When I Grow Up

When I was ten years old, I wanted to be a writer. Actually, my oldest memories of “what I want to be when I grow up” involved telling stories. I started reading when I was three or four. I read Alice in Wonderland, Doctor Doolittle, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and books of fairy tales. As I grew up, I broadened my horizons. I read all kinds of fiction and non-fiction. But all that time I dreamed about writing my own stories. I wanted to give back. All those books and stories took me to other worlds, worlds where magic worked, worlds where you never knew what you were going to find around the next corner.

Unfortunately, when I started writing my own stories they were woefully inadequate compared to the stories I have read. I think one of the worst things about me is that I don’t do things that I’m not good at. When I compared my writing to the authors I loved and admired, I lost. So I put the dream away and did other things instead. I was a travel agent, I worked at my parents’ business where I set type and sold advertising. Over the years I had many different jobs but always in the back of my mind was the idea that one day I would be an author.

Becoming a technical writer was a cheat. When I was 25, I declared that if I hadn’t been published by the time I was 30, I would quit writing altogether. Time went by and I realized that I was nearing my own self-imposed deadline. None of the stories or books I was writing were anywhere near “good enough” to send out. In the meantime, I had discovered computers. Programming was a fun new hobby. I wrote an article about BASIC. I submitted it to “CodeWorks Magazine” and they bought it.

I bought myself a copy of Borland’s Turbo C compiler. Along with the compiler, I received a subscription to Turbo Technix Magazine. The editorial in the first issue I received was entitled “Welding Fire and Ice” and in it, Jeff Duntemann discussed the fact that writing about computer programming was like welding fire and ice. He said that it is easy to find good writers and easy to find good programmers, but it isn’t easy to find people who are both.

He ended the editorial by inviting people who are interested in writing about programming to contact them and make a proposal. I still wonder what gave me the courage to make that call. I suppose I was still high on that first sale. So I called up to request writer’s guidelines and the next thing I knew, Jeff himself was on the phone.

It turned out that they hadn’t had a woman ask to write about programming before. We talked for a while and he suggested sending me a copy of Turbo Basic. He told me to play with it and then make an article proposal.

I did, he bought it, and that began our association which was very good for me. Don’t know how good it was for him, but I was very grateful to him for buying my articles, sending me books and tools. I can thank Jeff for my first freelance programming jobs, and for getting my games published!

From 1989 until–well, really until now, I’ve been either programming or writing about it.

In 2003, I had a major breakthrough. I made my first fiction sale. Sadly, it was much. The first programming article I sold got me $50; the first short story brought me $3 and a bit of change. Since that time, I have sold a few fiction stories and published a book of flash fiction that sold a few copies.

I still enjoy programming. I still enjoy writing about programming and computers, but I think it’s finally time that I grew up. For now I have to continue programming in order to make a living but when I’m not programming, I’m going to be writing. I started a writing class given my James Patterson, and I’ve set a new deadline. I said I would be published by 30 or quit writing. Now I say, “I will have a novel published by a commercial publisher by the time I’m 60 or quit for good.” I have a few years left, so I’d better get busy.