I grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts in a working class family like many of those I write about. At nine-years-old, inspired by Little Women, Nancy Drew and The Diary of Anne Frank, I retreated to a tiny room with rose wallpaper and a towering catalpa tree outside the window, closed the door and began to write my own poems and stories.
But how would I make a living? my father wondered when my compulsion continued throughout high school. In Freshman year of college, I changed my major four times, trying to find something more “realistic” than the vocation that seemed to have chosen me. Nursing? Education? Communication studies? I tried them all, but during class, I found myself daydreaming about stories or scribbling poems in my notebook.
At nineteen, I left school, and got married. That youthful marriage only lasted a few years, but it produced two wonderful boys and a lifelong friendship. To support myself and my sons, I began my first career–as a waitress, a job I would continue to do for more than thirty years, as I returned to school, found my soulmate and gave birth to two more children.
Throughout it all, the work of my mind and heart continued. I published dozens of poems and stories in literary magazines until the morning when my agent called to say we had an offer on my first novel. After we hung up, I cried a little before I called the beloved family who had always believed in me.Then I went outside and hung my waitress shoes on a bean pole in the garden.
Shortly thereafter, I discovered what the real meaning of success is for a writer. Readers! After a lifetime of being alone with my beloved characters, there were now others who cared about them as much as I did, and who inhabited their stories so completely that when I met them at book clubs or through emails, I gained new insights into them.
These days after my morning meditation and coffee, I take a long walk, play with my dog, Mookie, and head for my desk at around ten. Then, before I open my laptop, I look out on the garden where my weathered waitressing shoes are still hanging. They remind me of all the miles I walked to arrive at this new day and another chance to continue the work begun in the bedroom with the rose wallpaper. Gratitude is the word.