My Writing Timeline: The Early Years

Wrote in a diary given to me at Christmas, a small red book with a lock and key. Would prove to be an idea that should have been followed in… say, 10 more years.

-Wrote my first poem as a fifth grader for Mrs. Finley’s class. The poem was about the town of Simpsonville, and I remember her being pleased with my work.
– Wrote a short story as a class assignment to be entered into a contest. Mrs. Finley would choose the story to be entered. My story was about me and my friend Mandy discovering a haunted house. She didn’t pick my story, and when I asked her why, she replied that my story was all dialogue. Criticism I’ve remembered for 25 years.
– For yet another class assignment, I wrote a fake news story about the big, red storm on the planet Jupiter coming to Earth. I don’t remember how the particulars of that would work or even if I even came up with any. I do remember Mrs. Finley actually asking if that was really going to happen. In hindsight, I realize my reply should have been, “How’s that for no dialogue, bee-yotch!”
– My friend Rhonda reads my class journal (with my permission) and says, “You could be a writer.”

– Began keeping a five-subject notebook with mainly sappy, cheesy love poems. Poems so bad that 15 years later, they couldn’t even win a Bad Poetry Contest at work. My middle school and high school friends, however, couldn’t get enough and made requests for me to write poems about them.
– Was published in the school’s literary magazine in seventh grade. Don’t remember the exact topic, but do know that it wasn’t a sappy love poem.
– At age 13, received a guitar for birthday and started taking lessons. Decided I would leave South Carolina at age 18 to go to New York and pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Announced goal at dinner one night; thoroughly entertained parents with good laugh.
– Most extensive diary action so far occurred during 8th grade year. Some entries included lists of who had crushes on whom and diagrams of where my current crush sat in relation to where I sat in classes we shared.

August 1987
Grandfather passes away suddenly after a massive heart attack at age 58, leaving me (then 15) devastated by the first loss of a close loved one. A couple weeks after his death, my grandmother finds a poem that he wrote in his Bible. Would become the moment I decided I wanted to be a writer.

– Still wrote some sappy poems, but their numbers were dwindling. Read “She Sweeps With Many-Colored Brooms” by Emily Dickinson and became infatuated with her poetry, em dashes in particular.
– Published in high school literary magazine sophomore and junior years.
– Joined literary magazine staff, which was a class, for senior year. Was recruited by teacher/advisor during free period to type in entries and layout magazine in PageMaker 2.0 on a tiny Macintosh with a hard drive so small, the magazine had to be split up on three 3.5″ disks. Eventually did so much work on it that instead of a staff member listing, I was listed as Production Manager.
Had my biggest high school crush tell me he liked my poetry. Feet didn’t touch the ground for days.
– During one literary magazine class, had a guest speaker, who regularly put on shows at a local dinner theater, read our work. She told my teacher that I had a lot of raw talent, which is also a way of saying, “You got a lot of work ahead of you.”
– In browsing college brochures, found one for Columbia College, a women’s college in South Carolina. After seeing the major of English with a Writing Emphasis, decided that’s the school for me. Got acceptance letter in January 1990 and later learned that I was the only person in my graduating class going there.

Coming Soon — My Writing Timeline, Part II: The College Years (or The Angst Strikes Back!)


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