where the writers are
When I First Learned to Write

I can barely remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I fell in love with words and books before I started school but the impulse to write words down by myself became urgent as soon as I learned to print, probably in kindergarten. I loved the smell of paper and the feel of a pencil in my hands.

In first grade I was swatted on my behind for talking too much in class and ignoring the teacher. My need to communicate, a chatterbox, was coupled with painful shyness and yet the desire to be the center of attention.

 I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have fantasies going on in my head. My mom read her old Raggedy Ann books to me at bedtime and fairies and candy hearts and white aprons and talking animals inspired me. I danced with those fairies in my grandmother’s yard, I swirled to imaginary music in my head, and I made my own villages filled with people cut out of the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. Not to mention, the dolls. I had about 12 and I remember one sunny day giving them rides in the basket on my bike so they could see the neighborhood.

 In third grade I began to take the written word seriously and wrote my own mystery. By then, Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew were my heroines. Looking back, my first story was embarrassingly familiar. Dick, Jane and Tom, sister and brother and cousin, dare each other to spend the night in an old house reputed to be haunted. When mysterious things occur, they are frightened but won’t give up. It turns out that a monkey who escaped from the circus was causing all the mischief, although of course, I wasn’t mature enough to realize that the monkey needed to eat as well as play pranks! It was my first self-published novel. I stapled it between the construction paper cover and drew my own illustrations. I knew I wanted to be writer, especially a mystery story writer.

 But in sixth grade this desire solidified. In the meanwhile, I thought I might become a professional dancer or an actress or a director as I loved to boss my brother around and always took charge when my friends and I acted out our own versions of Dr. Kildare. For class that spring we were assigned the project of writing a story. Again, I threw myself into it. I wrote "The Sun Comes Shining", a story of teen-aged love. The boyfriend saves his girlfriend's brother by pushing him out of the way of a car but dies himself. She mourns, then goes to sit in their special seat which overlooks the ocean. The sun comes shining, meaning she knows her life will go on. I had every girl in the class sobbing. That’s when I knew, this is for me!

There were years when my writing was confined to a journal. I joined a commune, traveled to the Middle East and Mexico, and raised two boys. I fell in love and had my heart broken, moved several times, starting over again and again. But I would take a writing class through the extended university or community ed, join a writer’s group and slowly, carefully, hopefully, sent out submissions. My memoirs poured out as I tried to understand what had happened after years of dedication followed by betrayal, when my voice had been silenced. I needed to speak.  And I had to get the facts down before they faded. But to call myself a writer…that didn’t happen until years later, when I realized that not only was my passion for words my calling, but that I needed the communication that can happen between oneself and the world. I devoted myself to writing practice because of the urgency to express myself but the reason I became a writer was that I needed the world to answer my call.