Last year, while chatting with a potential publisher, the editor had asked me about my writing history – how long I’d been writing, my goals, etc. And of course, I remarked that BoD was really the first thing I’d ever written with the intent of publication (not counting the children’s book I’d written in high school…which, of course, didn’t get pubbed.)
I talked about how I’d written in high school, but had been rather discouraged in college and had pretty much stopped all together until a few years ago when I started doing the PbP gaming thing.
The editor noted that this was a shame. After all, just imagine where I’d be if I’d been writing all this time. And I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. I certainly would have perfected my craft a bit more.
On the other hand, I’m not sure things would have turned out as well as they had. (This whole post, btw, is somewhat because of the whole James Frey kurfluffle going on right now.There’s plenty more information about that here and here. Nutshell? Don’t Do It.)
To be honest, by the end of my college career I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a Marine Biologist (and the fact that I’ve been rather solidly in the tech industry for nearly fifteen years now, pretty much solidifies that). I found myself going back and forth and trying to decide if maybe I was cut out to be an English major instead. (Senior year is a lousy time to realize that you really don’ t have any idea about what you want to do). In fact, I actually applied to a few grad schools…but like everything else, I tried to wing it. Last minute submissions, a few gen-ed’s short (I had to take a Spanish class to get into an English program? Really?).
I spent three months working as a Bob Evan’s hostess in Athens, Ohio, waiting to see if Ohio University would accept me. And they didn’t. My writing wasn’t strong enough, they said – and in truth, it probably wasn’t. Being a science major meant I didn’t exactly have a massive writing portfolio at my fingertips, and my one bit of fiction wasn’t particularly literary. I think I basically crapped out an essay on Celtic mythology based on something I’d written for a class four years before as part of my entrance essay. It was not pretty.
(And yes, at the time I actually imagined how awesome it would be to get pubbed one day and thank OU for NOT accepting me. I’m not sure I’ll ever be that crass, but I find it ironic that I actually *could* do that now if I wanted to.)
So I gave up on the writing thing and picked up a science internship over at Ocean Spray (and hung out in the bogs for a few months.) Oddly enough, I started writing a little something that didn’t become BoD…but the characters are definitely part of the story. Funny to think now how Charlie and her angel got their start as an offshoot short story twelve years ago…only to be lost a year later when the floppy(!) disc got eaten. At which point I didn’t write anything else for over ten years.
Anyway – I do wonder sometimes what would have happened if I *had* been accepted by OU. I’m not sure I would have been any happier. I’ve mentioned before that I never really fit in with the literary crowd in my undergrad courses. I can only imagine, as in the articles above, what it must be like to nearly have that MFA in hand and wonder what you do if you don’t succeed as a writer. (And to be so desperate to succeed that you’d actually agree to Frey’s offer.)
Some might argue that’s part of being an artist – suffering for the work, applying life’s hardships to the words and that sort of thing, but frankly, I like eating. I also like having a steady job that provides me a fair amount of disposable income. And to be honest, everything you need to know to get pubbed is on the internet – workshops, mailing lists, writing groups and forums. Fifteen years ago, part of what had really stopped me from making any sort of actual pubbing attempt was the sheer unknowing of it all.The internet definitely didn’t exist like it does today and the concept of being pubbed was like this massive pedestal that I’d never be able to reach. (Cue angels and clouds and dancing boys).
Then, too, I think I needed to experience life a bit more. Even if I never planted trees in the rainforest or had torrid romances in Bali, I still got the chance to broaden my horizons, and living can only make your writing stronger.
So, thanks to Ohio University for not accepting my half-assed application to their English grad program. You did us both a favor. 🙂