Portrait of the artist as a young woman
April 01, 2007
It’s the 20th anniversary of the publication of my first book. My debut novel was published in April, 1987.
At the time, I was writing two types of fiction. The G.A.N. (Great American Novel) and romance novels. Here is my first author photo. Jay took it with his ancient Nikon SLR and the reason for this Goth-in-the-headlights look is that I was trying to resemble a Serious Novelist who can’t be bothered to straighten up her bookshelves or smile. The dress has literary significance, which I was sure readers would notice. I bought it in San Miguel de Allende, where we went one year because there was a reference to it in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Back then, we were scraping by on teachers’ salaries, our daughter was two, we had been married nearly seven years and it appears I had no budget for getting a haircut. I probably didn’t have the time, what with the baby, husband and job. My writing time was restricted to nine to midnight every night, and I wrote two books a year that way. (This might explain why my daughter is an only child.) I wrote my first drafts in longhand and typed them up on an ancient Olivetti manual typewriter. After finishing two manuscripts that way, I upgraded to a Sears “Correct-O-Ball” electric typewriter and wrote the next one on that. I tried some sort of computer called an “Adam” which saved its data on a cassette tape and it was a godawful machine. But I sold that book and a few more and got a decent computer made by Bell that had a program called “WordPerfect 4.2” on it.
Here I am 20 years later, able to afford help with the hair, makeup and photographer (and much more in need of same than the girl above). I’ve given up trying to be serious, and it’s working well for me. Some things that haven’t changed–I still write in longhand on the same kind of paper with the same kind of pen. I still write multiple drafts. I still use WordPerfect (X3, I think). I still haven’t written the G.A.N. but I’ve had a lot of books published. So life is good.
Sitting down and writing a novel is a solitary pursuit, but actually making a 20-year career out of being a published author takes a dedicated team. So many people have helped me along the way and at the risk of hearing a swell of get-off-the-stage music in my head, I’d like to thank some of them here:
- My family, who never set any limits on my dreams and who who made growing up all over the world an adventure
- My adorable husband, for giving me the reason for all this
- My girlfriends (and you know who you are), cheerleading me on and taking the time to read every book I write, even when their book clubs are reading lit-rah-choor
- Wendy McCurdy, then an editor at Kensington Books, for buying that first novel
- The Petri Dish (and you have no idea who you are, but then again, neither does anyone else)
- My writers’ groups on the island and mainland, and organizations for writers–the Authors Guild, RWA, Novelists, Inc. and Field’s End
- My literary agent Meg, aka the Don King of publishing
- My truly gifted editor, editorial director and the whole chain-of-command at my publisher
- My CPA and bookkeeper for taking care of business
- Booksellers, reviewers and librarians for getting the word out and putting my books in readers’ hands
- …and readers everywhere. There is no writing career without you.
Happy anniversary to me!