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!


Minna said...

My dream is to get my thesis done and to get some books to translate.

Maureen said...

My dream is to travel the world, writing and photographing the different people and cultures.

KimW said...

I would love to travel the world, too, with my husband. See all the beautiful sites, relax on the beach, shop without worrying about money and come home when we want. Oh, and follow the NASCAR circuit with a private plane to take me to each state and have the best seats at every race.

Pat said...

Good luck with your dream.

I love the name playground monitor.

Yes I saw Pretty Woman several times.

I am pretty boring: my dream is to have a grandchild one day and one that is healthy and happy - goes without saying. And my daughter has some health issues and the only thing I could ask for is that she be healthy and happy. That would make me very happy.

CrystalG said...

My dream is to have a baby. My husband and I would love to have a child. Hopefully, some day this dream will come true.

Problem Child said...

1) Melville-Yuck! There's a reason I teach early Brit Lit. I did my grad work in Am Lit, but except for certain time periods I avoid teaching it like the plague because of Melville.

2) FanFic can be scary stuff to read, but it's good practice for many people. And with the state of education today, the fact folks are writing anything and trying to do a good job makes me happy.

3) Dreams are what the Playground is all about. Babies, travel, book contracts...whatever your dreams are, they are important to you and make getting out of bed each day a possibility.

4) Right now, my only wish is to not have this bandage on my hand. My brand new stitches are sore and not fun at all. THe painkillers have given me a hangover, and typing is a nightmare. WHY do you people let me have sharp things? WHY?

Kathy said...

PM, you amaze me! Wow! What a life story! No wonder you harbor a great love for writing.

I blame myself for you situation, PC. In my naivety, I had no idea sharp things were taboo for you. (If I close my eyes, I can still see you cutting that box and slicing your finger open. Yuck!) I wish you healing aplenty!

Dreams...with so many to chose from where does one start? And why does the 'be careful what you dream for...' cliche come into play?

When I was young, I wanted to be an illustrator of Comic books. I wanted to write them, draw them. Then I wanted to be a fashion designer, to clothe the rich and famous, live in Europe hobnobbing with the best. But all along I wanted to get married and have children. That meant more to me than focusing on my dreams and when I met my DH everything else paled in comparison. Being an Army wife after having been an Army brat became lonely very quick. Books were my only escape from the weeks and months without my DH, and from the stress of raising 4 kids on my own. Like you, PM, I grew to realize that though I'd spent many years writing poetry, I could also write books just as beautiful and satisfying as the ones I'd read. So began my odyssey and that odyssey led me to you guys. I am grateful to know you and ever so grateful for the writingplayground. It is indeed a great place to come and play.

I leave you with this Indian Proverb which speaks so well to today's post.

"Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me a truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever."


Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Marilyn, I loved your story and I just know your dream of being a successful writer will come true!

My dream, I have too many but one thing you and I agree on, the author and reader community are wonderful!

Happy writing!

Rhonda said...

I'm loving reading about each of you this week! Such cool stuff!

As for dreams...I'm dreaming that I meet my next deadline. :-)

Meljprincess said...

Congratulations Danny!

My dream is to travel to Scotland.

Ya'know, it's funny. I hated the books we had to read in high school but now I have found some of them and want to read them again. I know I would understand them better and enjoy them.

bamabelle said...

I love everyone's stories this week! I like that part of Pretty Woman as well! :) Dreams are so important I think. As long as you have a dream, you have hope. To me, to give up dreaming is to give up hoping. I refuse to do that. I've been really blessed in my life to have more than one dream realized. I can't complain. I do dream of achieving my writing goals, but even if I never achieve great success, the journey will have been worth it. :)

Hugs, Zara

bamabelle said...

Congrats Danny! :)

Beth said...

My dream to stay home or work from the house and to help other people.

amy*skf said...

My dream is to just finish writing the darn book already.

Actually, my dream is that each of my children find and follow their own dream.

And to live in Paris for...6 months. Me, not my children. But they can visit. My husband can visit too. Just kidding.

Dannyfiredragon said...

@ Minna, I know your dream only to well. LOL

My dream is to leave Germany behind and to move to the US.

Angel said...

Besides writing and having my family, my dream has always been to travel, specifically to England and Scotland.

Guess what? Next summer some of the playfriends will help make that dream come true. Ten days in Scotland, surrounded by enough friends to keep me from freaking out on the plane. Yay!!!!

Joan said...

