I love reading stories about how other writers got started on their writing paths, because it makes me realize AGAIN what holds us all together as writers! So many of us have similar experiences, yet many of them are very unique–and they all have brought us together in this world of writing and sharing our stories with our readers.
I had written the “book that started it all” for me–my “baby”–trouble was, by the time I finished it, it was WAY too long to be published (for a first time author). It’s around 284,000 words! (But who’s counting!?) I sent it off (FINALLY!) and of course, it was rejected by all the agents I sent it to, except for three. Those three wanted to see something shorter. That’s what made me get busy and write the “next” book–another western, but different characters and MUCH MUCH shorter. I got an agent and was sure that that book would be “the one” to be published. But, no. I was already working on book # 3– another western. When I shipped it off to my agent, again, it was with high hopes and crossed fingers. He wrote to tell me that “No one reads westerns much anymore. Have you got anything different?”
My husband had very graciously been “standing by” all this time while I had more or less taken a
break from working to write. He was starting to get impatient about the way our money was at the time, and I was worried, too. I went back to work part time, first as an emergency serivces operator (911) and then as a “guard” in the National Cowboy and Western Heitage Museum here in Oklahoma City.
My husband was not happy about me switching from the 911 job to the museum, but I knew I had to do it for self-preservation. It was not nearly as much money per hour, but the pressure was not as tremendous either. I enjoyed working there. And as time went by, I realized that it was where I neededto be.
For whatever reason, I found that people who came through the museum were willing to open up to me and talk about all kinds of things–I don’t know if it was because we were strangers and they felt safe about telling me about old emotional wounds, knowing they’d never see me again– but even my co-workers noticed it. No, it didn’t happen every day, but I’m thankful that I was “there” for them when
it did happen. It’s hard to explain in an e-mail, but I felt like I was where I needed to be for those 2 years that I worked there. The Viet Nam vet who talked about losing his best friend, the man whose father got him out of going to Viet Nam who blamed himself when his best friend was killed over there, the couple who had married, divorced, and then remarried after TWENTY YEARS, the man who had never made peace with his father before his father passed on. . . and on and on.
What does that have to do with writing? In a way, it took the focus off — and the pressure– to crank
out that next book and hope that it would sell. I realized that I would be writing, whether my books sold NOW, LATER, or NEVER. I was a writer, and that was what I loved to do. I was forced to quit the job at the museum due to a bout of poor health that year, and I never went back to work there, but I made some lifelong friends among my coworkers that I never would have met had I not worked there. I gained a new perspective on my role as a writer, and what writing meant to me. It was not a “job”–it
was something I’d been doing, literally, since I could hold a pencil.
I’ve gone on to write several full length novels, and that third one I wrote (the western that “no one is reading anymore”) was the first one I sold. Fittingly enough, the heroine is named for my daughter Jessica, who is my biggest fan, and the hero bears the same last name as my dear friend and supervisor at the museum, Martin Turner, who has since passed on. (The cover at the left is the 1st cover my book had when it was published with The Wild Rose Press. The one below is the new one it was given when it was reissued with Western Trail Blazer.)
It all connects. Success is measured in so many ways for so many people, but for me, that little
“detour” of 2 years at the museum was filled with cherished memories, and I think it helped me as a writer in so many ways. At the time, I saw it as something I had to do to help the family financially, but now, I realize it was not just the money I earned– it was the building of friendships, and helping others, and learning more about human nature and healing the spirits of those who confided in me in whatever small way I could.
I’m still hoping to sell the ‘book of my heart”– that 284,000 word saga– but if I don’t, I’m okay
with it. I enjoyed writing it, and I will probably still be working on it, rewriting on it, cutting and editing on it forever.
What got you started writing? Any budding writers out there who want to share their experiences? I love it that we are all brought together by this wonderful fove of writing!
All my books and short stories are available here: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson