When I was a little girl, adults often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While other kids proclaimed they would become ballerinas, or astronauts, my answer was always the same: “I want to be a writer.”
In elementary school, I begged my teachers for creative writing assignments. As a fifth grader, I won a school-wide short story competition. I’d always been a voracious reader, so it seemed only natural to become an English major in college. My destiny as a writer seemed assured.
Then I grew up. In the crucible of adult life, I became many things: a wife, a mother, a survivor of both cancer and manic depression. But not a writer. I didn’t even have the stamina to keep a journal. Coping with life was challenge enough.
I’d almost forgotten my childhood aspirations, when a remarkable thing happened: the movie version of The Return of the King hit the box office. A Tolkien fanatic since age ten, I was eager to see how director Peter Jackson would handle the concluding chapter of The Lord of the Rings.
There were many things about Jackson’s film that pleased me, but one glaring detail rankled. I needed to hear Arwen say that Aragorn’s love was worth dying for, that she wanted him for himself, not just for the child they might one day have together.
Obsessed by this fatal flaw, I began rewriting scenes in my head. I found myself reciting new dialog while folding clothes or mopping the kitchen floor. The only way to get this thing out of my brain was to put it down on paper.
Having completed my own “brilliant” adaptation of the script, I went on a quest to share it with readers, and stumbled across the shadowy corner of the internet devoted to fan fiction. In these semi-clandestine forums, fans with clever screen names write stories featuring the worlds and characters created by their favorite authors. This guilty pleasure, which can hardly be spoken of in the company of serious writers, became the outlet for my now rejuvenated muse. The direct, if sometimes harsh, feedback of impassioned readers quickly forced me to whip my prose into shape.
Through story, I was able to explore questions that I’d always had about J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. Like an art student copying old masters in the Louvre, I spent two years copying Tolkien’s masterful voice. Then suddenly one day, I discovered my own.
Original stories began forming in my mind, stories with characters and settings born of my own imagination. I sought out local writers’ groups and researched markets for speculative fiction. I devoured every resource in nearby libraries about the craft and business of writing.
During this new phase of my journey, I determined to send out one story each month for twelve months. Like a woman trying to get pregnant, I watched the calendar, assuring myself that if my imagination was indeed as fertile as I hoped, I would achieve publication within the year.
It worked! After many polite rejection letters, and numerous rewrites, my first original story appeared in the Mindflights ezine. No fortieth birthday present could have been more rewarding than that first royalty check.
In the seven years since then, I have achieved many more writing milestones, including winning a scholarship to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference last spring. But perhaps the sweetest achievement came this past fall as I was filling out a college scholarship application for my son. In the box labeled “Mother’s Occupation,” I finally had the courage to put down “Writer.”