I wrote my first novel when I was eleven years old.
So it was only twenty-five pages long and had twelve chapters. So it was written in pencil on lined loose-leaf paper. In my mind, it was a novel.
I wrote dozens of stories over the years, in spiral notebooks and on the backs of discarded printed copy paper and on a word processor, storing my work on floppy disks. I started and quit and started again. Got distracted by motherhood and work and survival. I couldn’t seem to finish any of the stories.
I went to school. Tried to focus on a major. Took some writing classes with Bob Butler and lit classes with John Wood and Robert Cooper. Dropped out. Got married again and had some more kids. Got divorced a second time. Went through another break-up and a move and a hurricane (or three). Re-enrolled at the university.
I remember vividly the spring break when I started writing my historical fiction series. I was almost overwhelmed with my workload at school, struggling to feed and educate my children, commuting back and forth forty-five minutes twice a day, three to four times a week. I had projects and exams looming.
On a Saturday afternoon, unable to settle my mind to studying, and inspired by I don’t remember what, I sat down and started writing a novel about a group of friends living in Colonial times. I wrote all afternoon and all day that Sunday. My studying didn’t get done but my stress was eased nonetheless.
Over the next several years, these characters became, in every way but physical, real to me. They lived in my head. I researched the period and the area for months, wrote papers for my history classes based upon my research, scrounged books from the university library sales and from half.com, literally dreamed of my characters.
They needed me to tell them what to do.
The first novel was terrible. The second was better. The third, I felt, was the best yet. I was almost finished with the first draft when my computer crashed.
I had a lot going on at the time. I had graduated from the university but hadn’t been able find a job I could stick with. I had survived temp agency work and was starting as a substitute teacher. I felt I was going somewhere but I didn’t know where. I didn’t have time or energy to grieve over the loss.
Life just kept happening. I moved forward with teaching. Went to school again for the teaching certificate. Ended up south of the border teaching writing in a private international school.
Back in Louisiana over the summer, I happened upon the hard drive from the dead computer. I looked at it and wondered. I brought it back with me to Mexico and asked my friend in the tech department at school if he thought it might be possible to recover the documents. He said, “Maybe.”
“Maybe” became a certainty. For the first time in over two years I saw my characters, the settings, the story.
There is still work to be done. I am so happy to be reunited with my story and I’m looking forward to working on it again. I hope to have it polished and ready for sharing by Christmas.
Meanwhile, I am learning new things every day about the world and myself and about writing. My classes inspire me and teach me useful lessons. My students remind me of my purpose to inspire others.
And I will keep writing. I will keep getting better at it, day by day. Poco a poco.
One day I might actually be good.