I started writing when I was quite young. Harriet the Spy was my hero. I kept a notebook just like she did and would carry it with us in the car whenever we went somewhere, dutifully scribbling down what I saw. I always thought about writing and was well into my adult years before I realized that not everyone thinks in stories. As a little girl, I created whole families on the pages of that notebook, sometimes pulling out the Sears catalog and giving them clothes, furniture, toys etc. I had no idea at the time that I was creating characters-- something "real" writers do. (Granted they don't use the Sears catalog but you get the idea.)
Fast forward to middle school, when some of my dad's renters moved out and left behind several boxes of books. (Tragedy!) My dad let me pick out as many as I wanted. They were all adult books but I chose ones that looked good to me. One of them was called Black Mountain Breakdown by a lady named Lee Smith. She wrote about southerners-- people I recognized from my own life. I remember thinking I could write like her, with some practice of course.
High school brought more great, life-changing novels that I inhaled. Pat Conroy's The Prince Of Tides comes to mind as a stand-out-- another southern author who wrote about people who were familiar to me in the way they talked and thought. I also loved Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero and still remember the first line of that novel to this day: "People are afraid to merge." (So true!) I hung out in bookstores the way other teens hung out at the mall.
I also had a chance to take a creative writing course one summer (we called it "Brain Camp") at Davidson College where I still remember the professor using an author's short story as an example of great writing. The author was none other than one of my personal heroes, Lee Smith! I beamed. My senior year I won a writing contest for the whole school system and felt a little prickle of possibility. Perhaps someday I would write for other people... perhaps someday my name would be on the cover of a book!
I went to college and majored in writing and editing, a very good choice for a bibliophile like myself. Imagine my surprise when one day Lee Smith walked down the hall right in front of me! (She was a professor at the university I went to.) I knew I was in my element. I enjoyed most all my classes but had no idea what to do after college. It turned out I didn't have to worry, as I got married and had a son, then a daughter, then a son, then a daughter, then a son, then a daughter over the next 13 years. When I wasn't mothering my children and learning how to cook, I was able to write articles, devotions, and a few non-fiction projects-- all great experiences, but not what my heart was longing to write.
I still wanted to create those characters; give them lives, experiences, struggles, victories, tell their stories. In 2008, I finally wrote the first words to a project I had been mulling over for awhile. I decided to challenge myself to write from beginning to end. I started the novel in August of 08 and wrote til April of 2009. It was submitted to publishers in July of 2009 and by August of 09 I had a contract from an amazing publisher!! I was thrilled to discover in September that they had moved the publication up to June of 2010. It was a whirlwind year but on June 1st, 2010 I celebrated the release of my first novel, two days after my 40th birthday!!
Writing continues to be a passion for me. I've had a second novel come out and am looking forward to my third coming out in summer of 2012, with another title planned for summer of 2013. I hope that-- whatever your passion is-- you will chase after it with all your heart and never forget your dreams!