A Work in Progress

I’m three years old. My mom has been teaching me to read and write. Every time I learn a new word, she writes it down on an index card and puts it in a box with the others. At night, I sprawl out on the family room floor and string my words together into my first short stories. “If I just had one more ‘and’ I could finish this story!” (To this day, I still have a proclivity for run-on sentences …)

I’m four years old. My writing is getting better, but I’m also getting lazy so I start connecting the letters. Mom promises to teach me cursive soon.

I’m five years old. I’m climbing the fence to cross into the neighbor’s yard so that I can sit under their willow tree and read in the shade. When they cut the tree down later that year, I’m devastated.

I’m seven years old. My favorite part of school is reading time. My favorite part of summer is the summer reading program. I come home beaming ear to ear for having read 25 books in one summer. After finishing each book, I make up stories about what happens next and play them out with my stuffed animals. My first fan fiction.

I’m ten years old. The elementary school holds an Academic Olympics and I bring home the gold for writing. It’s a story about two school children foiling a bank robbery. We commandeer horses to chase down the bank robbers. (I’m sure there were more than a few run-on sentences as well.)

I’m fourteen years old. I carry around a notebook of poetry and write stories at night instead of doing my homework. Most of the poems are about boys. And horses. My best friend from elementary school and I write stories back and forth to each other casting ourselves in our favorite tv shows. My parents wish I would spend more time on school work. They tell me that I should think about something other than writing for a career. My English teacher tells me I should be an editor, but I’m too proud, so I give up that dream, but I still write. I was never good at keeping a diary, but my stories and poems are the places where I openly express myself.

I’m nineteen years old. I’ve run out of pages in my book of poetry, and started typing them into a Word Perfect document. I’m writing a fantasy novel with my boyfriend and arguing with him about grammar and punctuation. I already have two unfinished novels: a coming of age story based on a book I read in high school (more fan fiction), and a story about a young girl who can communicate with wild horses.

I’m twenty-four years old. I’ve outgrown that book of poetry (and that boyfriend), as well as my unfinished novels. I threw them all away before my honeymoon. But I still have the Word Perfect files. I’m not writing as much anymore, but I read voraciously — mostly short stories in anthologies and magazines, and books about writers and writing.

I’m thirty years old. I check out a book about who does what in publishing and read about what editors do. I quit my job in software support and take a 30% pay cut so that I can start my new career as an editorial assistant. It’s not that glamorous and it’s not fiction, but it’s editing, and I love it. I wish my fourteen-year-old self had listened to my English teacher. Or that I hadn’t let the rest of the world quash my dream of writing. One of my favorite science fiction publishers opens a writing workshop which I am heavily involved with.

I’m thirty-seven years old. Now I’m freelancing for another one of my favorite science fiction publishers. I want to quit my full-time job to freelance, but I’m too worried about not having a steady income so I keep working every night and weekends instead. I’m not as heavily involved in the workshop anymore, I’m too busy. The workshop has spun off from the publisher who spawned it to run independently, and I’m starting to see some names I recognize from the community getting published pretty regularly.

I’m forty-six years old. I’m back in the software business again after taking a couple goes at freelancing full-time. I’ve been too busy raising a family to freelance much in my off-time, but I’ve got two more novels in progress now, stacks and stacks of journals, and dozens of stories in various stages of incompleteness. My oldest daughter is living in Germany, and my youngest is still in high school. I keep toying with going back to freelancing, but what I really want to do is finish and sell my stories and novels. It’s a work in progress.