In The Beginning: With Nothing To Lose

On Monday I explained the reasons I was destined not to become a writer.  Other talents and activities.  Strange educational decisions.  No scholarly examinations of the written word.  And while all of those were factors, I saved the most important.  Like so many of us, particularly those of us of the female persuasion, I was told that nobody makes a living in the arts.  Unless we wanted to teach (fill in the blank here), then there was no point in pursuing an education in that field.  So while I had always loved writing fiction, on the rare occasions I was given the opportunity, I knew writing was not an avenue to follow. 

Forget that the short story class I took just for fun was the single most exciting class I’d ever taken.  Forget that later, as a therapist, the sheer joy of writing up my case notes should have been carefully explored.  Forget that I put myself to sleep at night with wild, exotic tales of other times and other people.  Nobody makes a living. . .

I was in my early thirties before I was mature enough to question why I believed something so silly.  I had fallen back on my years of piano, and was teaching twenty lively children while taking care of my own menagerie of three-going-on-four.  One of the moms told me that she’d submitted the first three chapters of a mystery novel and had gotten a nod to send the rest.

She had submitted chapters and someone in New York City was interested?  That happened?  I was as excited as she was, for slightly different reasons. 

Months later my husband came home and mentioned he’d met a woman who made her living as a writer.  Okay, she wrote fantasy game scenarios, but she wrote!  They paid her.  And suddenly, all the red lights I’d patiently accepted turned green, and I was speeding toward a new destination.

Sometimes change is that simple and that complicated.  I was finally old enough to question the wisdom of words spoken to me years before. Too,  I was finally old enough to say, so who cares?  I had nothing to lose.  What were a few rejections or even a thousand compared to the joy, the bliss, of sitting down at a computer and putting words, MY words, on the screen?  By then we were living in a strange new city (New Orleans is indeed stranger than most), and I had a new baby to care for.  But all that suddenly seemed like nothing.  I could find time.  I could find a way.  I could write.  And I did.

I started, as I’d learned to in graduate school, with research.  I read every relevant how-to book in my local library.  Short stories?  I wrote them.  Confessions?  Ditto.  A children’s story sold.  The $25 dollars I received in payment was my validation.  I could write.  Someone besides my husband thought so. 

I did the math.  At that rate I would need to publish at least a thousand stories per child in the family to get them to college.  And by then, I wasn’t going to stop writing, even if I had to move the family to the proverbial garret.  So it was on to novels.  At almost the moment I realized this, Kathryn Falk of Romantic Times Magazine came out with How to Write A Romance And Get It Published.  For me.  I was sure of it.  After all, that irrelevant education I mentioned before?  I’d studied what?  People, relationships, marriages, families, psychology, sociology, the American psyche, American culture.  Was there ever a better background for what I really wanted to do?

I wrote a romance, then another.  I found an agent (too good a story to tell quickly).  They sent the book off, and the next thing I knew an editor in New York was calling to tell me how delighted she was to have bought my manuscript. The skies expanded.  Angels sang.  I still remember exactly where I was standing when the call came.

Sixty-something novels later, the angels still sing, and I am so grateful that I finally questioned the axioms of good-hearted people determined to make sure I had bread on my table and a roof over my head.  But what did I learn when I finally realized I could and should write for a living?  I learned that we as parents, as teachers, as adults, should never question or tamper with the dreams of a child.  I told my own children that of course, they should pursue anything they loved.  That, of course, they could become astronauts or composers or Arctic explorers.  Even more?  I believed it.

I still do. Why wouldn’t I?


  1. Terri Hefner on January 6, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    My friend Debra Hearne who got hooked on Diane Chamnberlain and we got to meet her at Sunset Beach and stayed at the beautiful bed and breakfast place you reccommended(I think) maybe not, but,I have finally started reading your books and love them. Thank you!!!

  2. Marna on January 7, 2011 at 3:57 am

    I didn’t know you’d written a children’s story!

  3. Marna on January 7, 2011 at 3:58 am

    I mean, it makes sense that you’d have written for your children, I didn’t know you’d sold one.

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