I always think of selling my first story to an epublisher as the point where I became a writer but my parents remember it differently. They say that I became a writer the day I found out I’d won the local newspaper’s annual short story contest, way back in junior high.
My English teacher, whose name I have totally forgotten, brought the contest to my attention and she had to do a lot of talking to even convince me to enter the contest. She was pleased for me when I told her I had won, and she said “You’re a writer!”
Anyway, she had edited my story and deemed it ready to submit. I sent it in and a month passed, and I gave up. My mom kept saying “I think you’re going to win! Just be patient!” But the deadline passed and I hadn’t been contacted. Then one day the phone rang and HELLO! You are our winner!
I screamed like most teenage girls do when they’re excited, then gave the caller (probably some poor reporter stuck doing the story) all my information and was told to come to the paper soon and get my photo taken. I did so and about a week later, there I was, in the newspaper! I was actually a published writer, with a short story, byline, even a photo. Okay, about that photo. Obviously, someone smudged the negative or something, because I swear I have never been that ugly in my entire life. It was like winning the team ball and it deflates before you get it home.
But I did not let it get me down, I was still proud of myself for winning.
And when that poor reporter asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I didn’t stutter — “A journalist.” Waaaait a minute! Where did that come from? Never thought of it before that day. But I kinda liked this writing thing and having my picture taken sucked, but the little interview was cool. I could do this.
So that’s what my parents see as the beginning of my writing career — the day I screamed “I won! I won! Mom, I won!” while still holding the phone by my mouth so that the reporter probably suffered a hearing impairment forever after.
It was a cute little story about our dog at the time, Max. He was a “Cockapoo,” which we were told is a combination cockeer spaniel and poodle. He had extremely curly fur and hated to be brushed, bathed, trimmed or basically touched in any way. We all had plenty of funny stories about trying to groom the little furball, so I kinda mushed them together and it made everyone laugh and I won.
So a long time ago, I was encouraged by ONE teacher! And my parents! and 30-some years later, I really am a published author. I was going to scan the story in here, but then I remembered that dreadful picture. You all can just use your imagination, it was an awesome story.
Oops! I almost forgot to tell you about the prize! I received a princely sum of $25 for my story. I was beyond impressed! That seemed like a lot of money back then! I bought some gaucho pants with the money, much to my mom’s chagrin. She wanted me to save the money wisely. Not this shop-a-holic! I got clothes!