Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Humble Beginnings

By Beth Terrell

Last night, at our Sisters in Crime meeting, Chapter President Chester Campbell arranged a Q&A session with several of the published authors in our group. Because Chester is a generous guy, I was invited to be on the panel, which also included Chester, Jennie Bentley, and J.T. Ellison.

One of the questions asked was, "What inspired you to start writing?"

We all had different answers. Chester had never considered being a writer until a friend mentioned that, if he could do it all over, he would be a journalist. (The rest is history.) J.T wrote poetry and short stories in college, where a professor told her she had no talent and would never be published. (Really? J.T has a successful series, which is selling like hotcakes, thank you very much.) She turned to writing again after reading John Sandford's books and realizing she could do that too. Bente can't remember ever NOT writing; for her, it's like breathing.

I'm a lot like Bente in that respect; from the time I could hold a pencil, I scribbled "stories" onto notebook paper. I was fortunate to spend much of my time with my grandmother and three elderly great-aunts. Aunt Augusta (Dossie) and I would cut out figures from the Spiegel catalog, sort them into families, and use them to act out stories. Aunt Frances taught me to read when I could hardly walk. Aunt Genevieve (J-wee) and I acted out stories with a collection of tiny glass figurines. My grandmother and I filled the car with imaginary animals. When we crossed the Kanawa River bridge, I would wrap my arms around an imaginary sea turtle and hang on for dear life. When I woke up with tangles in my hair, we made up the adventures of the little mouse who had tangled it. ("Wow. Marty must have had a time last night. What do you think he was doing up there?) My mother told me stories of her childhood until I almost felt they were my own. These wonderful women filled my life with books and love.

Is it any wonder I grew up to love stories?

We all come to writing through different paths. This is why you can give a dozen writers the same topic to write on and end up with a dozen different stories. Our experiences affect our perceptions, which color our writing.

How about you? What led you to writing? Why do you write about the things you do?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like you had a really supportive family and a lifelong urge to write. I'm just like you in that respect...that was my experience, too.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Helen Ginger said...

Like you, I remember writing at a young age. Back in high school they were sort of romance, but not exactly since my stories always had tragic endings. Now I write mystery or suspense - probably because that's what I like to read.

Straight From Hel

Chester Campbell said...

True I never thought about writing until after high school, but in my teens I was a constant reader of short stories in magazines like Saturday Evening Post and Collier's.

Mystery Mania

Ben Small said...

Two answers: Because I got tired of getting paid for writing (just kidding), and I write what I like to read. Stephen King suggested that in ON WRITING, one of the best books about writing I've read.