The Moment I First Realized I Could Write: I was 12 years old, in 8th grade. My teacher gave us an assignment in which we each had to use three elements the class had picked at random in a story: a priest, a nurse and a camel. I set my story on a desert island. The camel was sick, the priest and nurse were attracted to one another and, as the camel was airlifted by a helicopter, the priest and nurse came together on the beach. It was very Thornbirds...before Thornbirds was even published! The teacher had me read my story to the class three days running. I was lucky it was one of the rare popular years of my life, because otherwise, everyone would have wound up hating me. By the time those three days were over, I still had friends and for the first time in my life it occurred to me that maybe I had stories to tell that other people would want to hear.