Once Upon a Time (Penny Rader)

Once upon a time there was a young mother. She was a stay-at-home mommy with three little girls. She also had three stepsons, who seemed to be determined to test her in just about every way possible.

Young Mother lived for nap time and bed time, for then she could have a few moments peace, she could lose herself in those most magical of all items…romance novels. Romance novels saved Young Mother’s sanity. While reading romance novels, Young Mother didn’t have to worry that she was failing as a mommy and step-mommy, she didn’t have to wonder how bills were going to be paid or if there would be enough food on the table or if they’d be able to keep a roof over their heads.

Now, Young Mother also loved to go to the most magical of places, The Library. She loved to learn new things and this place was filled to the brim with knowledge. There were lots and lots of books about parenting and cooking and managing a home. She needed a bit of help in those departments. When she wasn’t being challenged by potty-training and tantrums and B&E, she was trying to figure out tasty, inexpensive ways to fill the tummies of all her boys and girls. Alas, she failed pretty miserably in the home managing department, a condition which persists to this day.

One day, while watching TV, Young Mother saw an interview with a romance writer. It seemed romance writers were real people. Hmm. A few weeks later, while watching the noon news, there were two romance writers being interviewed…and they lived just outside her city…and they were going to be at her local bookstore for a booksigning. That booksigning was going to be held on her birthday. It was sign. She had to go.

Young Mother met the Real, Local Romance Authors. She worked up some courage and asked them all sorts of pesky questions and they graciously answered. The visit stayed with Young Mother. Maybe, she thought, maybe she could write a romance novel. Now Young Mother had never written anything beyond some letters and homework assignments. She couldn’t even keep a decent diary. But the thought stayed with her.

A short while later, while visiting The Library, she discovered there were books about how to write. Fancy that! One book in particular caught her eye: Writing Romance Fiction for Love and Money by Helene Schellenberg Barnhardt. Young Mother checked this book out. With the help of her little sister, she kept that book out of the library for nearly five months. She took notes upon notes, studied the examples, and thought maybe, just maybe, she could do this. In the very back of the book, the author listed some resources for writers, including something called Romance Writers of America. Young Mother wrote a letter to RWA and asked for more information.

While waiting to hear back, Young Mother wondered what she should write about. At that time she read mostly historical romances, so it made sense she should try to write a historical. More trips to The Library to look over some history books, to try to pinpoint when the story would take place. She eventually settled on one of her favorite time periods, Colonial America. But…she wasn’t sure how to go about researching and learning what she needed to know. She wanted to learn more personal type of information that would affect her characters, not just wars and stuff.

The mail arrived, with a copy of a magazine produced by Romance Writers of America. And in that issue was an article by Roberta Gellis about how to research a historical romance novel. It was a sign.

Young Mother pored over the magazine, studying all the articles, learning what she could learn. She wrote and asked about a subscription to the magazine. She found, to her dismay, that there wasn’t a subscription available. It came as part of joining RWA. Young Mother’s heart sank. The dues to join were $35! That would buy a lot of groceries. RWA would have to wait.

A few months passed. Young Mother continued to study, to learn about the Colonial America time period. One day, the opening scene of a TV show made her go “Hmm.” Made her wonder. Soon she had created a heroine for her own story.

RWA still beckoned. Young Mother didn’t know any other writers. She continued to study that issue of the magazine. She noticed an article about something called The National Conference. Hmm. One day her husband surprised her with the money to join the organization. Every two months a new issue would arrive. She found out the main organization had Chapters, which were local groups for authors to join. But…her city didn’t have one. Young Mother wrote to one of the regional directors and asked how to start one.

Young Mother kept re-reading that article about The National Conference. She knew in her heart she would never be able to go, but still she dreamed. She figured up how much it would cost to attend the conference in Dallas, including air fare and hotel. $550.00. Oh my. She set that dream aside. It was time to do taxes anyway. While filling out the tax form, Young Mother noticed something new. It was called Earned Income Tax Credit. Huh? They might be able to receive even more money with their refund? She filled out the worksheets. The EITC for their family would be $550.00. It was a sign. Young Mother was supposed to go to The National Conference. And she did (while very pregnant with baby number four). And she met lots of wonderful people, including some who helped her start a local Chapter for her own area.

