Friday, December 01, 2006

Last but not least, Smarty Pants...

I'm the last one to tell my tale this week. I hope it is as interesting and inspiring as the others. As with all of us, I think a love of writing starts with a love of reading and an admiration for those who create those stories.

For me, all of this started with a record player and a set of Disney books with records that read the story aloud. When I was a toddler, my mom would put on the records and I would follow along in the books until I eventually taught myself to read. I was only 3, but I was ready to conquer the library. From there, I devoured books. I started winning every reading competition at school and costing my mother a fortune in Scholastic book orders. By the time I reached jr. high, I'd read practically everything for my age range and even beyond (I'd moved onto Stephen King, Bertrice Small and my mom's Harlequin books.) I spent most of my time in school grading papers and letting my mind wander as I thought up stories to amuse myself. I was an only child until I was 24 (long story) so my books and my characters were my world for many years.

My 6th grade English teacher, upon discovering I'd read every book she had planned for the school year, decided to give me a special project. Each week, I had to write a story and turn it in. Then, when other students had to do projects or book reports, I would do it, not on the Diary of Anne Frank, like everyone else, but on whatever book I wanted. It sure made an impact when, on parent's night, the wall of the classroom was filled with various student drawings of Jewish stick figures hiding in Dutch attics, then there was mine - a vividly drawn and colored crushed spider bleeding into a wine glass from The Eye of the Dragon by Stephen King. It was the beginning of my writing. Thanks, Mrs. Hermstein.

From there, stories consumed me. I'd already been putting around on the old portable typewriter my mom had (sprained a few fingers too) writing stories and when she bought an electric one for her to go back to school, I used it more than she did. I wrote pages and pages of who knows what, but it was just a compulsion. I wrote mysteries with dark, stormy nights and romances with serial killers - not your typical 12 year old stuff, but I guess I was just different that way. In 10th grade, our English teacher wanted us each to write a short story, 5 - 10 pages. My story, a short version of a full length book I still plan to write, was about a serial killer and a woman who was living his killings in her dreams. It was 10 pages in Times New Roman size 8, single spaced, 1/2 in margins. I was so frustrated that I had to fit it all in such a small space. We won't discuss how my teacher blushed over the slightest hint of a love scene at the end. :)

As I got older, life kinda got in the way of all that and I had to focus more on things like calculus, SAT scores, getting into college and actually making money, so writing got pushed aside. My mother did not support the starving artist angle. She always taught me to do what I loved in my spare time after the bills were paid. In college, I got a really boring job that required me to sit at a computer for hours with little to do, so I started writing again - this time, a real, honest to goodness book. 305 pages later, I got to type "THE END."

That was it. I was hooked.

All through college and later during lulls at my day job I started pecking away at various stories in my mind. I started out with fantasy stories about fairies, young adult kind of stuff, then my mind strayed as I found romances developing between my characters that really didn't belong in YA. I found myself on, getting involved on message boards and trying to learn as much as I could. It was around this time that I got my first R on my first romance. I took it pretty hard at the time, but if nothing else, it showed me how much I didn't know. I decided to join RWA to figure it all out - this was a big step because the money involved said to me that this was finally a commitment, no longer a hobby.

Through RWA and my local chapter, I met the Playfriends and the rest is history. Just waiting around to add the next exciting chapter to my story where I get 'the call' and launch my writing career into the stratosphere. Right now you'll just have to settle for "its on an editor's desk." I have to wait, you have to wait. :)

I think nearly every person who dreams big has a role model living their dream. As a young writer, I looked up to my favorite authors for making me laugh or cry, for the perfectly constructed sentence and the plot twist that completely threw me off guard. They were artists and I envied them. Not only for their skills but for living their dreams. How awesome would it be if everyone got to live their dream? There'd be no one to check me out at the Walmart, of course, but a small price to pay.

Who are your role models? How have they affected your life and what have they done to deserve the title?

Joan, you're our winner from yesterday's blog. Email Instigator to claim your prize.

Today is the first day of December, so the birthday celebration is over. I'd say that I was sad, but I'm pretty wore out, to be honest. :) We hope everyone will continue to comment, even without the bribes - I mean prizes. We've got more giveaways coming up later this month, some great guest bloggers including Jennifer LaBrecque and a new website contest in January that you don't want to miss.

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Maureen said...

When I was younger I remember seeing Erma Bombeck on Good Morning America. She had such a great sense of humor. Then I read her books and loved them. I thought this is the way you deal with life, with humor and wit.

KimW said...

Thanks to all of you for a fun November!

My role model is my husband. He is calm, very positive and makes the best out of life and doesn't sweat the small stuff, as they say. I think a little bit of that has rubbed off on me.

Playground Monitor said...

I would definitely have to say that my mom is a major role model. She was only 43 years old when my dad died and left her with two girls to finish raising and educate. I was 18 and had just finished my first quarter of college and my sister was 15. She squared her shoulders and rose to the task. My sister and I both graduated from college, something my dad would have been very proud of. My mom worked in newspaper advertising and eventualy became the first woman to have her name on that particular paper's masthead as the head of the advertising department.

