Turns out it’s a looong road – my writing career really began when I was a little kid!
As an active child—and I mean ‘swinging from the top of the nearest tree’ ACTIVE—I wasn’t known for sitting still. But if someone was telling a story? That got my complete attention. And I didn’t let a little thing like not knowing how to read stop me from being enthralled with books. As a toddler, I dragged around books and pretended to read aloud by making up a tale on the spot. I “read” to my toys. I “read” to my stuffed animals. I “read” to my cranky cat. (The toys and stuffies were a lot more appreciative than the cat was…)
At that time, most children’s show hosts read books to their audiences. Captain Kangaroo and The Friendly Giant introduced me to countless classics like Curious George and Harry the Dirty Dog. I don’t remember if the hosts ever talked about the authors, but somewhere along the line my young mind grasped that a mysterious SOMEONE had created the story.
Made it up. Wrote it down.
And that’s EXACTLY what I wanted to do!
True, I also wanted to be a cowboy, a zookeeper, and a circus performer, but those things didn’t glow in me quite as brightly as the notion of telling a story. Besides, I figured I could do all of them, right?
When I was about 3, my dad gifted me with a huge sheaf of lined paper that must have been two inches thick. It was an office leftover from the factory he worked at, and I’m sure he thought it would keep me busy drawing pictures in it for days.
But all I noticed is that the paper was bound together like a real BOOK!
I climbed up on the peaked roof of the big old doghouse behind the garage—the previous homeowner must have kept a large St. Bernard or a small cow—and pretended to “write” a story with an orange wax crayon. I didn’t even know the alphabet yet but that didn’t slow me down. Line after line, page after page, I produced lovely loopy cursive writing which I read aloud as I “wrote”.
When I finally filled the entire “book”, I presented it to my parents, expecting them to be impressed with the masterpiece I’d created. Instead, I found myself in hot water for “scribbling” and “wasting the paper”. Maybe it would have gotten better reviews if I’d illustrated it...
As it was, I even lost points for the font color.
So that was my very first formal rejection as a writer. A few decades plus dozens upon dozens of rejection slips later, I signed a three-book contract for my Changeling shapeshifter series. Fast forward ten years and six more novels, and here I am, refurbishing and polishing these three original books. New covers, new blurbs, new edits, new scenes. Making sure the stories are ready for re-release into the wild. Hoping against hope that they’ll find new readers to love them.
And in the midst of going through all the original notes for the series, I’ve discovered half of a fourth Changeling book, an abandoned relic from a time when my publisher decided shapeshifters were just a passing trend. Is there a real story hiding in those pages? Maybe yes, maybe no—after all, first drafts are notoriously ugly—but I think it’s time to dust it off and find out.
Meanwhile, I’ve never forgotten the utter magic of sitting on that doghouse on a bright sunny morning and creating my very first “book” as a kid. If I sit on our current doghouse, will I find some of that magic again, some fresh inspiration?
One thing’s for certain: I promise not to use the orange crayon!