When I was a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My parents believed the most important thing for me to do was support myself.
My mom said, “Nobody will take care of you, but you. Go to work.”
So I did. College wasn’t an option for me, at least my parents weren’t going to pay for college and because I was a girl, I didn’t need that sort of education. Girls were secretaries or salesgirls in stores. At nineteen I started working for the phone company. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it paid the bills and honestly, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I went to work every day. One year led to another. One job led to another within the phone company.
I did get a college degree from the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) thanks to a tuition reimbursement plan and a lot of work. The funny thing is, even after eleven years of plugging away at college, working full time and getting a degree, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. At work, I worked on a monthly newsletter, wrote a collaborative research paper on a new technology that won a prize, and wrote a couple of speeches that were presented in annual meetings. The opportunities were few and far between.
One of the things I did throughout this time was read. If I wasn’t reading text books, I was reading fiction. I love being immersed in some other world. It didn’t matter if it was the Earth we all know and love, or someplace else created from someone’s imagination. I read westerns, romances, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and many other genres.
2010 rolled around and there were changes at work. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around for another company change and I was getting close to retiring. What was I going to do? Sitting around watching television isn’t for me. I began thinking I could write fiction. I had this story floating around my head and writing could be done from anywhere. Right? It would be a great career to embark on after I retire. Right?
In October of 2010, I said goodbye to the daily grind and traveled a bit. In January, 2011, I began classes at Pima Community College for creative writing because writing research papers is nothing like writing fiction. The fiction I wrote was awful. The writing program at Pima has excellent teachers and in three years of taking mostly workshop style writing classes I have been able to turn my amateurish writing into something readable, at least most of the time.
During this process I met a couple of woman that owned and published an on-line magazine and radio show, Big Blend Magazine and Radio, http://www.bigblendnetwork.com,
Lisa Smith and Nancy Reid knew I was going to Hawaii and said they would be interested in a article about Volcano National Park. Coincidently, my non-fiction class had an assignment that I used to write the Volcano National Park piece. After I submitted the piece for class, I submitted it to Big Blend and they took it. It was my first published article. I tried to control my excitement, but how can a new writer not be excited about having their first piece published. Since then Big Blend has published several travel articles and one about working from home. Lisa and Nancy have pushed me into travel writing and encouraged me to keep going with my fiction. I am glad they did. Their enthusiasm helped focus me and keep me moving forward.
As for the fiction, I’m still working on that. I feel I’m starting late at this game, but I feel it’s better to try than sit back and wish you had. What I’ve learned is you have to keep writing. You have to learn what the “rules” are so that when you break them, you know you are breaking them and are doing it with intention. You need mentors that aren’t your friends and family. You need people that will tell you, “this isn’t working.” You need to keep submitting piece after piece. You have to research the places you submit to and follow their submission guidelines. You need to not get discouraged. Very few writers ever had their first pieces accepted. Don’t quit your day job. (I am still working for the phone company, part-time.) Read more, see what works in other stories, ask yourself why you like this story more than that one? Be patient. If you are persistent and continue to improve your craft, good things will come.