Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kicking Down the Publishing Door

Reading frightened me. I trembled in front of the chalkboard as my first-grade teacher demanded I read “a” and “an” out loud to the class. *shudder* Even after months of “learning” those small words, the comprehension just wasn’t there; the pathways in my brain weren’t connecting. Those seemingly big words were just odd shapes that I couldn’t commit to my tiny memory. I wanted to read, desperately so, but for some unknown reason, I couldn’t grasp the written correlation to the spoken words.

After years of struggling, the powers that be at school finally forced me to attend remedial reading classes. Mortified, I cut class and ducked into the bathroom everyday, huddling there in a stall, feet drawn up, praying they’d never find me. But one day, my fourth-grade teacher (my first hero!) took pity on me. Instead of forcing me to return to those classes, he tutored me during recess using his own secrets and shortcuts to help me achieve better comprehension. But to me, it seemed he’d set his magic hand on my little head and healed the broken connections deep inside my brain.

Then smart speed-reader Katy moved to town, one of those kids who didn’t just read books, she devoured them. To my surprise, she befriended me, and that was the beginning of a summer vacation that changed my life forever, that in a sense brought me here to the publication path...

One hot, humid day, Katy’s mother took us to our small-town church turned library. I can vividly recall climbing the stoop to that whitewashed building, stepping inside the dusty, sunlit room, and the old wooden boards creaking beneath my small sandaled feet. The scent of aged wood and leather-bound books hung heavy in the air, while rickety bookshelves soared up to the beamed ceiling. It was cool and pin-drop quiet in there with a gray-headed woman seated where the church altar had once been. She wore bifocals perched on her nose, and she often frowned and pressed a gnarly finger to her lips. “Shhh…” she’d repeatedly scold then busy herself with stamping library cards.

That was the day Katy introduced me to Nancy Drew. Using the reading methods my teacher had taught me, I went home, curled up with one of those yellow, hardbound mysteries, and at last embraced the joys of reading. So went the summer. Katy and I lived at that library, hauling out stacks of Nancy Drew books, Hardy Boys, and finally, graduating to Judy Blume. Dare I say I never once accrued past-due fines?

By the age of 13, I’d moved on to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, rest her talented soul. Then came the day in high school I got caught with The Wolf and the Dove disguised behind the open pages of my biology book. Yeah, I got into major doo-doo, as I’d already been chastised one too many times for reading in lieu of working on class projects. The livid teacher kicked me out of her class, but the principal enrolled me in an alternate one that sometimes allowed free reading time. :D

Now and then, I wonder what that teacher—or even Katy—would think if she read my depraved version of the infamous bandit Robin Hood in A Wanton’s Thief and A Gypsy’s Thief (Ellora’s Cave). Or Moonlite Mirage based on my research trip to the HBO-featured BunnyRanch bordello in Carson City, Nevada. I hope my biology teacher realizes her efforts were secretly appreciated, and that I gained a knowledge of anatomy and physiology that later came in very handy, not only in obtaining my nursing degree but in writing erotic romances. ;)

I don’t know where I’d be today without the love of reading and writing, or without those influences in my childhood. Thanks to all my teachers, to Katy, and to the kick-ass sleuth Nancy Drew, all of whom took part in leading a vulnerable little girl from the terrifying world of incomprehension in reading, all the way to published author.

So what sort of things inspired you to read or write? Whatever they might be, remember, if you still can’t seem to get your foot in the publishing door, don’t go hide in a bathroom stall. Keep persevering, keep reading, keep writing, and kick that door down. Because I’m proof anyone can attain their goals if they persist and truly want it. :)

Oh, btw, I hope you’ll head on over to Myspace at and befriend me…just like Katy did all those years ago.


Angelia Sparrow said...

What inspired me? My mother's typewriter.

My handwriting was abysmal because of a neurological disorder that landed me in the Learning Disability class for 3 hrs a week.

But Mom's old manual typewriter... There I could peck out the stories I needed to tell and people could READ them, unlike the handwritten scrawls.

As for what inspired the stories? Everything!

(And I'm tickled to find someone else doing Robin Hood. My co-author and I just subbed a Trans Robin Hood piece)

Cait Miller said...

My mum was my main encouragement for reading she is an avid reader herself and always made sure I had books. We went to the library weekly and she let me wander to my hearts content among the shelves. As to writing, I had an English teacher who encouraged me so much and showed me it was okay to love it. He was also responsible for hooking me on Scottish poetry. But again, my mum is my biggest cheerleader. She has read my books, though she skips the love scenes :) And she also prods me to get writing and helps me plot. I'm very lucky to have her.

Titania Ladley said...

Angelia -- That's so cool you were able to compensate with your mom's typewriter. And yay on the Robin Hood story! Thanks for stopping by. :)

Cait -- I'm so glad you had your mum to introduce you to the library and prod and encourage you along the publication path. Thanks for your thoughts!


Tielle St. Clare said...

No real heroes. I just needed to find the right books.

My whole family has always been big readers and my mother used to say "I don't know why you don't read. We all read."

I only wanted to read books that had been read to me. If a teacher read a book aloud, I'd take it home and re-read it. I've decided now that even then I wanted to know it would have a happy ending.

Then, in 7th grade (Like you discovering Kathleen Woodiwiss), I discovered romance novels...specifically, Victoria Holt. That was all it took.

By my junior year in High School, I was writing romances. And during my senior year, we had a dress up as what you'll be in 20 years. I came as a romance writer and at my 20 year class reunion, I was handing out cards advertising my first book.

Brings back great memories, Ti!

Lynn LaFleur said...

I was 8 when I wrote a story for an English assignment about what I'd do with three wishes. Before that story, I hadn't given a lot of thought to reading or writing. I had so much fun making up what I'd do with those wishes, I wanted to keep writing. I began writing short stories for myself, and those stories grew to longer and longer ones.

I discovered reading about the same time. We had a small library in my small school, and I started checking out books. It didn't take me long to become hooked on reading romances.


Ruby Storm said...

Man, I haven't thought about this in a long time. I wrote my first story (I think it was 4th grade) and won first prize. It was about a spaceship blowing up. Gosh...maybe I was destined to do this thing called writing.

Reading? I can't remember anyone pushing me to read. I just remember curling up on the couch from the time I was six or seven with my mom begging me to go outside because all I DID was read.

Tielle - your comment on Victoria Holt. She was really the first author I read that was more romance (gothic though it was) instead of reading animal stories. I read ever Lassie, Laddie, White Fang, Flicka, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague (the entire series). My librarian back in those days used to hold onto new books for me so I could be the first one to write my name on the care. Sheesh.