My dream would be to travel the world and just have a job that would allowed it. I like the title "Playground Monitor" I'm like you but have never feed the need to write.

Playground Monitor said...

Minna and Danny -- I admire your ability to translate. I had 3 years of German in college -- enough to earn me a degree in it -- but I was never good enough at it to do translation work. And since I haven't spoken it in 26 years, I've forgotten most of it.

Maureen, Kimw, Mel, Joan -- hang on to those dreams of traveling the world. Where there's a will, there's a way. You never know when the opportunity will present itself.

Pat -- grandchildren are wonderful! My granddaughter is 6 months old and the love of my life. This time last year I was trying to wrap my mind around the idea of being a Grammy. Now I can't imagine life any other way.

Crystal -- hope that baby dream comes true for you. Have you ever seen the button at the top right of a Blogger blog that reads "Next Blog?" I clicked it one day and it took me to a blog called Plan B and is by a couple who have struggled with infertility and then had a friend offer to be a surrogate for them. I bookmarked it and pop in every once in a while. Their story is amazing.

PC -- poor baby!

Kathy -- I LOVE that proverb!

To the "other" Marilyn -- you just can't have too many dreams! And yeah, the romance community is awesome. And you do your part with all your reviews.

Rhonda -- keep BICHOKing and you'll meet that deadline.

Zara -- keep writing cause you never know what might happen.

beth -- What an admirable dream -- to help others. Volunteerism is great.

Amy -- Ah... Paris. Can I come too? We can split the rent.

Angel -- Yay on the trip! I wish I could join y'all. Maybe next time cause there WILL be a next time.


Karen T. said...

You all have such wonderful dreams. Good luck to you all.

And congrats, Marilyn.

I too wish to have a baby some day. We are married just a little over a year.

My best to you all.

Rachael said...

My dream is to get married and start a family with my fiance. Right now we're not ready but I hope to be able to one day.

If I had all the money in the world I too would travel the world. I haven't been to many places so that would definetely be fun for me.

Pretty Woman is one of my favorite movies. I own it and have watched it a million times. Love it!

ellie said...

To travel around the world, to learn from this wonderful experience and the have the time to spend with my husband after being married for 36 years with no honeymood and appreciating the time spent together.

alissa said...

Give my husband the time off he deserves after working so hard being a provider, wonderful husband and loving father.

joelle said...

To become a wonderful cook. Now that sounds easy bit for me it isn't and I would love to learn to cook and bake great creations that would impress my family.

Anonymous said...

If I were the creative type I would love to be able to make the most beautiful gift baskets for gifts for my family and friends.

Anonymous said...

My dream, well other then getting pubbed :o) I'd like to do a little travelling. See the ocean. Go to Vegas. Memphis. Maybe Europe. Just sit on a beach somewhere and read and watch the sun set (or actually right now, be anywhere where its not -30)

Carol said...

Big congrats, Danny!

I hope everyone's dreams come true!

As for me, I just want my children and grandchildren to be well and happy!

robynl said...

congrats Danny. I love Pretty Woman and have the movie.

My dream is to be free of worry over health issues and then to have the money to do travelling and be able to enjoy 'worry free' times with dh.

Lois said...

Mine is still from when I was 5 and to be an astronaut. The difference between those 25 years is now if one has $20 million, you can do it.

Ah, anyone have any extra money? LOL


Jennifer Y. said...

Thanks for sharing with us!

My dream is to find a good job, a good man, and start a family.

If money were no object, then I would love to buy my parents their dream house and travel more.

Playground Monitor said...

Karen -- I hope your baby dreams come true when the time is right.

Rachel -- ditto. My dh and I were married for 5 years before we had our first child. And my son and his wife dated for 3 years before they got engaged, were engaged for a year and a half and had a baby nine months after the wedding. They didn't plan on starting so soon, but God had other plans. ;-)

Ellie - 36 years of marriage. WOW! You're an inspiration. I've been married 33 and sadly long-term marriages are becoming a rarity. But they say that women who read romance have better marriages and (ahem better times in bed if you get my drift).

Alissa -- you're blessed too to have a man who is such a good provider and family man. Give him an extra hug tonight.

Joelle -- I could barely boil water when I got married. Bless my husband's heart, we lived on Hamburger Helper while I learned to cook different things. And once I had a large enough culinary repetoire, he made me promise to N-E-V-E-R fix Hamburger Helper again. And I haven't! Find a good basic cookbook and just experiment.

traveler -- our Angel makes beautiful baskets. Maybe you could Google and find some websites that would help. Or perhaps a local craft shop has classes.

