I always wanted to be a writer. Except for those two or three years where I wanted to be a vet. Other than that, it was writing all the way.
I made this decision when I was about eleven years old. I was going to write books the way they were meant to be written—all animals, no people. People ruined animal stories. This resolve lasted until puberty; then I decided I it was okay to write books about animals and boys.
As a fully fledged adult, I write a lot, almost every day. It turns out that only a small part of it is fiction. Most of my days are spent doing some form of technical communication. I never intended to become a technical writer. When I was little, I was going to be an Indian Princess. Then a paleontologist. Technical writing wasn’t even on the map. I’d never heard of it.
But I loved writing, so when I went to college, I took every writing course on offer. Because I had always written above my age group, I never met a teacher who would take me in hand and really improve my writing. The professor who did that was Dr. Strauss, a five-foot tall fireball who kept writing embarrassing comments in the margins of my poetic English papers with a fat blue pen. “Trees do not dance.” “Roiling: do you mean coiling?” I sweated every paper, really honing my craft for the first time in my life. I emerged from her class duly humbled, with a baby ulcer and a drastically improved writing style.
Speechwriting was fascinating, introducing me to the devices (okay, tricks) one can use to make their writing serve a specific purpose. And then there was technical writing. I had no idea what it was, other than it had “writing” in the title, so I was up for it. Dr. Losano was the brilliant, sarcastic instructor. At the beginning of the first class, he announced, “How many of you are in Engineering?” Many hands. “How many in programming?” More hands. “How many of you are English majors?” Five pathetic hands. He pointed at us. “You will all fail! I’ve never seen an English major yet who can write anything in a clear, succinct fashion.”
Oh, the gauntlet. I’ll pick that baby up. Losano was great; everything was rules. “Never write any paragraph longer than your index finger.” “Never write more than half a page of text without introducing a figure, table or bullet list.” Rules. I can do rules. I was out to prove my clarity and succinctness. As Losano was handing back papers from perhaps our third assignment, he leaned over my desk and murmured, “You’re the first English major I’ve ever taught who’s going to pass.”
He was the perfect mentor, as he came from a business, not academic, background. He designed my last two years of college, loading me up with business courses, math, and science. He gave me the recommendation for my first job, where I was fortunate to have the best boss any new writer could ever hope for: a woman who was both a writer and a teacher. Marie Dence went on to finish the job Dr. Strauss had started; by the time I left, I knew what I was doing. I “grokked” technical writing, and threw myself into it with a passion. Controlled English, writing for translation, online help, eLearning—each new thing I eagerly embraced, because it was a new challenge for my writing—and I’m all about the writing.
This website is the first time I ever tried to present the two ruling passions of my life, tech writing and fiction, side by side. I have no idea if it will work as a website. The one thing I do know is, as long as I’m writing, I’m going to write the best that I can, to entertain and inform—and have fun along the way.