This week, YA Highway asks Who has helped you on your reading/writing/publishing journey? I’ve given that considerable thought (at least the last five minutes) and as is often the case, I can’t come up with just one. There have been many. But there are two I’d like to mention, a Ghost of Writing Past and a Ghost of Writing Present. If there’s a Ghost of Writing Future, I guess I haven’t met you yet.
My Ghost of Writing Past was Mrs. Luckensmeyer in 10th grade English. The best thing she ever did for me as a writer was the weekly composition book. We were to fill two pages in one of those small gray composition books every week and turn it in on Thursday. We could write our own original material in those two pages, or we could copy something from someone else (as long as we attributed). I think that dispensation to just put pen to paper and write was such a liberating experience for me. Also, she gave us the choice of whether we wanted her to read what we’d written. If we wanted her to read it, we wrote “Please Read” across the top. If we hadn’t given that permission, she would just glance at the pages to make sure we’d done the assignment. It was very cool.
Here is a my artistically decorated cover and the first page of my 10th grade composition book. If you can read the enlarged version of the poem I wrote, you’ll see some very topical references to what was going on in the late ’60s. I mention the musical Hair because I’d gone to see it at the Aquarius Theater down in L.A. Me and my sisters had done the groupie thing afterward, and hung out with the cast in a seedy hotel room.
My Ghost of Writing Present is my good friend and romance author, Barbara McMahon. Besides supporting me through those pre-published years when I’d be moaning and groaning about yet another rejection letter, she taught me a key lesson–conflict. We were attending RomCom in Reno, Nevada, sharing a room and enjoying the conference together. I was so chuffed to have a multi-published friend to hang out with. We were taking in the sights one night and I got to telling her about a book I was working on. She stopped me dead with one question–But what’s the conflict? I had no clue. I stuttered something, possibly hated her for a Reno second, then started thinking. From that moment on, that question has never far from my mind when I’m writing. Barbara’s voice is still whispering in my ear, What’s the conflict?
So who’s important to you in your writing life? How did they help you? Let me know in the comments.