In fourth grade, I was such a bookworm that I received a gift from my teacher, Mrs. Ward — this thesaurus (pictured above). I still treasure what she wrote inside:
For reading 16 books
in six weeks with a total of 2629 pages!!!!
Keep reading Kristine –
maybe someday you’ll be a writer of children’s books.
I have hauled this old book around for 35 years. Holy smokes!
And if you ask anyone who really knows me — that’s quite a feat.
Let me take you on a little tangent about why this is significant.
This is possibly the only childhood belonging that has survived years of decluttering and cross-country moves.
I left home at 17 and since then have lived in 17 different houses or apartments in just about as many different cities. In fact, right now I have set a record by staying in one place for seven years.
One of my moves from Los Angeles to Seattle involved my boyfriend and I packing our belongings into the back of a Dodge Colt. We fit all of our worldly possessions in that bad boy. Everything. All my stuff included that little book.
Now, back to writing and fourth grade:
With the faith and encouragement of my beloved teacher, I sat down to write my novel.
I probably wrote about fifty pages in longhand about some girl who ended up on a desert island and played with the seals or something. But I never could get past those first fifty pages. My heart was broken. I would never be a writer! I had no clue where that story should go and what should happen next. (Oh, if only I would have known then what I know now! Keep writing. Study story. Learn about writing craft.) So, discouraged, I set my grand novel aside and decided I was a better reader than writer.
Then, years later, I was studying business in college. But when I thought about my future career, I was filled with dread. I wanted to be a writer, but that was such a nebulous career path. How could I survive doing that? I had zero confidence in my ability to write. But then I was flipping through the college catalog and saw that they had journalism as a major. Bingo. A way to write and still have a guaranteed income.
From my very first journalism class, I was hooked — and obsessed. I graduated and eventually fought my way up to a daily newspaper job. I thought I’d do it until I died. But to my surprise, when I had kids, my passion for them replaced my passion for a job that could care less if you had a sick kid or needed to pick them up from daycare.
I had so many stories from being a crime reporter. Stories that prove truth is stranger than fiction. Thinking about these stories, I realized it was finally time to write a novel. I finally knew how to write a book. I even knew which book to write, one about a crime reporter living in the Bay Area. The book — BLESSED ARE THE DEAD — gestated in my mind for a while because finding the time to write wasn’t a priority when my kids were very young. Getting enough sleep got top billing.
Then, when my youngest started kindergarten, I found I had two, whole, whopping hours to myself. Every day! It seems the less time I have to do something the more I get done. I had a rough draft in a few months. It took nearly 40 years to do it, but I was able to write a book. And I’ve started two more!
I now work as a freelance writer from home, but I still guard those two hours every morning and use them to write my fiction. A lot of people say they don’t have time to pursue their passions, but I think most people could find two spare hours a day.
I recently interviewed an amazing writing and writing instructor, Jess Lourey, and she said it best: “Here’s what I tell my students: the trick isn’t finding time to write. The trick is making writing important to you, and we all make time for what is important.”
PS Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of Owen Laukkanen’s THE PROFESSIONALS here. You can read about him in my interview two weeks ago, as well.