Friday, May 30, 2014

#ArmchairBEA: How I Became a Writer and Middle Grade/Young Adult

Passion! It is the heartbeat of any writer, the insatiable hunger from deep within an author’s soul to write. Lord Byron once said, “If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad.” I know how he feels; the flow of words that clutter your mind, urging you to pour out your heart and soul onto a blank piece of paper. The longer you ignore it the more you think you will go insane. Your only relief lies with pen and paper or your computer. Letting go of reality, you allow your characters to tell the story. You draw so close to them and dig so deep into your story you forget time and place. You begin to talk about your characters as if they weren’t fictional but members of your family. The story unfolds before your eyes. Lost within, you are consumed by the story and forget the pen, paper or computer. You know the story is over when you feel it. The journey has ended. Sorrow fills your heart. 

I have felt compelled to bare my heart and soul into the written word from an early age. The only child of a single mother, I would often spend most of my time at my grandmother’s house. One afternoon after she picked me up from Kindergarten, I had showed her a tiny book I had made in school. I was excited about my new book. A few days later, my grandmother surprised me with paper, pen, crayons and construction paper. She wanted me to make her a book. I couldn’t have been more elated! My grandmother had recognized my passion for writing and decided to foster that. For years I would write her a story then I would read it to her.

As I grew older, I tried my hand at keeping a diary but my diary ended up being more of a journal. I began to discover I could write pages upon pages of material in one sitting. I also enjoyed reading. There was never a day that went by where I didn’t carry a book, a notepad and a pen with me. There was just so much to explore and write about! In upper elementary, I was placed in advanced reading classes. By middle school, I discovered I had a love for research and writing reports. I continued to write fiction and poems but felt a need to further explore the world of writing. In eighth grade I was reading at a freshman college level and was writing reports at a High School level. I was even getting in trouble at school on purpose so I would be sent to Saturday School in order to write reports. That worked well until the principal and my mother learned why I wanted to get in trouble. By the time I was in High School, I had written over 20 books, 2 movie scripts, and over a dozen research papers on my own. I was poet for the literary magazine, a newspaper reporter and a member of the Yearbook in High School.
My thirst for writing never left me after High School. It was only intensified as I discovered the English Department at Sul Ross State University. There I was taught how to compile a writing profile. Every English professor required one for their class. In my advanced English 101 class, my professor noticed my talent and told me I should pursue a writing career. She urged me to keep writing and to take as many English classes as I wanted. I eventually accumulated enough hours to have English as my major but never sought the degree. Instead I graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts and a minor in Anthropology. Yet I never lost my passion for writing.

My professional writing career began six years ago when my husband and I moved from Texas to Kentucky. I felt the urge to write a story. I spent the entire summer researching and writing Calico. My story was over 500 pages long. At the advice of a publisher, I split Calico into several different stories that eventually lead me to a complete series of 11 books.  I named the series, Children of the Shawnee. 

I have recently returned to my notes and changed the series so that some of the books have their own series now. My idea is to create a family saga, known as the Turner Family Saga, that is comprised of four series. The Turner Family Saga begins with Bailey's Revenge. The first series, Irish Twist of Fate, is the story of Calico's grandmother in Ireland. The second series will cover Calico's mother's, Anne, life and will be titled New Hope. The third series is the Children of the Shawnee series and the last series will cover Calico's daughter under the leadership of Tecumseh. 

A Little House Memory

Of all the authors I ever read as a child the one that stuck with me the most was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I could never get enough of reading her books. Laura had a way with words that was pure entertainment for my eyes. The best thing about Laura's books was that they were all based on actual events. She was able to tell her life story in a way that has lasted for generations. 

I have always wanted to visit all of her homesteads and last year I was granted the opportunity to visit upon the Little House on the Prairie site outside of Independence, Kansas. My husband and I arrived at the site in time to enjoy a picnic lunch in the same prairie where the real Laura Ingalls Wilder had ran and played with her sister, Mary. It was surreal to think that the character in the books and on the TV show was a real person. A little girl who could have well stood in the same place where we ate our lunch. I always knew that Laura was a real person.

Charles Philip (Pa)  and Caroline Lake Quiner Ingalls (Ma) arrived in Kansas with five year old Mary Amelia Ingalls and three year old Laura Elizabeth Ingalls in 1869. They had arrived on the Kansas plains with other settlers who thought the land was open for settlement. The small family lived in their one room cabin for little over a year. It was during this time that the family had contracted an ailment that would have killed them had not Dr. Tann stumbled upon the family. Dr. Tann was a black doctor that Laura mentions in her book. It is also at this Little House where the family meets Mr. Edwards. Mr. Edwards is actually Edmund Mason. Both Dr. Tann and Edmund Mason are buried in Independence, Kansas but in different cemetaries. Another major event for the Little House family occurred on this site as well. It was here that Caroline Celestia Ingalls (Carrie) was born.

Laura described the prairie in her Little House on the Prairie book "as far as they could see, to the east and to the south and to the west, nothing was moving on all the vastness of the High Prairie. Only the green grass was rippling in the wind, and white clouds drifted in the high, clear sky." The land was paradise for the little family. But it would not remain so for long.

Little did Pa know but the land he had chosen to settle on was part of the Osage Diminished Reserve.
The Osage Diminished Reserve had been land the United States Government had set aside for the Osage Nation to use. The Osage Nation had migrated into the Kansas area during the 17th century. The Osage had been one of their hunting trips when the settlers, along with the Ingalls, had decided to settle on their lands. The Osage Nation was  constantly at war with the settlers. Laura was accustomed to seeing the Native Americans. In 1870, the United States Government bought the Osage Diminished Reserve from the Osage Nation but since Pa and other settlers had not filed a claim for their lands they were told they would have to leave or the US Army would force them to leave. Pa packed up his little family and headed back to Pepin, Wisconsin. It was easy for Pa to find a place to live in Wisconsin.  He had sold his farm three years earlier but the gentlemen who had bought it had never paid Pa for the transaction. Pa reclaimed his farm and cabin where he lived with his little family until 1874.


  1. I loved this insight into your life and work! Wonderful post.

  2. I've been to the Pepin homestead! I was a little girl but I remember loving it.

    1. I want to visit all of her homes. I've been to the rock house as well.

  3. I enjoyed reading about your journey to becoming a writer. :)

    Holly @ Words Fueled by Love

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey as a writer! I wanted to make it up to Pepin before we moved from IL to CT last December, but we ran out of time. I hope to make it there one of these years. I love visiting the homes and places of importance to writers.

    1. You're welcome. I'm kind of a fanatic when it comes to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  5. This was a wonderful post to read and I especially enjoyed reading more about the story behind the Little House on the Prairie books!

  6. Awesome post! Your journey to writer is interesting. Little House on the Prairie rocks! I agree. It is surreal to think that the Laura Ingalls Wilder in the books and on the TV show was a real person. I'd love to visit some of her homesteads.

    1. Thank you.

      She has always been one of my favorite authors. I think I must have read all of her books.