I think my writing began with poems and a family newspaper I created when I was about ten. There’s a starring figure in that past: my grandfather. He had been a sportswriter for the London Times. Among his journalistic words of wisdom were the warning that whenever I write a phrase I think is “beautiful,” it should be deleted. That’s still one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given.
He’s framed in gold in my memory because he was the first – and for a long time the only – person to believe I had writing talent. In my adolescent rebellion I told him I no longer wanted to be a writer, but an actress. ”You’ll outgrow it,” he said. It was many years before I did, for I took a long detour into theater.
I also detoured into marriage and motherhood. What brought me back to writing was the weight I gained when I was home with two young children! I’d taken a sabbatical from theater but found being a homemaker boring , so I comforted myself with food. When my son was five years old, I intended to go back to acting, so joined a Weight Watchers class to lose those pounds. While there I learned that the company was looking for an editor. The dormant writer in me perked up, applied, and got the job. My husband urged me to go back to acting, .but I was making a startling discovery: I wanted my first love – writing..
Then came 14 years of writing fat/thin/ articles. But something within craved more. I quit my job and began to freelance. I also wrote my first short story but didn’t know what to do with it until I got an unexpected phone call from a woman I I’d interviewed. She said that a friend of hers had a writers’ group, was I interested? Although terrified of the exposure. I forced myself to “try it out.” I’m still in that group some 27 years later! The members not only gave me insights into what my story needed, but guided me through a memoir about my husband’s death and my subsequent attempt to create a new life. Widow’s Walk found a publisher, but I don’t think it would have if it weren’t for the group’s perceptive comments and patience with my endless rewrites.
That very first story? It was rejected by 26 magazines. I’d given up until a new member of the group, said 26 was nothing, he’d had over 40 per story. I sent mine again and it was accepted. (I hope that inspires everyone who’s reading this.)
I’ve gone on to write dozens of stories, as well as two other books. My most recent one, Ten Women of Valor” is a slim collection of monologues about our first ten Biblical heroines, from a feminist viewpoint. I self-published it, which I found a challenging but rewarding experience. To my surprise, the book has garnered repeated requests for readings.
My success with those readings is why I think my career’s been a circle. I thought I’d wasted all those years by being an actress. But being at ease with audiences stems, I believe, from my years on stage. So life writes its own scripts.
I’m gratified that my story is included in the anthology A Certain Kind of Freedom, as one of the half dozen representing the U.S. But the pleasure is diluted for the story portrays a too-prevalent scene in my country: a school massacre.
Yet we have to accept the vulture in ourselves that pounces on tragedies. As writers we have the gift of being able to transform them into words that may illuminate other lives.