I remember the first poem I ever wrote. It was back in the early 70s, when I was in 3rd grade. I wrote it in a little zippered autograph book that I used as my first diary. I still have it in a box, somewhere in the attic now. That poem, though now cringe worthy, was definitely a reflection of my times, and I remember it clearly.
That’s where they take a terrible pill.
To take a pilly sounds very silly.
Jay and May went away,
Away to the land of dope.
When they got there and then came back
Their mother gave them soap.
Yes. That is the birth of my literary journey.
The point is, that was when I realized I was a writer. My poetry turned into short stories, and by 6th grade, Mr. Andersen was reading my weekly spelling word essays to the class. I had decided I wanted to write a book, and the weekly essays told a story throughout the year of a group of young people who went on weekly adventures. My classmates looked forward to hearing these stories, and I always received an A on the assignment.
In 7th grade I won a poetry contest with a submission about my Raggedy Ann doll. It was a sad poem about how I could tell her all my dark secrets, and cry with her, and she wouldn’t laugh at me or tell anyone. Kinda heavy for a 12-year-old.
By 8th grade, my best friend and I started a neighborhood magazine, called Kids News. Our neighbor allowed us to print copies out on his Xerox machine (loved the smell of dittos!) and we sold each installment for a quarter. People up and down Inwood Ave. bought it, so I guess that was my first paid writing assignment. I still have a copy today.
In 11th grade, one of my male classmates got a hold of a binder I kept with me at all times that held all the poetry I’d ever written. I had gone to the bathroom, and when I returned he was standing in the middle of the classroom reading my poetry aloud. I will never forget walking in and hearing him recite, “Baby, hey baby, I love you. Come closer, kiss me, too.” It was my first attempt at song writing. For a brief moment in my life I had contemplated going to Nashville to write songs and make it big (I lived in Tennessee at the time).
That afternoon shut that dream down fast. But living in Tennessee brought me my first love – an unforgettable experience everyone has and should never forget. It helped create the writer I am today, and helped bring me the life lessons that help mold the stories I write as I search for the perfect happily ever after to share with people.
I tried to write for the newspaper in high school, but it was always so clicky and I never fit in. But by college, I was a regular staffer for the Compass, and a regular contributor to Lilith, the campus literary magazine. It was also at this time that my Poetry and Advanced Journalism professor (one professor, two courses) told me I’d never make it as a journalist or poet. I was too sweet and too nice. I believed him, so I dropped out of school and rather than pursue an education in journalism and writing, I took a job as a secretary with a car dealership in Smithtown. And I got married.
It was after I was recovering from cancer at the age of 24 years old that I realized I did not want to die a secretary. I went back to school to get my degree in journalism, took a job with the third largest weekly newspaper on the eastern seaboard (Suffolk Life), and officially became an award-winning journalist.
I also started my quest to write the great American Romance Novel. I had been referred to by some as having a “soap opera mentality” for reading romance. But, instead of feeling insulted, I laughed it off and vowed to myself to be published one day.
My poetry also kept me busy. After befriending a band of local journalists, we formed a group we called Deadline Poets. We toured Suffolk County doing poetry readings, and I was dubbed “the Emily Dickinson of Long Island.”
So, flash forward beyond surviving cancer and writing news and feature, I started having babies. In the early morning hours after late night feedings when I could not go back to sleep, I wrote.
Over the years I wrote and completed four novels, and started and nearly finished two more. I stored the printed copies in boot boxes and a bible box, and shared them with friends, calling them “The Boot Box Collection.” Everyone loved them. I got to write. I was happy.
Then two major life-altering events happened.
In July, 2001 I went to Australia and stood on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunset and “held” the moon in one hand and the sun in the other. I radiated empowerment and was filled with the belief that Life had something really amazing waiting for me, and when I returned home my journey would begin. That, combined with all the love flowing from Australia through people I met and still keep in touch, with made that journey more than worthwhile and a life experience that changed me forever.
