I didn’t come into writing the usual way – creating stories from the moment I left the womb, through childhood and adolescence building a body of work, and then going off to college to pursue my dreams. But I always loved it. A geek in those god-awful years known as high school, I adored researching and writing papers. Especially in English and social studies. My mother suggested I get on the staff of the yearbook and school paper. In a fit of teenage rebellion, I refused, even though I planned to major in Journalism.
When I was attending college in the 1970s, the aftermath of Watergate and the Washington Post reporters who brought down a president was on everyone’s mind. It seemed every kid in journalism programs across America wanted to be the next Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, so there was competition, to put it mildly. I changed my focus to broadcast journalism, and found myself in small Iowa and Minnesota towns, writing ad copy and reading the hog reports. Not glamorous in the least, but I thought maybe I’d discovered my true calling.
As often happens, life intervened. I had to take real (and often menial) jobs to pay the bills, and radio became a part-time gig. I discovered a different type of writing in the corporate sector interviewing employees on their volunteer involvement. I added writing and recruitment as volunteer coordinator for a very large, yearly church fall festival. In all those years of questionable career choices, writing was what I loved the most.
In my late twenties, I fell in love and followed my future husband to his first job in California, despite warning my girlfriends, “Don’t ever follow a man to be closer to him. Disaster is sure to follow.” So much for taking my own advice. Trapped in the worst job I ever held and with my spouse frequently working nights, I decided to go get a master’s in mass communications. Again, research and writing papers enthralled me. But I wasn’t really thinking about writing seriously yet – our graduate advisers kept telling us that professors on the tenure track were about to retire and we’d have our pick in teaching jobs. Never one able to grab onto a trend before it dies, that would turn out not to be true. When we returned to the Midwest, it was during writing my thesis. It was then that I realized how much I missed writing regularly and immersed myself in what would become a treatise on how Catholic women were portrayed in Hollywood films. It changed my life. I self-published two editions of work as a text for college students.
For a few years I had my own freelance writing business, working primarily for non-profits doing everything from articles for newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, visitor’s guides, press releases – the gamut of nonfiction work. My husband and I experienced some unique events and I began writing short stories based on real life experiences. It wasn’t until my marriage ended that I delved into my pain and expressed it through writing. In 2017 I published two stories – Grand Slam in The Accentos Review and Reckless Acts in the After Effects anthology published through Zimbell House.
Writing and volunteering with the many worthy programs of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation and the East Side Learning Center (ESLC), both in St. Paul, Minnesota, are at the center of my life. Wilder has let me use my writing skills for several projects. I’m submitting short stories all the time and have a crime/suspense novel I’m seeking agency representation for and working on a second.
My story is a work in progress and I hope you’ll come along or contribute to this journey. And if someone advises you to work on the yearbook, paper, or in a small market to gain experience, take it. Even if it’s your mom and you’d rather not, remember these people have lived more life than you. My bet is you won’t regret realizing you don’t know everything after all.