By Linda White
These questions explain why I stayed in the writing closet for more years than I want to admit. I published my first poem when I was 8 or 9 years old. My mother sent it into The Western Producer, a farm paper of the day. For years she carried the folded, yellowed clipping in her wallet. There were no more published works for a long time.
I graduated from university and used my teaching degree to contribute to our modest, but secure lifestyle. Occasionally, I thought of writing. In another life, I might have been a ‘real’ writer but I was too busy. Then I penned a romance novel. How hard could it be? And Harlequin, a Canadian company, paid their authors very well. I sent the manuscript, via Canada Post, off to Mills and Boon in England. Over a year later, my rejection letter arrived. I had written a romance with no sexual tension and that was a fatal flaw.
Years passed and I wrote a couple of humour pieces that saw publication. My short-stories were rejected. I retired from teaching and now I would have time to write. But did I? Intermittently, is the kindest confession I can make. The novelty of all that time led to a lot of procrastination. I was like a kid away from home for the first time; I had a lot of fun. Guilt at such an early retirement sent me back to the classroom as a substitute teacher and a fill-in with temporary contracts.
Still, I was going to be a real writer. Twenty years on, the writing group I started, still meets although the membership, except for one, has changed. Did I actually write anything? I did but I was too lazy about revision and marketing. When I had a rare acceptance, my best writing colleague said, “And I bet that’s the only market you sent it to.” She was right.
Stephanie Meyer published the Twilight series and I was incensed. Vampires didn’t glow and they didn’t engage in that kind of insipid romance. I wrote a ‘real’ YA vampire novel; one that I like to this day. Did I edit or write a second draft? No, golden words must have fallen from my fingertips to the keyboard and I sent it out with only obvious typos corrected. Its rejection was inevitable.
I love reading mysteries and decided that must be my genre. There are three mystery manuscripts in my computer files and the hard copies are saved in binders. Have they been edited? Two of them have had partial re-writes but neither is ready to market.
A few of my short stories have found publication on-line and in print magazines. Not a lot of them but I do celebrate each one. One story came first in a contest run by the local paper, and after trying each year, I won one of the fiction categories in the Alberta Retired Teachers Writing Contest. When the Edmonton Journal ran a ‘write the next chapter’ contest where the first chapter was provided, my chapter four entry won.
Two of my mysteries were products of Nanowrimo, the annual November novel writing challenge. Fifty thousand words in 30 days means 1,667 each day. It doesn’t result in quality but once you have the novel or a part of it done, the rest should follow. It doesn’t necessarily. Three years ago, I used the November Nano time to complete a mystery. I am working on a re-write and by now, since it’s obvious I’m old, I can reveal that the plot involves a trio of ‘Golden Girl’-like women on a quest to right an old wrong.
Last year I had two stories published in markets that I thought I could never break into. I have a humorous essay in consideration for inclusion in an anthology of COVID experiences and I found a home for another story. One former writing group member shared with me that it was ‘no wonder I couldn’t find an acceptance for a Sasquatch story on the prairies.’ I did.
Fall has arrived and with it, no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic. There are those people who used the reduction in freedom to create. I have tried but haven’t been very successful. Then there was my cataract surgery, a bit of a writing block for the last little while, but now that it’s a success and winter looms, it’s time to get back to re-writing my mystery.
The other founding member of the twenty year writing group is of a similar vintage. At this stage in our lives, we have come to the conclusion that we love writing but are not interested in second careers. It’s okay for it to be an enjoyment and source of accomplishment without turning success or a lack of into a stress. I will complete the re-write of my mystery and I will market it or follow the avenue of self-publishing. I will have my book and have come to realize, if you write, you are a writer.
The dream never dies.
Linda White lives in east central Alberta. Her interests include writing, reading, camping and gardening. Her grandchildren are her greatest joy although she appreciates her two spoiled dogs for keeping her fit. She has just finished a re-write of her current novel.