Always a writer...
I can’t remember ever not knowing that I was a writer. When I was in the second grade, because I was forever writing little stories, my teacher, a lovely woman named Barbara Heath, gave me her own copy of Little Women, to keep. Hardcover, illustrated, no less. The story wasn’t so much magic for me as was the character of Jo March. Somehow I knew Jo, I pretended I was her sometimes, and knew I was going to grow up to be, as she was, a writer.
When I was in fourth grade, I turned pro. My essay, “Why I love Camp Nawakwa,” won a community contest, earning me a camp scholarship, and my future was set. Sort of. Loving Camp Nawakwa was my writing pinnacle for quite a while.
When it was time for college, I headed off to UCLA, where I tried on a large number of majors before I decided on History. History, well told, has more romance, adventure, intrigue, courage, provocative mystery than any fiction that can be imagined. Besides, the process of historical research and writing mysteries have a great deal in common. One snoops through the remnants of people’s lives – real or fictional – asking the important who, what, where, and when questions and implying insight with the hope of making sense of things. The study of History is great preparation for a writer, especially a writer of mysteries.
The afternoon that I learned I had passed my comprehensive exams for the Masters degree in History at CSULB, I was hired to teach History as an adjunct at Long Beach City College. Over the next decades I taught, went to school some more, raised two beautiful babies to adulthood, acquired a full-time tenured position at LBCC, and, somehow, between school and soccer and baseball and school plays, managed to get seven mystery novels and many, many short stories published. Amazing how that happened.
When my kids, Alyson and Christopher, were of a certain age, I took them to visit The Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott grew up and where she wrote Little Women. I stood in her upstairs bedroom, beside the little half-moon desk where she created Jo March, and thanked her for giving a little girl a bit of courage to believe that she, too, could be a writer.
Wendy Hornsby is the Edgar Award winning author of the Maggie MacGowen mysteries.
Photo by Paul Robinette.