Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Presenting the Playground Monitor
That sounds like the title of a romance novel, doesn't it? ;-)
Unlike some of the other writers you've heard from, I wasn't born writing. As a matter of fact, I hated creative writing in school because well... I wasn't very creative. Now, give me a topic and tell me to research it and write a factual paper and I'm happy as a clam. I could totally identify with Lt. Friday on Dragnet when he would say, "Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts." But make up a story??? Eeek! Give me those forks in the eyeballs.
I always did like to read, though. But my reading tastes as a child leaned toward Hardy Boys, Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mystery books and a mystery series about a family called the Happy Hollisters. In high school I discovered Mary Stewart but most of my reading was the usual stuff for English class, which included an unfortunate introduction to Herman Melville. Blech! I had the same English teacher for 3 years since she taught the advanced class. She L-O-V-E-D Melville; I strongly dislike his work.
College brought lots of reading for lots of classes and after graduating from college I vowed never to read again. I kept that vow for a while but my husband's job required him to travel a lot. I traveled with him but since I didn't work, it got lonely being in a strange city all day so I started reading novels to pass the time. His travel status also led to my first published work -- an article in HIS professional government agency journal about the trials and travails of the traveling auditor and his spouse. I got a nice plaque from the agency and a letter from the Comptroller General of the United States and the Atlanta Field Office director thought I was the bees knees. There might be something to this writing stuff.
Then my husband's job moved us overseas where he traveled about 90% of the time and this time I couldn't always travel with him. So more than ever I needed something to occupy my time. I located the Army library and got myself a library card and continued reading. I read every Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mystery they had. I discovered Stephen King (but gave him up after too many sleepless nights from his unbelievably vivid story-telling), Robert Ludlum and Sidney Sheldon. I remember walking past the Ritz Hotel in Paris and remembering that Sheldon had used it in The Other Side of Midnight.
Then I got pregnant and my reading switched to pregnancy and childbirth books, and then later child rearing books and stories such as Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny and The Pokey Little Puppy. After my children started school, I began to entertain the idea of writing again, but I never thought about writing novels; I wanted to be like my then-heroine, Erma Bombeck, whose column I read in the daily newspaper and whose books I devoured. I loved the humor she was able to find in everyday life. But everyday life intervened instead and I had to join the workforce. Instead of writing humor, I wrote shipping and receiving procedures. Yawn. I also kept track of communications equipment for a Space Shuttle contract, part of which was inventorying facsimile machines all over the world. A sign outside my cubicle read "Just the fax, ma'am. Just the fax."
Fast forward to about 1998 and I discovered reruns of a TV show called "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." I'd always enjoyed the Superman movies and this was a different twist to the story. This focused on the romance between Clark Kent and Lois Lane. I did a little internet searching and found an online community of fans and also discovered something called fanfiction. These are stories written by fans of a particular film, novel or TV show, using the characters and situations in the it and coming up with new plots and story ideas. After reading some of the Lois and Clark fanfiction, including some classified as "n-fic" (n for naughty though they're on about the same scale as your average Harlequin/Silhouette romance) I came to the conclusion one day that I could do this. I had an idea for a Valentine's story and in 2000 I wrote my first fanfic. I know... it's the dirty little red-haired stepchild of writing, but it got me interested in writing again. More stories followed, mostly short romantic and humorous pieces. The community had an annual awards run much like the Rita and Golden Heart, and I won a couple awards. I'd give you the URL for the fanfiction archive but --shudder--that early stuff is so bad.
Fanfic life was toodling along just fine until 2001 when a new writer began posting a story on the message boards. It was good. As a matter of fact, some people thought it was a little too good and it turned out it was a plagiarized Silhouette Desire. I helped track down the original novel and I read it. And then I looked up the author's backlist and read all of that. And darned if I wasn't soon hooked on romance novels!
Then just like with fanfiction, one day I thought "I might could do this" and I left Lois Lane and Clark Kent behind and started creating characters of my own. I also got to know the author whose book had been plagiarized as well as a few others. Somewhere in all this I was asked to be the review coordinator for a website that was under development and I accepted the job. I will forever be grateful to Writers Unlimited for the opportunities they afforded me and the contacts I made while reviewing.
Meanwhile I joined RWA and my local chapter. I struggled some more with the novel I was trying to write. Then one day in 2004 I happened upon the transcript of a chat by the woman who was our guest blogger last Tuesday. She talked about writing for the "confessions" magazines and once again I thought "I can do that." Lord 'a mercy, the DH and I had enough crazy family members to keep me in story ideas for a good long while. But I didn't do anything about it until late last year when I heard about a Yahoo loop for "confessions" writers. I joined, lurked, and learned all I could. I began writing in earnest and also resigned my review coordinator position because between writing and the Playground, I just couldn't do the job justice any longer. On February 2 of this year I submitted my first story to Dorchester Media. On February 6 I submitted my second, and on March 3, that second story sold. I've since sold 6 more short stories and a short feature article.
I still want to write a novel. I have two that have a couple chapters written. The line they were intended for has changed its guidelines and the books don't fit the new guidelines. So I'm pondering where to go with them.
Meanwhile, I scour the headlines, eavesdrop on conversations and take little bits of information and build a short story around them. I haven't achieved my total dream, but I've tasted a little bit of it.
Did you ever see the movie Pretty Woman? Remember the guy yelling "Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'."
Well I'm yelling "Welcome to the Writing Playground, the land of dreams! What's your dream? Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin'."
What is your dream? Have you ever abandoned one and returned to it later? If time and money were no object, what would your dream be?
P.S. Today I'll be giving away 3 copies of NASCAR HOLIDAY, a Christmas anthology by Kimberly Raye, Roxanne St. Claire and Debra Webb, to 3 different randomly selected commenters. But the best is yet to come!
Next Wednesday I will have 3 more copies to give away but those copies can only be won by new commenters. However if a new commenter mentions that one of our "regulars" sent them, the regular will go into a special drawing for 2 copies of KILLER CURVES by Roxanne St. Claire and 1 copy of A COLBY CHRISTMAS by Debra Webb, along with some other racing-related goodies. Confused yet? :grin:
So get the word out to your friends and family to visit the Playground blog, especially next Wednesday December 6, and share in the prizes.
P.P. S. The winner from yesterday is Dannyfiredragon. Please email Problem Child to make arrangements for your prize. Congrats!
Posted by Playground Monitor at 11/29/2006 12:45:00 AM