The Firsts

As I have mentioned before I have been writing since high school and contrary to popular belief it was not a first love.  I used to hate the idea of writing journals and diaries like my mom always pushed me to do.  I tried but just couldn’t get into it.  Poems were the same way, I am more a direct kind of girl, writing with symbolism just goes right over my head sometimes.  Again, I couldn’t get into them.  Then there was, of course, homework and book reports which like any kid out there – I hated! Same with reading.  Johnny Tremain, The Crucible, A Tale of Two Cities, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…. gag me!  One of the main reasons I didn’t work to my potential in school was because I could not stand working on things that I had no interest in.  Writing was my least favorite thing to do as a kid.

High school brought on a new venture though.  First of all thanks to people like Mrs. Wyatt, Ms. Hobson, Ms. Jakymec and Mr. Bayer (sp?) I found very quickly that things like literature, writing and history were three of my favorite subjects.  They were awesome teachers and soon writing, reading and researching weren’t so bad.  But it was my dearest friend, Dawn Taylor (then Mascia), who brought the fictional writer in my out.

We started out writing little stories about the New Kids on the Block and putting our names in as their “girlfriends”.  It was silly and juvenile, but totally fun and got that bug for imagination and fantasy out on paper.  Seeing that we definitely had a talent for book writing, Dawn and I worked together on our senior project and wrote a children’s book – hmm I wonder where that is?  It was a sweet little story dedicated to my baby sister and based on her adoption.  Dawn and I wrote it and I illustrated it, then both of us put together the hard cover book.  I’m pretty sure we got an A, but I don’t remember.

The other friend I need to thank is Christina Reynolds (then Andrews), she introduced me to the beauty and love of novels.  Alright so to be specific romance novels, but good ones that were more of a story with the romance interlaced within history.  Of course my mother didn’t like that and threw away Christina’s copy of A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux, because she said it was pornography in a book.  It was a little racy, but not that bad.  It wasn’t X-rated, more like an R rated book.  (In all fairness I probably wouldn’t let a daughter of mine read it until she was older too).  I had to buy Chrissy another one and secretly I kept reading Jude Deveraux books, keeping them in a box under my bed.

Anyhow, soon my New Kid fictions became more streamlined fictions that I used to call a mix between Jude Deveraux and John Grisham.  And in my senior year of college when I was trying to choose a topic for my final history thesis, a 50 page paper that was the one and only grade for the class, I had a sit down with my professor Dr. Leopold.  I had ho-ed and hummed my way through our meeting telling him the subjects I wanted to research for the non-fictional research paper.  I was mostly dreading  this assignment since 50 pages is a lot to prattle on about, but it was Dr. Leopold who said, “Well I know you write fiction for fun, don’t you Miss LaPlant?” To this day, I don’t know how he knew that.  Maybe I had mentioned it and forgot about it.  But I nodded and said, “Yes I do.”  He went on to say if I could back up my historic research with all the bibliographical evidence, then he would allow me to do a historical fiction.

I remember my eyes growing wide and immediately got excited about my first historical fiction assignment.  It was about the Titanic and at the end of the semester I presented it to the class.  Each student read it, the professor read it and as he placed the final graded copy on my desk, he paused as I turned it over and said, “Congratulations Miss LaPlant.”  On the other side of the paper was the only A in the class.  To this day, it is one of my proudest achievements.  It was also the moment that I knew I wanted to write for a living.  I was bitten by the writers bug and the itch has never gone away.

So thank you to my mother for the writing talent in my veins, thank you to Dawn for teaching me to write out my fantasies, thank you to Christina for introducing me to the world of novels and thank you to Dr. Leopold for granting me the gift of using my talent for success!  One person I didn’t mention though was the greatest professor anyone could ever have – Dr. Herbert Janick – he taught me that history could be felt not just studied and he truly brought every subject he taught alive.

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3 Comments

  1. Love your banner, Eryn, and it was fun to read your post. I, too, was a writer from an early age, I think first grade, and my first book was also animal-based, “The Black Cat.” It was about a cat that would show up at the strangest times, always when one character was missing, (’cause, guess what? She was the cat!) I wrote it with the girl up the street, Mary Ellen Murphey, and her dad, who was a lawyer, said he’d get it published for us. Come to think of it, I’ve never received any royalties from that…. I remember that it was written on some fancy, blue, hotel stationery, (Hilton, I think), that my dad brought home from a business trip and bound with white yarn bowties strung through the hole-punched stationery. (I know, quite impressive!)

    I also liked to read (had a ton of Nancy Drew’s!) and became an English teacher (high school and junior college). No one really encouraged a career as a fiction writer because such a thing didn’t seem to exist. You don’t draw a salary for doing it, anyway. When I turned forty I thought, why did God give me this talent if I wasn’t meant to use it? So I wrote my first novel and haven’t stopped.

    Thanks for sharing your beginning. I find it fascinating to read other writers’ stories!

  2. Love the story about your college professor. So glad he inspired you. One of my own English professors had the opposite effect on me. He always included my sentences in a handout to the class … as an example of what “not” to do! Now I have 6 books published. The nasty side of me always wants to dedicate a book to him, a nose-thumbing gesture that I know I would regret later, so I never have done it.

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