One year her Business and Professional Women's Club gave each member $1 as seed money and they were to use it to raise money for the club. My mom chartered a bus, arranged for hotel accommodations and planned a tour to I can't remember where -- maybe the beach. But it was a huge success and she did quite a few more of her "Fun 'n Fund Tours" before she hung up her fund-raising cap and retired.

She'll be 80 years old next month and she's still going strong, lives alone and continues to lead a full and active life.

If I can be half the woman she is, I'll be happy.


Problem Child said...

A quote from somebody--"If we all got to be exactly what we wanted to be when we grew up, everyone would be rock stars and astronauts."

But the Playfriends are very lucky--we ahve the Mavens as role models.

Kathy said...

Great post, SP! You've shown us that one great teacher can really make a difference.

As an Army brat, I've had many role models. Riding out the 1968 earthquake in Japan underneath my school desk while my teacher walked up and down the isles reciting a story to us to keep us calm comes to mind. Though I don't remember her name, that brave teacher taught me to rise to the occassion when fear and danger loomed. My grandparents, a second grade teacher and a professor of music at a University, passed down their love of music, art, history, travel, and the written word, filling me with an insatiable appetite. My mother, an Army wife, taught me 'if the Army wanted men to have wives they would issue them'. Moving every 3 years, sometimes sooner, going to places you've never been, having to meet new people, secure safe schools and homes for your kids, these were things that fell to me most of the time and due to my mother's influence, I succeeded. Besides my DH, there has been 1 person that nurtured my love for writing more than any other, my Great Uncle. A WWII veteran and a lover of history, he nurtured my love of writing and became my rock when rejections rolled in. He read my book and complimented it. He encouraged me to keep writing when rejections came rolling in. His passing a few years ago forced me to buck up, to take chances, submit, face rejection. He believed in me. How could I do no less?

And now, the tables are turned. My daughter's are my role models. Through their lives I see the grit and determination of my grandmother and mother. They prove to me each day that I can do what I love and that I will eventually succeed as long as I keep trying.

May this inspire you. "A handful of pine seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high." Fiona MacLeod


Angel said...

My mother has become a huge role model to me. She's faced many hard decisions in her life with grace, not allowed the disappointments to change her generous spirit, and works each day creating the family life she's always desired with the man she loves.

The Mavens, of course, because they offer a great deal of encouragement and instruction. But most of all because they remain involved and caring in spite of the incredible heights to which their talents have taken them. I'm continually awed by their interest in us and desire to see us succeed.

Last, but not least, my friend Jan. She's worked hard to become a successful music minister in her church, a position still reserved mostly for men here in the South. She's faced a lot of rejection and outright criticism, all based on her gender. Yet she works through it and has created one of the best music ministries I've ever encountered. I only pray I can continue to move forward in the face of obstacles the way she has.


Smarty Pants said...

Is my life story boring or have y'all gone back into lurk mode since the book a day thing ended? I'm getting a complex here...


Joan said...

This is hard for me....I try to take something from everybody that I meet. I guess if I had to pick I would be a history teacher and math teacher from high school. The history teacher tried to guide me in career and understood that I had a writing problem then try to find ways to help me. The math teacher try to get me to reallize to accept my short coming because I get upset very easy when I fail or feel like failed. I still get up set about failing but he did help me to step a little and look at the situations.

Carol said...

Congrats Joan!

Wow, three is really young to be reading! I always enjoyed reading too but not quite as much as you! lol I never liked to write about what I read either. You were meant to be a writer where as I was meant to just read! lol

Instigator said...

My Grandmother is my role model. She's been through so much in her life - losing her husband when their youngest child was just 2 months old, raising their 14 kids on her own and then losing a daughter and a son - through it all she's stayed so strong. Her faith and strength are unbelievable and an inspiration to me.

I would really love to tell her story one day but I'm afraid I'm losing the chance to hear the details directly from her.


Lois said...

Oh, I've considered JFK and Albert Einstein heroes. JFK because he started the space program and Al because well, he's Al, and my hair doesn't behave like his! :)


blueberri said...

Smary Pants, weren't those scholastic books great! I lived for the time when those were ordered.

You've been blest with a great Muse! I'm impressed with your gumption when you were a kid.

My role model was my high school government teacher, Mr. Barrett. He is deceased now but knew how to make his students reach for the stars.

CrystalG said...

My mom is my role model. She has had to deal with a lot of trials and tribulations in her life and she has been a trooper through it all.

Jennifer Y. said...

Thanks for sharing!

This was a fun month here on the playground!

catslady said...

congrats Joan.

I loved Eye of the Tiger!

I never had the nerve to follow my dreams (I wanted to be that starviing artist) so I've always let my two girls chose for themselves and how ironic, I think one is going to be that starving artist!

amy*skf said...

My mom is my role model as well. She went from being a stay at home mom to having to earn a living. She became a fashion coordinator for a major department store with zip in terms of education. From that point she went on to be a public speaker and author of self help books.

Today she is 84, still doing public speaking engagements and still writing.

Anonymous said...

I started out the same way, Disney books with the little 45 records and the cassette tapes. I used to tick off the librarians when they did the summer reading game because I read all the age level stuff so they had to bump me higher every year :o)