How Did I Become a Writer, Anyway?



In my One Writer Responds posts, I answer the most-asked questions about my writing and my life.



I watched the gypsy woman cough and sneeze, wiping her crusty nose with her ragged talon and using that same wet finger to trace a line on my otherwise dry palm. "It says so right here. There will be a lot of paper in your future."


Listening to her surreal pronouncement in that dark little room with the flashing, purple PALM READINGS! sign in Rockport, Massachusetts, I was quite distressed. At the time I was a young and vibrant female of 23 years, living out her dream as a young and vibrant singer.


I had sung in front of audiences ever since singer Marita Farrell, the founder of the Anchorage, Alaska opera, took me under her wing when I was five. I sang in junior high and high school talent shows, at Girl Scouts, in libraries, in church, and in chorus competitions. When I attended Frankfurt American High School in Germany, I was recruited to be one of the background singers for a popular German band's recording session. And when I returned to the States, I was the lead singer in two bands.


While I had yet to attain my greatest fantasies (fame and fortune, my own record label, a ranch with horses), I was busy pursuing a career I had dreamed about and trained for since I was a curly-haired tyke of five. So hello, Lady, is your crystal ball on the blink 'cause something's seriously wrong here! In my opinion, all this paper nonsense sounded suspiciously like trash collecting.


"No. You are going to be a writer. I see it," the gypsy insisted. "Ten dollars, please."


I didn't tell the gypsy, but I actually began writing in my early teens. I penned a cutesy column for our local American Youth Association newsletter called "Dinky's Doodles." I chose the moniker, "Dinky," to reflect my short stature, except no one ever called me that. A year later, I grew to 5 feet 8 1/2 inches and my "Dinky" days were over.


This was also the time when Precious Moments figurines and cards were popular; those sweet-faced imps were as prized by teenage girls as glass-eyed trolls and yellow smiley faces.


My mom had given me a Precious Moments diary for my 10th birthday and I remember staring at those blank pages for a long time, agonizing over what to write. Boys I like? Girls I hate? The pressure to create a lasting legacy was intense, so I decided there would have to be rules. Nothing went in which I was not 100 percent proud of. And no misspellings or cross-outs, either. Essentially, everything had to look and sound perfect in this sacred tome.


It wasn't long after that prophetic meeting with the gypsy that I abandoned my career as a singer, enrolled in a creative writing class, got an “A” from my professor, entered a statewide short story contest, and won first place.


My professor suggested I become a freelance writer, so I purchased a book called The Freelance Writers’ Handbook by Gary Provost and it became my dog-eared bible. That was in 1980. My path led me to become a journalist, copywriter, magazine and newspaper editor, and the founder of a national writers' organization.


Not long after I won the contest, I decided to take my $50 prize money and venture to Rockport again, intent on finding the gypsy fortune teller to thank her.


Alas, the sage and her flashing purple neon sign were gone. Disappointed, I wandered into a lovely Bearskin Neck pewter shop where I spent my winnings on a large pewter apple which opens into a handy shot glass holder.


I've never used it, but I keep it because it reminds me that anything is possible. A gypsy with a bad cold told me my path would change, and darned if she wasn’t right. Cheers!


Thank you for reading this excerpt from my nonfiction book, Write Awake: A Conscious Path to Creativity and Change.

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