“A writer is, after all, only a person who loves writing
and believes in it strongly enough to want to do it well.”
Kenneth Atchity in A Writer’s Time
I attended my first writing conference almost fifty years ago. Seated at a banquet table with strangers, I was asked by one attendee, “What do you do in real life?” The hint behind the question was that unless I was making a living at it, being a writer was not my real life, so I answered with my paying profession. “I’m an English teacher.”
I have always loved the written word, a love that started with early trips to the public library for armloads of books and continued as I learned to write my own. At first, they were stories of adventure, the characters carryovers from the books I’d read and the movies I’d seen: Roy Rogers, Jesse James, Cochise, and Robin Hood. I didn’t let the fact that they were all men get in my way. I was making up stories, which meant I could be whoever I wanted to be. However, I often wanted to be a girl, so I frequently imagined my heroines to be important members of the gang or the tribe.
As I entered my teens, married, and had children, my stories changed. They were no longer as adventurous. Instead, I sought to make sense of the real world through my characters’ lives. From my first novel, The Night before Christmas, to my latest, Undercurrents: The Adventures of Hannah True, my writing has focused on family relationships, about when they don’t work and if they ever can.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
~William Arthur Ward
For most of my adult life, I have been an English teacher. On a bad day, I was mediocre. On a rare day, I was great. I know because on an even rarer day, a student would tell me so. I believe that on most days, I was a combination of good and superior. I retired from teaching a few years ago, so now I divide my time between writing and editing.
“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others
what’s burning inside you,
and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”
No matter how proficient an author becomes at shaping written thoughts, there is almost always room for improvement. From 1992-1998, I co-edited Array, a small literary magazine. In reviewing and selecting poems and prose for publication, I seldom found a submission I didn’t want to prune. Of course, I sought approval from the writers before publication, but they almost always agreed that the changes made the revised work stronger. As an editor, my goal was, is, and always will be to help writers fine tune their work so that their final drafts clearly and effectively communicate their vision.