When did I know I wanted to be a writer?
At 10, I wrote a mystery story by hand in a paper book bound by my father at his printing business. But I wasn’t considering writing as a career – I was too young and it was just something fun to do.
In high school, my favorite classes were always English: Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain, Harper Lee, Cervantes. I was thinking about medicine as a career – my father had wanted to be a doctor but his dream was short-circuited by the Great Depression.
In college, I took the introductory English classes the English majors had to take – English Lit: Beowulf, Chaucer, the Venerable Bede, the Elizabethans, Milton, Boswell, Goldsmith, the Romantics (all those poets), the Victorians, the Moderns, ending somewhere around T.S. Eliot. In my fraternity, I was the unofficial English tutor for pledges (and some active members) who had trouble with English, which was most of the fraternity. I read scores of papers on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.” Sometime around the end of my freshman year I dumped medicine (all that chemistry) and embraced journalism, teaching myself to type (required) the summer before I started journalism school.
It was in those journalism classes that I began to see writing as a possible career. My first job after graduation was copy editor for a newspaper in Texas. From there I moved into public relations, and then into speechwriting.
When I was 24 and working in Houston for a big oil company, a friend at work and I began talking about writing projects – projects that had nothing to do with work. She was writing non-fiction, about what happens to our minds and personalities as we age, and I was working on a novel. Entitled “Sisters,” it was the story of two elderly, unmarried sisters whose story began in an a tragedy, a tragedy that one of them didn’t know about (yes, I know it sounds like “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” but it wasn’t anything like the movie). I never finished it, but it was fun to work on, talk about, and submit to an editor at a writer’s conference.
I wrote short stories when I was 27 and 28. None were accepted for publication.
For the next 25 years, my fiction writing was on hold. It was the time of babies and career and children and little league and career and teenagers and career. Somewhere in there I got a masters degree – in liberal arts, taking a lot of literature seminars like “The Latin American Novel.”
And then in 2002 came the beginnings of Dancing Priest. I’ve described in a number of places how it started – a meeting with a young German minister in Erfurt and hearing a Greek singer on an in-flight music program. That’s how it started, but that’s not why it started.
It was time. That’s all. It was simply time to do it.
In Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity and Writing, L.L. Barkat says this: “I believe a writer can make writing happen, sit down and stir from grass or leaves or snow. But I also believe it takes time to write. Each book I’ve written, in some sense, could not have been written before its time.”
Sometimes, most of the time, it just takes time. The right time.
Over at TweetSpeak Poetry, we’ve been discussing L.L. Barkat’s Rumors of Water. This week completes the discussion of the book, led by Lyla Lindquist. The main post will be up tomorrow.