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What Made You Want to Be a Writer?

I know it’s a pretty standard question, but thought it might be a good topic for a blog post. Currently trying to distract myself from a writing funk and cleanse the palette, if you will.

Anyway, so what made me want to be a writer?

To be honest, writing and telling stories was the only thing I felt I was good at. I always knew I wanted to do something creative, but I was never really good at any of the creative pursuits I tried. I was so-so on the piano, horrible at cello, and okay when it came to playing the flute. I can carry a tune, but I don’t see people paying to hear me sing or buying my albums. Or to watch me act even though I was constantly told I was a drama queen in daily life. I was mediocre at best when it came to dance, but I loved it, and was on dance team all throughout high school.

Writing was the only thing I ever won awards for, that people consistently complimented me on. Therefore, it made sense that I would choose a line of work that involved writing.

(And, of course, I love writing. Duh.)

But let’s start from the beginning.

Baby Drama Queen Em

From the time I was little, I remember always writing. Sometimes it was jotting down little stories in notebooks or on construction paper. Or I would write in my diary. Most of that was about life, but I would also write down poems and little short stories when they popped up in my head. I never shared any of this. It was just something fun I did to pass the time when I wasn’t reading.

It wasn’t until I was in the eighth grade that I found out that there were jobs in writing. Yes, I knew about writing novels, and it was something I wanted to do, but I never thought of it as a career. More than that, I never thought it was a job that I could do.

In eighth grade, I had this English teacher - Mrs. Myers. She was tough. The teacher that all the kids in the grades above you warned you about because she made kids cry (allegedly - I never saw anyone in my classes cry). She was also a bit of a town celebrity as she was a prolific YA novelist and nearly everyone had read at least one of her books. (Or all of them, if you’re me.) In fact, she’s well-known in Oklahoma, since most of her books take place in the state and she’s won several awards.

I was nervous about having Mrs. Myers because even at 14, I was all about making straight As. However, I was equally as excited. I would be learning from an actual author whose books I had read.

Needless to say, I had never met an author before and was very starstruck with Mrs. Myers

Mrs. Anna Myers

So, eighth grade started and Mrs. Myers was just as challenging as I had heard. But you can bet that I certainly never forgot how to diagram a sentence (pretty sure I can still diagram fairly quickly and all those grammar rules came in handy in journalism). However, we had a lot of substitutes throughout the first semester, since her husband was battling cancer and she was often gone. Unfortunately, Mrs. Myers’ husband passed away towards the end of the semester and we didn’t see her for a few weeks.

But then the second semester started and not only did it bring Mrs. Myers back full time, but we started working on writing. Namely, creative writing. And I was in heaven. Most of the stories I wrote that year were about the Backstreet Boys and written down hastily in notebooks that I passed back and forth with my best friend Kellie. (I’d get into that more, but my experience in writing fanfiction is definitely another blog topic.) So, I was excited to write short stories.

Honestly, at the time I didn’t really care if they were good or not. I would get an idea and have a blast writing it, then reading over it again and again. Never occurred to me to share them with anyone (outside of my BSB fanfic which was only shared with Kellie).

Enter stage left, the picture assignment.

Mrs. Myers put 10 black and white photos up on the board and told us to choose three. We had to write a short story, poem, or personal essay about each. We got the rest of class time to write and then had the rest of the week to finish at home. I can’t remember the last photo I chose, but I do remember choosing a photo of a young boy sitting on the porch of a big rock house looking out over a forest and another of a little boy standing in the screen door of a house.

What was a 14-year-old girl in a middle class family with a happy life to write about?

Well, alcohol abuse, physical altercations, the police showing up, runaways, and being poor, of course.

To this day, I’m still not completely sure where the ideas came from. Some of it was probably subconscious. Before my mom remarried when I was nine, we were really poor, and my birth father was an alcoholic. However, I didn’t really remember a lot of this, nor did I think about it all that often. But I was always a bit extra and had a certain flair for the dramatic - according to my mother. And well, even as a kid, I was watching a lot of Dateline with Mom. I’m assuming that factored in.

A Dramatic 14-Year-Old

So, I furiously wrote my short stories and turned them in early, but didn’t think about them after that. The following week on Monday, Mrs. Myers told us that she had selected a few to be read in front of the class and, low and behold, one of my stories was chosen. I was absolutely giddy about it.

That giddiness exploded into a life-changing moment when I got the story back just before I got up to read it. I got an A, of course. But Mrs. Myers had written next to that, “You should be an author.”

I’m not sure if she remembers doing that. Or if she even remembers me. She retired after that year and moved to Oklahoma City. She’s also had 100s of students over her time as a teacher. But I’ll never forget it. That was the moment I decided I was going to be a writer.

I started writing more. And entering writing contests - which was the main way I shared what I wrote. I got compliments on all the awards (because of course I didn’t let anyone read the actual stories). In ninth grade, I decided I would be a reporter and pursue writing novels on the side. I was a very practical teenager. I knew it could take years to publish a novel, but writing for a newspaper would give me a steady, albeit small, paycheck.

Pre-Warner Tears in College

I joined my high school newspaper my junior year and was editor-in-chief my senior year (looked really good on my college applications.) I felt like I was a good writer because of all the awards I got at the state level for both my short stories and news articles. I was then brought back to reality when I started journalism school and my advisor, Professor Warner, made me cry after my first Newswriting 101 class.

But, I never stopped writing. I pushed through and found a love and respect for journalism, going on to become a newspaper reporter and copy-editor. I had tons of half-finished novels on floppy drives that I took with me to college and swore that someday I would finish something.

I was still convinced that someday I would be a published author like Mrs. Myers.

It actually took me a very long time before I let anyone close to me read my fiction, though I never thought twice about all the articles I wrote over my 10+ years in journalism. My mom found the novel I wrote when I was 16 and read it, and I was so mortified that I refused to show any of my original work to anyone else, thinking none of it was ready.

It wasn’t until I finished my first self-published novel “A Walk Among Goddesses” in 2019 that I let people I knew read my fiction. And then I discovered Wattpad and couldn’t get my original fiction up faster.

37 and FINALLY a Published Author

So, here I am. In my late 30s and just made a career shift into content writing from journalism. And still trying to be a full-time author.

Some days I think I’m on the right track and I’m definitely going to make it. But I still have moments where I wonder if I’m crazy for thinking that I can write books that people want to read. However, none of that has changed the fact that I still love writing and sharing stories and I have no plans to stop.

I’m still going to pursue writing as a career. Still self-publish. Still post on Wattpad. Maybe someday I’ll be a best-selling author. Maybe not. Either way, I think the big thing is that I enjoy what I do.

Though God, I seriously want to get to that day when I can wake up every day and spend all my time just writing novels. That’s the dream. And maybe a Netflix deal… or maybe an Oscar for best screenplay… Probably not, but at least I have my acceptance speech already written.

So. What about you, dear reader? What made you want to be a writer?

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