special to him as well as a young child. I was dumbstruck. I mean what do you tell a teacher whose eyes were watering as if he was on the cusp of tears. He told me he wanted me to write something for him every week. He gave me tips and even gave me subjects to experiment with. For the rest of the school year, I met with him and one of the rare poems I wrote, he video taped me reading to add to his collection of students reading poetry because he loved it. That nurtured the seed that was already planted. When I was in high school I wrote all the time when I wasn't doing school work or gabbing. When I would be up late at night I would write. I joined the Drama club and Reflections to write but true to form I never could bring myself to let anyone read anything until I was in Mr.Moritz's class. Mr.Moritz had given us an assignment to write a short story about anything. I labored a full two weeks and handed in a short story about a girl who met a boy who could time travel. He liked it but he said I held back and wanted me to write something else. Again I put my nose to the grindstone and wrote a short story about a girl who spent a night with a vampire who wanted nothing more than conversation. It was that story that led to Renegade Night, the first in the Guardians Of Night Series. He loved the story and told me first that I was too bright of a girl to be writing about vampires-Mr.Moritz was too much of a Disney guy, but I had to become a writer! Mr.Moritz was one of my favorite teachers, and when he died I cried it seemed for a week. Not all of my writing was well received. One night after being mad at my sister for getting us grounded, I wrote a story about a woman stalked and "possibly" murdered by her deranged Siamese twin sister. My sister said it gave her nightmares not to mention my grandmother didn't like it at all and I was grounded an extra week of no mall; which at the time was a punishment worse than death. I wrote anything that popped in my head whether it was a story or poem. When I started college, I had to take a creative writing class and Ms.Willis loved the things I would turn in. She also told me that writing was in my blood-it was what I was born to do and I had to keep it up. I was flattered and just took it as something nice but not serious. I turned 35 and I came to the realization after discovering that long ago story I had written for Mr.Moritz, that I had to know-I had to know if I still had it since when my grandfather passed and then 8 months later my best friend died of a tragic accident I hadn't written or even read a book. I began letting the words and ideas flow and wrote and rewrote and wrote until I had four composition notebooks full. I gave them to my sister to read, and after a few days she said she loved it and I had to send it out to someone. So we began researching how to go about doing it. I have to admit at this point, that I didn't know about sites like Writer's Beware or Author's Den. I sent out a perfectly edited manuscript I had typed out on Word to 80 publishers that I just found by random. I didn't know anything about sending query letters(which I advice people to learn how to do). A few sent the classic reject letter and some just didn't send anything at all. Publish America(the Great American Scam Publisher) actually called. I was so naive and elated that I didn't do my homework and when they sent their contract I signed it with the understanding that they were a publisher-not a vanity press, but the "ink was already dry on the paper". I wont' go into the enormous let down Publish America is but here I had this book with my name on it and I felt like I had finally gotten to the brass ring. Well the brass ring was nickel plated. When everything crashed and it dawned on me that I had basically thrown my hard work away to a vanity press who wanted MY money not money for my book, I was devastated. I wept, I sobbed, and I almost gave up. Almost. I think I would have had I not just found the so many people who had been through this and were still writing and still trying. It also helped that I had a friend and mentor in Canadian Author, Denyse Bridger who introduced me to the fine folks at XoXo Publishing. So am I on the New York's Best Seller list? No. Am I in book stores nationwide? No, not yet. Do I still have my love and passion for writing? Yes, and even more so I must say. I know I'm going to have to pay my dues like most other great authors. The Stefanie Meyers, E.James, and other overnight sensations are rare but I find that with each story I write and new stories I discover is just another tool for me to hone my craft! The writer in me has not yet begun to fight or give up, but she's always creating tapestries of stories. I'm constantly looking at what I can look at and see in a different way. So whether it's a story about something that goes bump in the night or a child's adventure with mermaids,pixies, or some character's journey over the turbulent seas of life to come out on the other side; I'll be writing it!

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