Back in April, I had the opportunity to talk with readers during the Meryton Press Dear Friend Event about reading—mostly about how the meandering paths my reading history took have shaped and developed my love for books over the years.
I took a no less-meandering path to writing. I was nine when I “wrote” and “illustrated” my first book, Big Blue the Elephant, a tale about an elephant and his family, and the ensuing drama when their home is ravaged by a flood. Intense, nail-biting stuff for an elementary school kid, right?
As an adult, I grew into a lot of different roles—student, speech pathologist, wife, mother—but what I wanted to do, at the end of the day, was to be a writer. I wanted to share stories the way my favorite childhood authors, like Madeline L’Engle, L.L Baum, Carol Ryrie Brink, and so many others did. Or like the authors I’d admired as an adult, such as Audrey Neffenegger, Margaret Mitchell, and Diana Gabaldon. However, becoming a writer seemed like a pipe dream, and I settled down to the business of working and raising a family. Being an author, so I thought—and it may have been true in those days—was an exclusive club, one which I would never have a chance to join.
In my 40s, I started reading Austen fan-fiction, and those authors gave me back a child-like curiosity and creativity that had been trampled under the weight of academic writing, hobbies, social life, school, work, and all the busy-ness of young motherhood. I had stories I wanted to tell. A Happy Assembly was a safe place to try my hand at writing, so why not?
Because I was scared.
It took me about a year to work up the courage to share what I’d written.
One day, I was having a conversation with my then 15 year-old son, and discovered he was not only reading fan fiction in another fandom, but writing and posting it too. I thought if my child could do this and weather the criticism, I could surely brave the pleasant and supportive readership in Austen-world!
I posted my first story at A Happy Assembly, called “D-Day: D Stands For…” in the spring of 2009. Then I followed it with “Elizabeth Doe: No Name Person.” Next came “1932”. Meryton Press contacted me about publishing it (they were just starting out then) and that opened up a whole new wonderful world of readers and friends. I got to tell stories and say things I’d wanted to say for a very long time.
I have many sources for inspiration, I guess: Books I read, people I meet or read about, real life, family stories, historical events. But one big inspiration—from the very beginning of this writing journey—has been those who grace me with their time (which is often quite precious) and their interest (which might easily be spent elsewhere). I’m speaking, of course, about readers. There’s no thrill like seeing a review, a comment, a Tweet from a reader and realizing, “They got it. They understood what I was trying to do.” Or, alternatively, “I led them to a good memory, or inspired them to solve a problem, or gave them an escape when they needed it.” In my opinion, writing fiction is about communication with readers, plain and simple. If the story is written, but not received—to my mind, the process is only half done.
Writing, and sharing that writing, either through publication or posting on-line, is by turns exhilarating and terrifying. I’ve experienced amazing highs and painful lows.
All the writing pundits say not to compare your writing to your children, but there’s one way in which they are similar: they bring you an almost unbearable pride and, conversely, an overwhelming humility.
It’s a gift to be able to share my stories with people. It changed me, and I’ll be eternally grateful for the experience.
Karen M Cox writes award-winning novels accented with romance and history. Three of her published works have garnered awards from the independent publishing industry. Her four full-length novels are available from Meryton Press. Her favorite part of writing is when she hears from readers that she made them smiles, or think, or remember - or maybe, all three!
Karen was born in Everett, Washington, a circumstance that resulted from arriving in the world as a United States Air Force officer’s daughter. By the age of twelve, she had lived all over the country, including stays in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State. Her family then returned to their home state of Kentucky, and she still lives there in a quiet little town with her husband. She works as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, and spends her spare time reading, writing, and being a wife and mom - and spoiling her new granddaughter.