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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Barbara Fleming

Ever since I was a young girl reading Little Women and identifying with Jo in the garret, I have wanted to be a writer. I imagined myself the author of novels that would be read by thousands. My words, my stories, would touch their lives.


Of course, as an adult I woke up to reality – the reality that wives and mothers face every day: I had higher priorities than becoming a famous novelist. My dream would have to be postponed awhile, until I had raised my family, gotten my college degree, and achieved a degree of maturity.

Once my family was grown, my working life took over. As a teacher, I found I had little time or energy to put into being creative. Yet the desire to write – the need to write – nagged at me.

As a journalist, I had scratched my writing itch for awhile before I taught. Even after I became a teacher, I occasionally found time to write. Not that anything ever came of those endeavors, and the novel still awaited me.

When I retired, I knew that the time had come. Life is short; you can only defer a dream so long before it dies. So I began in earnest to write, write, write. I found a writing partner, joined a critique group, and wrote as often as I could. (I found, to my surprise, that the myth of retired people rocking on the front porch is baloney; your time and talents get sucked up very, very fast.) But I found time to write, because I had to. I resurrected an old novel, one I had begun years before and never finished. It did not work well, so I set it aside again and started another one, based on my experiences at a newspaper in the 1970s. Much as I wanted to tell that story, it was not the one that emerged.

In writing that novel (which I am now re-crafting), I found out something about myself as a writer. I suppose most writers set out with a plot in mind, with somewhere to go, then create and develop the characters who will get them there. That’s what I envisioned myself doing.

Not.

The story took over; the characters appeared; I became the navigator to see them through the process and was often surprised at what they said and did and what happened. The result was a piece of writing that astonished me. That was not at all the story I had set out to tell!

The same thing happened when I started to write Journeying, published by Five Star/Cengage in 2009. I had two ideas in mind – to recreate in fiction some of the colorful history of my hometown, Fort Collins, Colorado, and to honor frontier women, who were so amazingly strong, brave and indomitable. That’s how I began. Then the story and characters took on a life of their own; I was merely the conduit. It was a fascinating phenomenon.

I don’t know how other writers work; I have discovered how I do. I’m still not famous, read by thousands, but I am a published novelist. The dream is still alive.

5 comments:

Summer Ross said...

Keeping your dream alive is very important. Keep going for it. I'm a fan of Jo from "Little Women" too. When I read the book and as i got older I wanted in stains on my hands lol and now I do get them frequently and I tell myself that I've reached a goal every time I get ink on me. :)

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Barbara: I posted your blog, but as you see, it makes my name at the bottom instead of yours. I loved your post, and it's a story that will resonate with most authors. All of us have stories we practiced on, until we finally got it right. Re Little Women, I think I read it about 5 times, and always cried about Beth. I was one of 4 girls, and I could see a little of us in those 4 characters--or maybe I wanted to. That's a tribute to her writing.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great post Barbara - reading has always been a part of my life and writing seemed to naturally develop from that - but by far my greatest desire and accomplishment is being a good wife/mother/grandmother - and I thank God daily for those things AND for the opportunity to share my faith in HIM through writing.

May God bless you abundantly.
PamT

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Seeing that first novel published is a dream come true! Congrats! And may you write many more books in the future.

Wishing you every success.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Barbara -- I occasionally think about a rocking chair on the porch with a stack of books and a pitcher of iced tea...but end up back at the computer instead. :)

To all: Journeying is a wonderful story. I highly recommend it.

Patricia