When I was very young, I had a hard time in school. Not because I couldn't handle the homework, my grades, except in Math and Gym, were far above average. If it didn't involve numbers or physical activity, it came easy to me. And it wasn't because I didn't have outside interests. I was in 4-H, Girl Pioneers, church junior choir, I took piano lessons, and, from about the time I was twelve, I had a job. My parents were married...to each other...and they actually liked each other. So why was my childhood difficult?
I never felt accepted. I have always been socially awkward. People who know me now will find that statement surprising because I can speak and be entertaining in front of large groups. But I've never felt comfortable in my skin, and even less so among people. As a kid, I kept busy in activities to give the impression of being popular, happy, busy, whatever. It was at that time I was given the opportunity to write a short article for a 4-H contest. The winner would have their story printed in the hometown newspaper. I was the only one who wrote a fictional short story...a story about an awkward girl and her horse battling the upper crust girls and their fancy horses at a summer camp...and I won the contest. It wasn't the first thing I wrote, but it was the first thing I wrote that really put a light on how I felt about myself and my place in society.
|Yes, this is me at 13.|
It's no coincidence, for me, that I started writing what eventually
became "Lies in Chance" at this stage of my life. I created Rock Harbor, a peaceful place where life's orphans and runaways could find a place to live and be happy. I created Shara Brandt, a prettier, smarter, more talented version of me who had the strength to battle what came at her and I created Bryan Jacobs, a man with baggage of his own, but a love big enough to look outside himself and put Shara first. (Can we just say that my on again/off again boyfriend wasn't exactly a dream date all the time?) I also wrote short stories, wads and wads of them. I even showed my parents some of them. My father, my English teacher, looked at them with a businesslike eye. My mother. hoping to find something in me that would make ease her mind about my social status, praised my scribblings far more than she actually understood them. It didn't matter. Writing was a solitary action that threw me into a place where I had friends, ease, happiness, comfort, romance, and above all, control.
Isn't that why we write, to control our surroundings? As authors, we build worlds, we create characters, and we control every minute of what happens. With experience and discipline, most of us can push through the thrill of control and let the characters speak for themselves. (I didn't hear a character speak until Ramona Simms
screamed at me during the writing of "Dream in Color." She didn't like the life I was building for her and she had plenty to say about it.) But we as writers first and foremost control the world we write.
So it's no real surprise, as I look back over the past thirty years, that there are gaps in my writing. I didn't write much in college. I liked college. I found my social niche, and while I still had plenty of anxiety about my surroundings and being among people I didn't know well, I was better able to cover it with a cheery exterior and an ability to chat. I wrote some my first few years of marriage. Those were rough years, but not out of control years. I had a job I liked, we had a couple we traveled with and even though there were job changes and losses, it was just the two of us.
When we had kids, I started getting a bit more serious about writing, not as a hobby, but as a business. I joined a writer's group. It was a motley group, but some of my best writer friends came out of that bunch. I keep in touch with some of them even now, so many years later. It was a safe place where I could hear criticism, but still feel like I was making my way toward something. I had a job where I worked at home, which was great.
Maybe it was when I decided I needed a job outside the home. I don't know, but for the last ten years I haven't felt like I was in control of anything, which has resulted in a very prolific writing period for me. Four novels, two novellas, under my own name, two humor books under my pen name, all written, edited, and published pretty much on my own. Control...from start to finish.
Now my kids are growing up, and after the past two years of heartbreak, white knuckled prayer, and breath-holding, I have two adults living in my house, both of whom are on the verge of leaving me. After these past two years, I'm in no shape to let them go. But I can't control time. I can't control what they're going to do. I have to pray that my husband and I have done our job and whether they chose to live at home a while longer or, in the case of my youngest, if they can't wait to be on their own, I have to try and accept what I can't control.
And then I lost my job.
My response? I just started a new book series, my Nora Hill mysteries, and I joined a writers' group again..(Had my first meeting last night. It was like going back in time. Same instructor, Kathie Giorgio, but now at her new studio, Allwriters.)
See, when the world is spinning out of control, when all else is crumbling, when I can't control anything around me...I can write. And in writing I can control what's happening and find a resolution to problems that aren't mine. It's therapeutic, it's comforting, and, ultimately my hope is that it is entertaining for you all.