I vividly remember when my writing muse awakened. I was a little girl, too young to have started school, curled up with my dad on our living room sofa. He had just finished reading aloud a children’s book about Osceola, the Seminole Indian chief who fought to keep a remnant of his tribe in Florida during the nineteenth century when most Native Americans were being forced west. I felt truly sad that the story had ended. More than forty years later, I can still recall the ache in my throat.
“The story’s gone,” I said.
“It’s not gone.” My dad put the book in my hands. “We could turn it around and start over at the beginning.”
As a blind child, I hadn’t clearly understood until that profound moment that books were permanent, that their magic could be enjoyed again and again. From that evening on, I felt a passionate call to write stories and save them up like treasures in books. Often during my school years, when I should have been solving math problems or studying spelling words, I was composing poetry or writing back cover material and title pages for novels I hoped to one day publish.
I was born in Chicago. But both of my parents grew up in Brighton, Colorado, a fairly small town north of Denver, and they missed their friends and families. They returned to Brighton before I could walk, and except for a few years away at college, I’ve lived in the same community all my life.
It can be difficult living in the town where you came of age, where you’ve nearly reached fifty and people still remember you as a giggling kid. But it gives me a sense of belonging, too, a sense of place. I’d made it no secret throughout my childhood that I intended to be an author someday, so everyone in town expected me to make the New York Times Bestseller List when I hit adulthood—or maybe I just believed they all expected that of me. Besides that, it took me time to gain enough confidence to speak my truth without worrying about what my friends and neighbors thought. It’s intimidating to be known on a first name basis by a lot of people, or at least to have them acquainted with your parents and grandparents. It takes growing into your adult self, your writer self, before you recognize your own voice when you hear it.
In junior high, I interviewed a local author as part of a school project. Her advice has stayed with me for 35 years.
“When you write, think of yourself as a bird building a nest,” she said. “Your life gives you the material for your stories. You take a twig from here, a tuft of grass from there, a bit of string from somewhere else. Keep living a life full of experiences so you never run out of building materials.”
I usually write fiction, so my characters and what happens to them are made up. But some of the experiences and most of the underlying emotions come from what I know, what I’ve lived through, like that bird making a nest.
My novel, “The Bright Side of Darkness,” began as a short story for a high school English class. The writing was amateur, as one would expect from a teenager, but I fell madly in love with the five tough-talking, risk-taking boys and the blind girl who refused to admit her own vulnerability. I put the story away in a scrapbook but never forgot about it.
A few years later, when I needed to learn how to use a Word processor, I typed that story into a document so I’d have a large chunk of text to practice with. The writing embarrassed me some; it needed a lot of work. But I added and deleted text, moved paragraphs around, cut and pasted. And by the time I became proficient on the computer—a DOS machine with five-inch floppy disks and WordPerfect–the story had improved. From there, it took on a life of its own and grew into a novel.
I picked up my book and put it down several times over the next fifteen years as life happened, but my muse never left me for long. I honed my writing craft, participated in workshops and critique groups, took editing advice from many different people—there are no shortcuts. Then in 2014, my mom passed away suddenly in her late sixties. From the shock of that loss, I realized none of us know how long we will be fortunate enough to walk on this planet. I decided I better publish my book while I had the chance. I felt my message of mentoring, of how everyone can contribute to changing the world in a positive way, needed to be spread. So in June of 2015, I published my book on Amazon and Kindle. The audio version came out in October of that year. Making books available for readers unable to access the printed word is very important to me.
During the early years of my first marriage, my husband had fallen seriously ill with what would eventually be diagnosed as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Money was tight, to say the least. Since we were both home most of the time, our place became a hangout for kids and teens in our downtrodden neighborhood who needed snacks, homework help, Band-Aids for their skinned knees and air for their bike tires, and most of all, adult companionship and guidance. Those experiences in my twenties taught me that mentoring is a life-changing act in which we all can participate. All of my writing, whether it’s my novel, a short story, a blog post, an advocacy piece, or even a letter to an elected official, flows out of my deepest core values as a human being. I believe in living from a place of gratitude and putting love into tangible action.
To support my writing habit, I freelance as a braille textbook proofreader. My daughter, her dad and I share our home with my yellow Labrador guide dog, two cats, and a parakeet. I enjoy gardening in the summer and cooking and baking in the winter.
To see my guest blog posts about parenting in the dark,