Friday, February 6, 2009

How I Became a Writer

You know, I started this blog with the intention of using it to connect with readers and people who are interested in writing, and I've realized that lately I've talked very little about books or writing. So I decided to give the brief version of my writing history.

Loved to read and scribble as a kid. My idea of a good time in the summer was a Nancy Drew book and a popsicle in the back yard. My sisters will agree with me, this was great. Our husbands find us particularly pathetic. But I so loved to read.

Fast forward to me graduating from college and giving birth to our first daughter. My husband and I spent just under a year in Atlanta and I had been reading a time-travel romance. I missed my family terribly and decided that I wanted to start writing a story about a Civil War time-travel to divert my thoughts. Well, interestingly enough, my husband decided he wanted to go back to Utah to finish school and we've been here ever since. (I like to remind him that it was his idea to return whenever he pines about missing the east coast. He's from Florida).

So I began the book in Atlanta on a computer that was as big as a coffee table and had a word processing program that couldn't keep up with my speedy typing. I had to pause every few minutes to let it catch up. (These fingers are strong! I learned to type in 7th grade on a manual typewriter. Computer keyboards are like warp speed in comparison).

I kept working on the book when we returned to Ogden, Utah, but put it away at intervals, thinking it was just a waste of time. When we got a new computer with a fancy dial-up internet connection, I became involved in a wonderful world of writers and readers. I received encouragement from friends I'd never met in person and decided to finish that book.

I did some local research, reasoning that I had a better chance at publication if I tried a local market first. The big players at the time were Deseret Book, Bookcraft and Covenant. A lot of fiction I spied on shelves at bookstores came from Covenant, and as it happened, when I finished the book and mailed it off to those three pubs, Covenant was the company that accepted it and I really feel that I landed in a very good place for me.

I've since published 8 other titles with Covenant. In fact, by the time the first book was finally accepted for publication, I had already almost finished the sequel. There were four romantic adventures at first, followed by a series of four Civil War volumes. My ninth book came out last fall and is a mystery/adventure/romance set in 1865 India.

All told, I love to write so much. I can't pick a more perfect career for myself. Someday I'd love to do postgraduate studies in writing or literature, but for now, I am so content. I love, love what I do. I also hate what I do. Writing is hard, and there are so many reasons not to sit down and write. But once I do, I get absolutely lost in another world and I'm always amazed at what appears on the screen.

When people tell me they've always wanted to write, I tell them to sit down and do it. That's the hard part. Once you have something on the page, you can tweak it, edit it, delete parts, add to it, whatever. Write for the joy of putting another world on the page/screen. Write to escape. Write to learn. Write to leave memories for yourself or your kids. Just write something! It's such an amazing form of self-expression. Sometimes I look back on journal entries and think, "Ok, I am a complete and utter dork." Other times, I laugh and think I'm pretty funny.

What I wouldn't give to have something from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers-- their journals, letters, something. These women are a part of my life because I often imagine channeling them to help me with problems or issues. I picture them with me, and I'd love to have a written account of what they did, how they lived. I'd even love to read something fictional they'd written, because you can see a person through the writing, even if it's "pretend."

So I rambled a bit, but that's the start of my writing story in a nutshell. Now my challenge to you is to pick up a pen or start a new file on your computer. Start writing something. Anything. Truth or fiction, scary or funny, memoir, short journal entry, ANYTHING. Your grandchildren will thank you. And if you don't ever want anyone to read what you wrote, well, that's ok too. Keep it for yourself. You'll be amazed at what comes out.


TRIBE'S said...

You are an amazing writer and I for one am glad that you decided to do it. You are an inspiration to so many of just taking a chance and doing something you love. I'm sure it was hard to put it out there and hope someone would like it. Well we more tan liked it, we loved it!!

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

You're so good to me. Thanks, truly. I can't tell you how much it means to me. Love you much!

Jewels said...

You are an amazing writer. I am now fiishing the fourth Civil War book and I just love the way it makes me feel. I can't quite put it all in words, it just makes me feel like I can accomplish something wonderful too. Thank you for taking a chance on yourself and sharing it with the world.

Jewels said...

Sorry about the typing error. Spencer likes to talk to me while I am trying to focus.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

I'm laughing! I can see Spencer hovering over your shoulder. Jewels, thanks so much. I'm glad you like my books too. I value your opinion and it means a lot to hear that from you. :-)

Karlene said...

I love reading how other writers got started. I find it fascinating all the different paths we take to get to the same place.

And I can say amen to writing for your children. I have bits and pieces of my grandmother's journal and I love it. While she didn't ever write stories, she had a way with a phrase that I just love. I like to imagine I inherited some of that from her, as well as from my mother who has written short stories and poetry.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Karlene, what a treasure to have! I have a letter from my grandmother that she wrote to me when I was young and I really treasure it. I wish I had more! I want to know how she lived daily life.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey Nancy,

Would you pop me a note?