I’ve got a busy few weeks coming up. There’s that pesky deadline thing, of course. And I’m writing, I really am. But I have some long-standing commitments to get to first. For instance, this weekend, I’m headed up to Yellow Springs, Ohio to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Antioch Writer’s Workshop.
Twenty years ago, I was a totally frustrated, pissed-off newspaper reporter. I wanted to write fiction, and be a stay-at-home mom to my two children. Katie was eight and Andrew was four. My husband was tired of hearing me bitch and moan about my mean editors. So I did something. I started writing a mystery. One night a week, I’d sneak back to the newspaper office and write on their computer, which was a big no-no, which made me want to do it even more. Subversive streak, you see? I finished that first mystery,and sent it out to thunderous silence. Then I saw an ad in the back of WRITER’S DIGEST magazine, for a writer’s workshop in a place I’d never heard of, Yellow Springs, in a state I’d never been to, Ohio. Sue Grafton, who was my total mystery author hero, was giving a class at the Antioch Writer’s Workshop. And for like, fifty bucks or something, you could have her critique your manuscript. I was so there!
In July of 1990, I used up all my frequent flyer miles and my last week of vacation, and flew up to Ohio. Antioch College, it turns out, was this hippy-dippy little liberal arts school, and Yellow Springs was the totally chill college town, where, instead of having a town drunk, they had a town stoner, sitting on the curb across the street from Weavers Supermarket. Coolest of all, though, was Sue Grafton, who gave a three or four hour workshop every night for a week. That workshop changed my life. I went in a wannabe and came out a WRITER. I had my manuscript conference with Sue, who was incredibly encouraging about my finished novel, telling me I was ready to find an agent and a publisher. Later that week, I read the first chapter of a new book I’d started to the workshop attendees, and afterwards, Sue told me that book would be published. Less than four months later, I had a book contract for EVERY CROOKED NANNY with HarperCollins Publishers.
In May of 1991, I gave my notice at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and in 1992, my first book was published. And I’ve never looked back. I’ve been back to the AWW several times since 1990, a couple of times to teach at the workshop, most memorably, in 2000, when Sue Grafton came back to teach, and I was on that same faculty, and again, to be the AWW keynote speaker, which was a huge honor. In the 20 years since I first travelled to that hippy-dippy college town, I’ve made lots of friends in the writing community there, including my dear junk buddy Barb, at whose home I stayed on my first trip back to AWW, and on every trip since. Oh, and I’ve also had 17 novels published.
I’ll fly up to Dayton with a half-empty suitcase early Friday, so that Barb, and my hometown friend Sue and I can have a whole day of Ohio junking before I give my talk at the AWW celebration. Have I mentioned how much I love Ohio junk? They have AWESOME junk in Ohio. I’m looking forward to seeing my book club and writer friends in Yellow Springs, and also to tip-toeing over to Young’s Jersey Dairy Barn for some of their home-churned ice cream.
I come home from Ohio on Sunday, and then on Tuesday, Mr. Mary Kay and I are flying to San Francisco, where he has a two-day meeting. Then it’s on to Sonoma, and some wine-sipping, and hopefully, more junking. Although my chick trip friends and I were just in Sonoma in November, there was no time for junking. This trip, it’s different. I have already warned MMK that there WILL BE junk stops. And I’d appreciate any junk tips anybody has to offer for junking in Northern California next weekend. I’m totally bummed that we have to fly home early Sunday, and I’ll miss the Alameda Point show, so, somebody give me the 411!