To see my books: Visit my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE.
Writer, blogger, reader, and primo dog walker
Writer, I am. I love writing and have two YA novels and three co-authored travel books published through traditional and electronic publishers. In addition I write adult fiction and short stories and continue to have fun writing for children. This blog is where I talk about my twin passions: writing and publishing. I hope you’ll join in the conversation.
I enjoy writing and reading nonfiction anything and admit to a fondness for essays. I also write short stories and novels and have written all forms of children’s books including the two young adult novels published. I even stepped into the MFA creative writing world and earned one of those lofty pieces of paper from Vermont College.
Despite being a late-bloomer to writing, I’ve amassed five books published traditionally and electronically, as well as online pub credits that include Expedia, MSN City Guides, Blogcritics, Squidoo, and a passel–I am from Texas, you know–of nonfiction and fiction creds.
For the valiant few — the LONG version
Roll call of the dogs
- Sam the Stretch Limo of Great Pyrenees
- Max (another Pyr)
- Riley the Rockhound (Cocker Spaniel)
- Charlie the Pug Bug
- Teddy (Shih Tsu and self-appointed alpha dog)
- Sweet Freddie (Maltese)
- 4 lb little Honey Bunn (my mom’s Mi Ki)
Thankfully I’ve been mentored by a great dog/horse trainer with more than 60 years experience so we all manage rather well. (Though if you ask my mom’s two cats–Ocie and FiFi for you cat lovers–they might tell you another story.)
A late-bloomer to the writing world
I know, I know. Most writers talk about how they’ve been writing forever, how they popped out of their mom’s womb with a pen clutched in one tiny hand and an eraser in the other. Not me. I spent the first 30+ years of my life perfectly content to be an avid reader and to let that be my only link to the world of writers and of publishers. But one weekend shattered that idyllic life forever.
The old man giveth
It sounds silly to say it now but my life’s course truly changed in an instant. One minute I was reading a National Geographic book about South America and gazing at photos of Andean and Ecuadorian women in their native dress and the next an image of an old man, a weaver, sitting at a large loom spinning thread after thread after thread creating one humongous tapestry blocked my view. For three days I could not get that old man out of my head, all the while a poem pushed up from the recesses of my mind, rushed down my arm, and splashed out of my pen creating a river of words. The world beamed bright; I was high on a torrent of words.
The birth of a new passion
I wish I could say “and the rest was history” but, alas, I cannot. My foray into the writing world began when I enrolled in a creative writing class at the community college. My first writing teacher turned out to be a Beatles-loving, gifted writing teacher. Her first semester classes demanded we learn the basics: plot, POV, characters, and all the other necessary things so important to the foundation of a writer. Most importantly we learned the right way to critique others. I studied with her for 3 years and had The Tapestry, that initial poem, published.
The long trek through the desert
For some writers success comes in the beginning with a blast strong enough to launch their writing careers for the rest of their lives. For others that first creative explosion may be bright but fails to endure. For the rest the road is fraught with failures, studded with panoramic moments, but mostly clothed in fog. The writer barely peers past the next contest, the carefully wrought submission, or the sharpening of weekly critiques. My path, littered with 13 years of rejection and a few scattered awards here and there, followed a similar progression.
I dutifully joined a critique group; enrolled in courses, workshops, and conferences; embraced professional organizations and their members. My official critique group lasted six years. I rose to be chapter president of a local writer’s group numbering 300+ members for two years. I can list a good hundred or so conferences and workshops I attended including Stone Coast, RWA, and Bouchercon. I read and read and read. And yes, I wrote and wrote and wrote. The rejections validated my efforts and definitely provide good podium fodder.
On the road to mastery
Early on I read stories of other writers, listened to their interviews, watched their presentations. One after another, the great ones spoke of how ten years passed before they gained control over their writing. I learned from them that the road to becoming a good writer would be long no matter when success appeared. From the beginning I embraced the long view.
One day a senior editor and friend from a large publishing house came to town for a weekend workshop. She surprised me by asking me why I wasn’t teaching. I said I’d thought about it but kept thinking I wasn’t ready. She shook her head and said, “You’re a natural. You’re ready.” And so I put together a series of courses, gave private workshops and conference presentations, and eventually conducted a variety of writing courses at local colleges. Teaching taught me how much craft I had already absorbed but even more how much the craft still had to impart.
