Sometimes while I’m working diligently at my computer—every day but Sunday—I begin to wonder about my decision to begin a writing career. It was probably an accident brought on by boredom, a rainy Sunday afternoon and a dreadful football game on a television that often only picked up one or two stations like fuzzy underwater shows here in our mountains. That gives you a hint about how long ago it was. Our extended roof antenna plus booster box didn’t help much. The stations were in Tulsa and Springfield, a good two to three hours distant by car.
At any rate, I picked up a looseleaf notebook and began to write a story that had been bugging me for months. It was 1982, and there was so much talk about Vietnam vets and their problems readjusting to life in the world. I wondered, if they were having so many problems, what about the women who loved them? And that began my story about an art teacher recently widowed and stuck in her bereavement and a Vietnam vet trapped in the battles of his mind while drawing and painting them. She’s asked by his doctor to visit with this patient and try to help him using her artistic abilities.
I had no idea how to put together a novel, just knew that this story would be long. Once I began to write the scenes, I saw that the next step would be research. No Internet, people, so I spent several months poring through books and articles at our library. I probably learned much more than I wanted or needed to know to write the book, but it was fascinating and completely absorbing.
For several years I spent a few hours here and there working on this. Finally bought a small electric typewriter from Sears and began to type out the story. No chapters, often no idea about whose story it was, his or hers. Or how to make it both. But an avid reader, I began to study how other authors did this. And one day while visiting our local craft outlet where I occasionally worked, I met another author and we bonded on the spot. She helped me, I helped her, and we began to meet every Saturday to read what we had written and work on it.
Then we grew curious about other writers in the area and visited some meetings in town. There we met Dusty Richards, who was also at work doing what we were doing. Eventually, though my writer friend disappeared one evening and never showed up again, Dusty and I and some others formed our own group because we couldn’t find one we were suited to.
Those first meetings were not at all like they are in our group today, but we were writers struggling to learn. No one had much money. Dusty would attend a conference and bring back notes and handouts to share. Then I began to attend local conferences, OWL and OCW were the first. These were conferences he already attended as well. I have many good memories of nights when five of us would share one motel room to attend a conference. Once six of us rented a trailer at a campsite in which to sleep.
Meanwhile my novel attracted the attention of the wife of a published author, Doug and Mary Jones. Doug sent it to his agent who immediately called and signed me. He never sold that book, but I later pitched and sold my first historical western at a Western Writers of America Conference and that kicked off my brief career in New York with Topaz/Penguin.
The mid-list crash hit at the wrong time for me, my sales were growing, but my career hadn’t been built sufficiently to continue contracts. Rather than fight the inevitable, I pulled out after the publication of six novels, and began to write and be published in regional historical nonfiction. Circumstances have led me, slowly, back to my greatest love, fiction, and publication by Ebook publishers.
Oh, yes, that novel that attracted so much attention? I’m rewriting it and bringing it up to date and hope to see it published as an E book sometime this year. We’ll see.
Learning online promotion, new formatting, publishing a back list to Kindle, have all taken plenty of time and concentration. Our group continues to flourish and we’ve seen several members published in the past few years.
So, why do I write? Well, I can’t stop now that I’m involved. Stories and voices plague me every day. It’s like being haunted by people who want their stories told and I dare not ignore them. What worries me is what will happen to them when I can no longer answer their plea? Oh, well, there’s not really time to think about that now. I have a Kindle book to format, two books to promote, more books to write, workshops and conferences to prepare for. And more writer friends to make. It’s a great life.
Enjoyed this Velda. So that's how you got started. I like how you took up a notebook and began a story that had been bugging you for some time because the TV was so boring and from there and slowly bit by bit you became a writer. I think your story is similar to many of ours.
Velda,I'm always interested in learning how successful authors got their starts. Yours is an interesting story. My desire to be a writer started when I was a young girl, reading Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mysteries. I dreamed of being a published novelist.It took me many years (we won't say how many) to finally achieve my dream. My first novel, "Mixed Messages," will be published in April and, I'm sure you know the feeling, I'm ecstatic!
It's amazing how many of our stories are similar in that our desire was so strong we never gave up, no matter how we started. Thanks to you both for commenting on the blog.