Lis -- I've been to Vegas, lived in Europe and went to Memphis for the day last Saturday. There's something sooooooo peaceful about the beach. I love it too. -30? Yikes! Do you live at the North Pole??? It's 69 here today -- way too warm for this time of year.

Carol -- great dream. I think people often underrate simple happiness. Your kids and grandkids are lucky to have someone who cares.

Robyn -- I understand about health woes. I have my share though nothing really critical. But they're enough to be aggravating and I'll be on meds for the rest of my life. I hope things work out for you.

Lois -- I live in Rocket City USA, where the space program was born and still lives today. I never wanted to be an astronaut but I've always been fascinated with space and felt blessed to work on a Shuttle program for six years. Then my husband, two boys and I actually got to watch a launch from the VIP section at the Cape and it was beyond awesome! It's a sight that's burned into my memory. As for the $20 million -- have you tried collecting aluminum cans along the highway? ;-)

Jennifer -- keep looking! There are good men out there. And how sweet to want to buy your parents their dream house. They have a special daughter.


readingissomuchfun said...

Hello Playground Monitor,

Goodluck to you all with your dreams. Yes I saw pretty woman so many times. I loved that movie. Julia Roberts is my favorite actress. Love her movies.

My dream right now is to get the dream house I want with my fiance. I want to start a family soon. We both are not getting any younger and I would love to have my first child by the age of 28.

We both did finish one dream together. We went to night school together and graduated. It was alot of fun being with my fiance and our best friend went with us as well. She is the one who told us about the night school. I am so glad she did. I don't think I would have ever went back to finish if it was not for her.


Tam said...

My dream is to take a cruise around the world. Stop in all the ports, try differents foods. Shop, shop, shop!

Playground Monitor said...

Linda -- Good for you to go back to night school and finish! I know everyone is proud of you for your commitment and achievement. And with that kind of commitment, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Tam -- after I go to Paris with Amy can I cruise round the world with you? I won't be a bother. I promise. Check out Holland America Cruises. If time and money were no object, I'd be on one of their ships tomorrow! And I'm with ya all the way on the shop, shop, shop part.


blueberri said...

Problem Child,

I looooved reading your history. You're reading tastes are so like mine that I'm wondering if we're lost twins.

That's cool how you discovered your love for writing novels by hunting down a plagiarizer. There's a ms idea here!

My dream is to travel with my DH someday to places like Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, etc. I guess I have a long dream. :)

blueberri said...

Whoops, I meant Playground Monitor! I had to refresh my bookmark and saw Problem Child the first time. Sorry. I never can do anything right.

Playground Monitor said...

No problem, blueberri. PC and I are often mistaken for one another. ::snort::

Travel seems to be a really popular theme in here today. I have done my fair share but still enjoy learning about new places. That's the beauty of cable television. The Travel Channel, History Channel, National Geographic Channel and PBS have some wonderful travel programes that will whisk you to the base of the Pyramids, deep into the Amazon rain forest or in the middle of the Sahara desert. And books can do the very same. My sister wants to visit Macchu Picchu in Peru. I've been researching books about it for her Christmas present. Ssssshhhhhh. Don't tell her.


bamabelle said...

Ooh, I've always wanted to go to Macchu Picchu too. I have been to Chichen Itza and Tulum in Mexico, but I would love to go to Peru. I've heard those ruins put all the rest to shame. If you and your sister go, can I stowaway in your suitcase? I'll go on a diet beforehand lol. :)

Playground Monitor said...

Wasn't Chichen Itza fabulous??? I'd love to go back, especially at the solstice when you can see the "snake" slither down the steps.

And sure. Stow away!


KarenG said...

My dream would be to help my children and grandchildren so their lives would be easier for them.

Playground Monitor said...

Oh Karen, you're a good mother and grandmother. I think most of us are born with some gene that wants to nurture and make things perfect for our families. I'm that way and sometimes I have to pull back and let my kids struggle so they appreciate what they have a little more. But I'm also there to help when they need it. Your kids and grandkids are lucky to have you.


readingissomuchfun said...

Yes they are Playground. Thanks so much :)


Anonymous said...

Its felt like the north pole the last few days. Actually I'm just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Though its finally starting to warm up to -20. The guy on the radio was joking its time to break out the speedos and stake a prime piece of beach real estate for Friday's high of -15C