I started writing somewhere around 1966. My favorite authors were the mystery ladies, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney. I wonder if I could even come close, I said to myself. I had mysteries on the brain since my Nancy Drew days and had even had one started at 15, but marrying and having children put an end to writing for awhile.
I had to start to work when my two older children were 5 and 6, so I lumbered along until I quit working because I was expecting #3. She was going to be eleven and twelve years younger than her sister and brother. New babies bring busy days, but they also bring naps and being at home to rock said baby to sleep.
Along this time came the Waltons by Earl Hamner. I had already seen the Christmas story with that cast, was truly a fan of Hamners, and it gave me an idea. I put together a query letter about a children’s book I had in mind: growing up rural southern in a small town in the late 40s, early 50s. I put a boy in the role, but the adventures of this little character were my own! It was published in 1976 by Coward, McCann & Geohegan.
In the meantime, I wrote short things about raising children, marriage, my own memories and sold a lot of them to the religious magazines and The Macfaddan Company. I found that editors liked the sweet things as well as the sensational things that went on the covers!
I was then ready to try the contemporary gothics. I loved stories about heroines getting chased by ‘things’ and rescued by, of course, her current fellow, sometimes thinking that the villain is HIM. I sold four to Avalon Books. By then, #3 hit the teenage world and the other two were grown, one married and gone, and things were too expensive for one salary, so back to work I went, but not for long.
I started using the teenage phase for grist for my writing mill. I now have four grandchildren to use for grist. I went back recently to the ‘little’ stories and rejoined the ranks of Highlights for Children and The Friend. I have tried to write an historical novel for years based on my great-grand parents and their adventures during the Mexican War and Civil War. I love that period. I am old enough to remember World War II. In fact, one of my latest sales is a time-travel romance set at Pearl Harbor. I had no idea when I wrote it that Pearl Harbor would be all over the history channel, the news and in the movies at this time, but perhaps that is why it was accepted. I love that period too.
Writing is not an easy job. It is as they say, a rather lonely job and I do get tired of being asked, “Hey, Dot, you still writing? What have you published lately?” And, too, I live in a very small town. I had to go back to work when my husband medically retired. I worked seven on and seven off at our local hospital’s switchboard, but now I just write.
Ideas? Where do writers get ideas? I have so many floating through my head, I have to write them down or forget them. I usually flashback to my articles about the past and relate them to something now. For instance, my husband found a small, gray button while cleaning the yard next door at my old home place. How it survived was a miracle, but it was on a blouse I had made in home economics in the 9th grade. The little button had stripes of all colors and put character in a gray blouse, which I was not fond of, but in my meager household, it was the only material available. The buttons made it cute and ready to wear with anything. My point: We were at a low ebb at the time it was found, but I compared my husband and children to the button as being the bright buttons of life in my own life. Woman’s World that article in March of 2000.
I found my wedding tiara the other day, I’ll do the same with it since I have been married 41 years. I have sold so many stories on this order, long marriage and raising children. Anyone can do this. Of course, with a writer’s poetic license, you can embroider along the way. After all, it is your memories, your outlook and your story. I was in journalism for a while as my newspaper’s editor. Hated it. I don’t like Joe Friday’s outlook, just the facts ma’am, just the facts, so I gave up my editorship and started writing human interest features about, you guessed it, my hometown’s past and older businesses and older people. It was well liked, but I had to get into something that paid a little better, so journalism went by the wayside.
I am not materialistic, but I do like to get paid for my writing. If a company says it pays in copies, I pass it by. The urge would still be there, though, if I didn’t get paid. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and loved every minute of it. I was gossip editor and, if you knew me, that would not be a surprise! Or so my friends and co-workers say.
Back to reality. To be a writer, you have to write, not spend your time in writing clubs or helping in the library or any of those things that bring you in contact with books. Those things are fine, but writing has to be between you, your computer or whatever you use and your own personal muse, or to put it plainer, connect the rear end with the chair pillow and hop to it! It will come. If you sit there, it will come, just as the people came to the ball field they made from a corn patch.
I would imagine, Perseverance and Patience and some Pain would be the key. I could paper the Eiffel Tower with my reject slips, but I also have a pretty good track record in sales. The mechanics of writing can be taught, but the imagination, the talent and the discipline cannot. It has to come natural.
I am but a puny writer compared to some, but I keep digging and my writing gives a glimpse of my personality, good old southern raising, and living. I have a good sense of humor or else the rejects would give me fits, but everyone gets rejects at first. I still love the writing world, the work and occasionally the praise. I wonder if the fact that my great-grandmother was a Clemens has anything to do with it?
Dorothy has been a freelancer for over 30 years with articles and stories in childrens and adult magazines. She has published four adult romance/mystery books and at present has four children