When I look back at my elementary school years, some of my fondest memories were the days when the box arrived from the Weekly Reader Book Club. The teacher would open it in front of the class and distribute what we had ordered weeks before. It was like having Christmas and my birthday rolled together month after month. I’d bring my books home and binge on Nancy Drew mysteries—The Mystery at Lilac Inn was one of my favorites—Charlotte’s Web, Little Women, various science fiction novels and books about African American historical figures. I distinctly remember the day when I put whatever book aside that I was reading for a moment and announced to my mother, “When I grow up, I want to be a novelist.” Mom gave me a smile and said, “That’s wonderful, Lisa, but you know, you’ll need to earn a living when you become an adult. And you can’t earn a living writing novels.”
I was crestfallen at the time. As a preteen I hadn’t thought about the need to have a steady income or whether or not people actually got payed to write novels and if they got payed, if it would be enough to live on. I didn’t think about the pursuit of a rich benefactor (husband) or a pot of gold landing on my doorstep. I just knew I wanted to be a writer.
As I grew older, the desire to write a novel didn’t leave me. I decided to be practical by majoring in journalism in college. I figured that I could hone my craft, learn how to manage deadlines, get used to working with editors, all while getting a paycheck. It was a sound strategy.
The rich husband never came along—well, a husband did come along, but not a rich one—and I’m still waiting to trip over that pot of gold on my way out the door. I spent decades working in radio, newspaper, and television journalism and wrote short stories and essays in my spare time. When I began writing The Talking Drum, it was while working full-time.
I’d figured out how to earn a living and write a novel at the same time. Now I’m five months away from publication.
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