I wrote my first poem when I was five years old. I pounded it out on the keys of Dad’s old, manual Underwood typewriter. The poem was sixteen words long, and I was hooked on the magic of Words.
After that, I used the old Underwood every chance I got. I wrote poems and plays. A few of my fellow fourth graders performed one of my plays in history class. Maybe I was destined to write about history.
I was twenty-three when I mailed my first submission. My first rejection letter arrived soon after. I still have it. I saved all my rejections—hundreds of them. Early on, most were form letters. Eventually, they gave advice and criticism. And then, a few editors showed interest and requested revisions.
I kept writing. I wrote poems, short stories, and novels. A few of my short stories won prizes, and in 2002, I received my first acceptance letter. It was for a poem (MY FACE) published in February, 2005, in Ladybug magazine for children. Another poem (NO RETURN) was published on Meadowbrook Press’s website. And still another (IMAGES OF 9/11) was published in Everything Prose…And Poetry, Too in 2013.
In November, 2013, I was offered a contract for my novel LIKE A RIVER, which launched on April 7, 2015, from Calkins Creek. Earlier this year, I signed a second contract with Calkins Creek for my novel EMPTY PLACES, due out in 2016.
The published novels are my dream-come-true! But they are not what make me a writer. The published poems and prizes helped to validate my struggles, but they did not make me a writer either. What makes me a writer is the time I spend doing what I love, creating stories, choosing words to put on the page, structuring them into paragraphs, sentences, or stanzas. I’ve been a writer since I was five.