Thursday, June 4, 2009

On becoming a writer

If you were to ask ten published authors how they became writers, you’d get ten different stories. People often ask me if my writing career was a childhood dream. My answer is no, not at all. In fact, I never imagined having a writing career—at least not until I had children. But I’ve always been a reader. Before I started school, my grandmother Maxine took me to the library, and she even let me choose my own books. Then she patiently helped me learn to sound out the words (the joy and blessing of phonics) so she could concentrate on her own stack of reading material. The first book I learned to read was the classic children’s story The Gingerbread Man. I think the most valuable lesson for me was knowing I could quickly immerse myself in another world, simply by having a wonderful book.

From then on, I was addicted to books, which was a wonderful thing because my dad was in the military, and we moved every few years. As an only child, I didn’t have a built-in social system. My choices were to listen to my parents’ boring grown-up conversations or read books that I could relate to. Teachers occasionally commented on my language skills and ability to construct interesting sentences, but I only saw that as a way to get decent grades in English and any other subject that required essays.

I went through high school and college, still ignoring “the writer within me.” Since I was somewhat sporty, and I enjoyed organizing groups, I chose to major in Community and Municipal Recreation with a minor in English. And I wrote papers that saved my neck when it came time to average my grades.

After college, I had several jobs—program center director for a YWCA, sales rep for various companies, and public relations representative for the St. Petersburg Times. All of those positions required writing skills. I edited the YWCA newsletter, wrote reports for my sales jobs, and put together brochures and packages to promote the newspaper.

My husband and I decided that I should stay home after we had our first child. I wasn’t experienced with babies, so I researched everything from how and what to feed my child to finding the best products to make life easier for families. A neighbor encouraged me to write down what I learned. I typed up my first article and mailed it to a regional parenting publication. A month later, I received a contract in the mail, making me a published writer. Wow! The discovery that I could earn money doing something I enjoyed was eye-opening. And addicting.

As my children grew up, I started writing novels. It took me five years to sell my first one, but now I’ve had more than 20 novels and novellas published by 3 different houses. Avalon bought my first book, Lessons in Love, a romance that came out in 2000. That was followed by several more Avalon romances and a mystery written under my maiden name, Deborah Tisdale. I’ve had books and novellas with Barbour Publishing as well as a Summerside Press book, Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida, that released this month, and a devotional, Be Still…and Let Your Nail Polish Dry with Sandie Bricker, Andrea Boeshaar, and Loree Lough that will be out later this year.

When people ask me what or who got me started in my writing career, I tell them Grandmother Maxine because she showed me the joy of words and stories, and my babies who needed skills I had yet to learn. The best way parents can instill a love for the written word is by making it a pleasurable experience. Making a living as a writer is great, but only because of my deep appreciation for the final product. And if I had to choose between reading and writing, reading would win!


Sandie Bricker said...

Your story about your grandma really took me back. I can vividly remember looking on as my older brother sat at the dining room table, reading aloud as my mom helped him with his homework. And then my mom would hurry us to bed so that she could sit in her favorite chair and read one of the books in the stack she brought home from the library. Reading was a fact of life in our house, and I think that experience colored so many of my choices as a writer.

Thanks for sharing your story, Debby!

Sandy Cody said...

Debby, your story struck a chord with me. It seems every writer I know claims to have known from age 5 they were destined to be a writer. Like you, I didn't write as a child, but have always loved books. In fact, I think my love of books was part of the reason I didn't start to write until later. It took me a long to realize that books are written by ordinary people.

Like the other Sandie, I thank you for sharing your story.

Christine Bush said...

It is absolutely fascinating to read about your path,such a nice way of getting to know you. I am just loving getting to know the great people who are the writers of these great book! Thanks!

Debby Mayne said...

It's great to see y'all--Sandie, Sandy, and Christine!

I think most successful writers start out as readers--whether they knew from the moment they picked up their first crayon that they wanted to write or they were late-blooming authors. It's all about enjoying the written word.

Oh, and I've discovered a new love: teaching. As an instructor for the Long Ridge Writers Group, I feel a tremendous amount of joy watching my students improve and get publishing contracts.

Loree Lough said...

Hoo-boy, Debby, I can't believe how closely I identified with this post...especially the grandmother part. In my case, she was Italian and we called her Nonna. The woman could tell a story like nobody's business.

Like you, I had a long list of jobs and careeres before the Lord would call me to write. And, like you, I thoroughly enjoy every minute spent in classrooms (online and in person), sharing learned the hard way lessons about the craft and the industry.

AND like you, I thank Him daily for opening my ears, so I'd listen as He guided me onto this path. Because hasn't He blessed us for our obedience!

Looking forward to your next release!

Kathye Quick said...

I began to love books at a very young age also. I think that we, as writers, share that thread.

Great post