The second life experience happened nearly immediately after I got back to the States in August. Less than a month later, 9/11 shattered our reality. By December of 2001, my tiny little house was packed up to move, and I had informed my husband I was not staying on Long Island. It was too close to the city, getting too crowded, and the kids and I had been completely traumatized and needed healing. It was a huge decision to leave everyone and everything I knew and loved, but I had to do it for my sanity, and the survival of my family.
In July of 2002 (ten months after 9/11), we moved to Mohawk Valley, settling into a 100-year-old farmhouse overlooking the valley and a blueberry farm. Life was perfect. And then “Life” happened again.
I was diagnosed with cancer a second time. I grappled with God to let me live long enough to see my daughter in her first ballet recital, and my son in his first musical stage performance. Well, here I am 17 years later. Allie Rose’s recital went well, and Anthony sang his heart out. And I got to see it all. And more.
Not too soon after recovering from cancer, their dad and I realized we had different paths, different dreams, and all of life’s struggles had become too much for us to bear together.
Today, we are both happily remarried to two amazing people. He found a life with a great wife and two awesome step kids, and he lives close enough to still play a very integral part in our own kids’ lives.
And I am still living in our haunted old farmhouse, now with my amazing husband of six years who fills my life with so much love and passion that for a while I found it hard to write happily-ever-afters because I was living mine.
Raising my two children, Anthony and Allie, combined with the adventure of a life shared with my husband David, kept me so busy for the last thirteen years that I had to put my writing on hold. But it was worth it. My kids are adults now, having attended great colleges and finding their niche in the world. Both have amazing partners, and are embracing their own happily-ever-afters.
In very recent years I’ve lost a few loved ones – my sister Jane, my mom Joanne, and my godson, Michael, but I’m solid with my sisters, niece and nephews, and my parents who moved up from Florida a few years ago. It’s been a blessing watching my niece and nephews grow up and embrace their own journeys. Impromptu sister visits for a quick cuppa here and there round out my weeks and keep me sane sometimes. And it’s been an even greater blessing sharing daily life with my Dad and Mom as they grow old together.
In addition to my blood family, I have found a whole chosen family through the Pagan Path David and I follow. Beyond our coven of Crows who fill our lives with love and laughter every single day, we have been embraced over the years by a whole Pagan Family whose love stretches all over Upstate New York, and throughout the North East United States.
Surrounded by love is the best way I can describe the life I live, on so many levels.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the clan I see every single day where I work. I am a domestic and sexual violence support group coordinator and crisis counselor in my “other” life, and the team that surrounds me is one amazing surge of kick-ass, compassion-filled, devoted women and men I have ever met.
We are Strong. We are Fearless. And we stand together in solidarity, fighting for social justice, the end of racism, the empowerment of women, and peace, justice, dignity, and freedom for all. We freaking rock.
Finally, rounding out my life is the group of men and women who have helped me keep my voice alive in one way or another. The amazing writers of Central New York Romance Writers and RWA. Back in 2004 I turned to this group in an effort to make new friends and find people with similar interests. CNYRW is where I met my beloved Herkimer Diamonds and a whole collection of amazing writers who have given me insight, guidance, encouragement, and tips of the trade. It also connected me to my publisher, Deb, and Soul Mate Publishing. I began as an editor, keeping my toes wet as an editor when I took time off from writing. Without this great group of talent I probably would not be writing this blog today.
So, there is my life, as succinctly as possible. I know this is awfully long for a blog, but I wanted to share my journey with every one of you who are supporting me as I pursue and achieve my life dream. It’s been a helluva ride, and I’m blessed to have you in my life.
All of these experiences will one day be shared in future novels I will be publishing. As you read Ten Bucks and a Wish you will see glimpses of things I’ve shared here, and you will also get an idea of what Life was like on Long Island. References to Long Island, Suffolk County, and Brookhaven Town are woven in and out of the tapestry that I created that I call Olde Westfield and Town of Brookville.
Thank you for reading me, for following me, and for supporting me. Now, on to the next happily-ever-after!