I’d read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I knew my first draft should be shitty.

It was. Three-quarters of the way through that effort, intoxicated with my prose and attending my first Edgar Symposium, I was certain I was a mere three months away from The End. I had the gall to attempt pitching that “novel,” I shudder to recall, to a number of commendably patient agents.

Once again, it's Edgar time. Forever the optimist, I’m still three months from done. Only this time, I know better than to pitch a finished manuscript when it isn't. Yet.

I was born to the writing life at nine, when I announced, starry-eyed, that I’d just closed the covers on my very favorite book. My rapture was met with my big sister's scornful, “You said the same thing about the last book you read!” (You guessed it…my Critic was born the same day!) In love with language juicy enough to squeeze, enchanted with story, I tried it myself. Well.

I’ll spare you the traumas that intervened, but it took me decades to brave fiction again. In the meantime, I took a circuitous route to professional writing. And oddly enough, it’s looking back on one of the stages along that path – my first months of teaching – that gave me the courage to join the Women of Mystery in blogging.

1983 was the year the IBM PC hit the stores. Everybody wanted one, and nobody had a clue what to do with one. Without credentials in those days, with a handful of programming and education courses behind me, I’d accepted the offer of a job as a teaching assistant to a popular instructor snowed by the sixty odd high school juniors who’d registered in her class to learn how to use a computer. Huddled over my basement computer I prepared each night to stay one step ahead of the kids in learning the operating system. We split them into two groups. I was launched as a teacher and never looked back.

Although I’ve been writing professionally for more than fifteen years and have managed teams of writers, I’ve never dared send my creative words out into the world. I’m a newbie. But I'm stirring up some juice of my own.

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Comment by Lois Karlin on July 4, 2007 at 6:32am
Thanks Kathryn...I do have a writing group. They're not likely to say it's ready until I give them that last chapter to read...and so far I've found it impossible to do so! Soon...soon.
Comment by Kathryn Lilley on July 4, 2007 at 6:15am
Hi Lois, I also loved Bird by Bird. To me, it was like an epiphany. Do you belong to a writing group? If not, try joining your local chapter of Sisters-in-Crime or MWA. to find people. To me, a good writing group is key to "knowing" when your draft is ready for prime time. They'll be telling you, "Send it in, already! Send it in!"

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