From the time I was a little girl, the word "writer" held a special significance to me. I loved the word, and its kindred word, author. I loved the idea of making up stories. When I was about twelve, I bought a used Olivetti manual typewriter from a little hole in the wall office machine place in Middletown, CT called Peter's Typewriters. It weighed about twenty pounds and was probably thirty years old even then. I pounded out the worst kind of adolescent drivel, imposing my imaginary self on television heroes of the time: Bonanza, Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek.
Those are my earliest memories of my secret life of writing. For reasons I cannot really fathom, I never pursued writing as a vocation. Although I majored in English, I didn't focus on writing and it wasn't really until I was first married that I hauled out my old Olivetti and began to thump away at a novel. This was, as I recall, an amorphous, thinly plotted exercise in putting sentences together and has mercifully disappeared in some move or another. I didn't try anything more adventurous than some short stories and a lot of newsletters for various organizations I either belonged to or worked for until we moved to Martha's Vineyard and I bought my first computer. My little "Collegiate 2" IBM computer was about as advanced as the Olivetti was in its heyday but it got me writing again and this time with some previously untapped inner determination that I was going to succeed at this avocation. I tapped out two novels on this machine with its fussy little printer. Like the first one, these were wonderful absorbing exercises in learning how to write.
What happened then is the stuff of day time soap opera. Writing is a highly personal activity and for all of my life I'd kept it secret from everyone but my husband. I had discovered that here on the Vineyard nearly everyone has some avocation in the arts. From jewelry-making to music-making; painting, sculpture and stained glass, the maintenance guy at the local school has a band, the retired priest teaches ball room dance. Much to my delight, I discovered a fellow closet-writer in the mom of my daughter’s best friend. Somehow two shy writers found each other over a cup of coffee and for the very first time in my life I could share the struggle with another person. I know now that writers' groups are a dime a dozen and I highly recommend the experience, but with my friend Carole, a serendipitous introduction to a "real writer," Holly Nadler, resulted in my association with my agent. Holly read a bit of my "novel" and liked what she read, suggested I might use her name and write to her former agent. I did and the rest, as they say, is history.
Not that it was an overnight success. The novel I'd shown Holly never even got sent to my agent, but a third, shorter, more evolved work was what eventually grew into Beauty with the guidance of Andrea and her associates at the Jane Rotrosen Agency.
The moral of the story: keep at it. Keep writing the bad novels to learn how to write the good ones. And, yes, it does help to know someone; however, Holly may have greased the wheels with the introduction, but Andrea liked my work and was willing to take a chance on an unknown, unpublished writer.