And that is the story about how I became a writer. What’s your story?

20 comments:

Reese Mobley said...

What a perfect fairy tale for young mother. The best part is that you worked hard and your dream came true. You got your happily ever after! Treasure this because very few people can say those words.

Penny Rader said...

You are such a sweetie, Reese. And I know, without a doubt, that your HEA is on its way. Your star is going to SHINE!

Joan Vincent said...

Penny, you not only got your HEA but have enabled many people to learn and dream through WARA. Bless you for that and may you be blessed with continued writing success.

Alison H. said...

Penny, your story mirrors my own so closely it's scary - except I was home with only 1 child, not 6! Your fortitude amazes me. LaVyrle Spencer turned me on to RWA at a local booksigning, and the rest was history - long, long history. I'm also originally a Kansas girl and write midwestern historical romances. :-)

Vonnie Davis said...

You have a great story. I've wanted to write since grade school. I loved writing letters and short stories. As an adult with 3 children to raise, I worked for a while at some pretty mundane jobs. My mind wandered and developed storylines. Still, my self-confidence was low. Who me? But I have no talent, only dreams. After 12 years of licking my wounds post divorce, I met a retired English teacher and writer. He encouraged me and said I had a great voice. How could you not love a guy like that? Now I write full-time. Why? Becausee my soul is fulfilled when I do. I'm happiest when I'm busy jerking my characters around. Write on!

Melissa Murphy said...

Aw... Your story touched my heart.

Melissa

Kathy said...

Awww such a great story. Goodluck that you become the next number one author on NY Times list. Thanks for sharing the story I decided after reading my aunt's 2 books I could do it to. If at 70 plus she could write well enough to be published I should try it too. So here I am in 2011 still trying to write and taking classes and following information that I ran across in 2008. Like you research lead me to RWA and there was a local chapter. Just had to juggle meetings with my work schedule. But I have to say RWA is the big help for me.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Joan! I get a huge kick every time a WARA member has even the tiniest bit of success, whether it's completing a ms, entering a contest, submitting their ms for the first time, or making a sale. :D

Penny Rader said...

Hi Alison! How cool is it that our stories are so similar? :D I met LaVyrle at that long ago first (for me) RWA conference. She was so nice and warm and welcoming. I wonder if I have my notes anywhere? I do remember one thing she said: Make them laugh; make them cry; make them wait. And she talked about using specifics. For example, not just a tree, but an elm tree. Though she said it much better. :D I'm wishing you much success in your writing career.

Penny Rader said...

Welcome, Vonnie. So glad you met your retired teacher. Good for you! Loved this - I'm happiest when I'm busy jerking my characters around. Write on!

Penny Rader said...

Thank you, Melissa. I was worried that it might come across as, well, stupid. Amazing how we writers doubt ourselves, huh.

Penny Rader said...

You can do it, Kathy! Just hang in there. Keep learning, keep reading, keep writing. How cool that you have real-life inspiration to keep you going! :D

Judy said...

No story I could tell would top yours, Penny! I was enthralled in the best sense of the word! Thanks for sharing your odyssey--and I know it will end in the Land of Happily Ever After!

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Judy! I just love the Land of Happily Ever After. Everyone should live there, don'tcha think? :D

D'Ann said...

Great story! Loved it

Nina Sipes said...

Oh, Penny, I just knew your story would be hard work and magic. You are very special. I thank the powers that you were the one who answered the phone when I tried to order a book on writing. Thank you for WARA.
You're the best. We each are given our talents and isn't it wonderful that you have given the gift of being able to inspire so many and the gift of persistence. I have a friend who was given the gift of organization and homekeeping craft. She isn't any happier than the rest of us. But those are HER talents. Your gifts are more likable and exciting.

Nina Sipes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penny Rader said...

Thanks, D'Ann! :D

Penny Rader said...

You're such a sweetie, Nina! I'm glad I answered the phone, too, when you called. You are a valued member of WARA.

Frances Louis said...

What a wonderful story! I always love a HEA!!