I’ve always been of the mind that it pays to know the industry where you plan to plant your butt. Because publication seemed a natural goal, I looked for opportunities to learn about the business end of writing. Publisher’s Weekly moved to the top of my magazine pile. Books on proposal writing and stories about surviving rejection letters captured my attention. SBCWI, RWA, MWA, and even PWA provided forums, workshops, and meetings where I could rub shoulders with professional writers, editors, and agents.
Adventures were never far away. Once I nearly fell down the side of a mountain, all in the name of research. Another time I forced a friend to stop the car and keep the engine running while I jumped out and checked a local bayou in a not-so-cool part of town to see if it would be a perfect body dumping ground–for my novel, of course. Then I donned a fortune teller’s garb for a mystery play put on by the local Sisters in Crime chapter. Even a simple act of volunteering to pick up two writer friends from the airport held dramatic impact, especially when those friends happened to be Harlan Coben and Carolyn Hart. They not only agreed but urged me to leap into the chaotic book publishing arena. And so I took up the role of community relations coordinator for Borders Books and later moved to corporate sales. The take-away? Distribution. It is key to a writer’s publication success.
Out of the blue – My first book is published
It’s clichéd but oh so true. Publishing came but not as a result of my strategic planning but as a gesture from a friend in need. It resulted in a sharp veer to the left where lo and behold I found myself a published travel writer. She had an unsigned contract in hand but due to severe personal problems realized she needed a co-writer. And so Exploring Houston with Children was born. We continued to work together on two more books: Exploring the Arts and Culture in Houston and Exploring Texas History: Weekend Adventures.
In time I felt I’d reached a plateau. If I were to grow, I’d need added stimulation. And so I entered the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Vermont College. The following two years remain a blur of writing, working, writing, working and more writing. I spent a year studying with noted children’s author Eric Kimmel and a semester each with Phyllis Root and Sharron Darrow. At the end I’d completed a series of essays, a thesis on using the senses to create a fictional world, and a middle grade novel. Not bad given I was also a community relations coordinator for Borders Books and busy shepherding a new store with a very bad location. The best thing I received was the constant push by all the faculty to do more, go further, dig deeper, write better.
When the frenzy of working, studying and writing slowed, I focused on a couple of teen novels that had been begging for my attention. Divided Loyalties, although written second, became the first published. Video Magic, winner of the Golden Heart Award for Young Adults, published next. The travel books had traditional publishers. Now I entered the digital age with a well-respected electronic publisher making my two novels available in both electronic and print versions. Rows of books with my name above the title populated my vision of the future.
A sharp turn drops me into the valley
When a writer gains momentum, it’s a beautiful thing. There I was jogging down my path, writing furiously and passionately, editing manuscripts, facilitating Artist Way groups, surrounded by writers of every caliber, teaching, and riding the early onset of a strong and lasting writer’s high. I’d marshaled my inner and outer forces and the future looked good, really good. Then, like in any good novel, life grabbed me by the ankles and flipped me off course.
The first hint of caregiving had already begun but I’d been too oblivious to notice. My head, steeped in a new fiction project, was lost in sticky notes, mind maps, and character engagements. It started with little things, of no consequence I thought, and so I didn’t prepare myself for what was to come: the strain and stress and the responsibility of caring two 90+ year old parents. Nor did I realize the impact it would have on me and on my writing. My health and my dad collided. His death only increased the stress and trauma which ultimately led to my first experience of writer’s block–ever. It’s been a long struggle to get back on the path.
Gone to the dogs and lovin’ it
Today the neural pathways are sparking and my lost trail is intersecting with my writing path. I am still in the caregiver role taking care of my 98-year old mom and also caring for her two cats and my seven dogs.
Dogs. Dogs have played an important role in my life from early childhood. A dog was my first babysitter. Asta, a stunning German Shepherd, that accompanied my dad while he was in the Army stationed in Germany and then Korea, had 12 pups around the same time I was born. By then we lived in Buffalo, NY. My mom tells how she would put me in the playpen in the front yard and leave Asta standing guard. No one, I mean no one, dared approach. Now I babysit the dogs. (What’s that thing about reversals?)
And what about the writing, Vikk?
The writing. Well, I’m deep into a crime novel project that is pretty extensive and I absolutely love it. And I’ve revamped this blog, Down the Writer’s Path, and am excited to continue our conversation about writing. The there’s the dog blog A Life with Dogs. Is there more? Of course, but you’ll have to return to learn more–and by the way, for reading this far I can only say Bravo! and Thank you!
TO SEE MY BOOKS, VISIT MY AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE.
Once again, to learn more about my books, click here.