Monday, July 06, 2009

Origins of a writing career

Vicki here with, first, a word from our sponsor. I am blogging all week at On Wings of murder ( with a new entry every day. Pop over and see what I have to say about writing, and the writing life.

Next week, Monday and Tuesday, I will be proudly staffing the Poisoned Pen Press booth at the ALA convention in Chicago. As well as attending a great event, meeting tons of librarians, who are always interesting and engaging, I am bunking with Libby Fisher Hellman. Can’t wait.

If you are at the convention, please drop by and say hi.

Sang Pak’s story of how he pretty much stumbled into writing a publishable novel, made me think of my first, meager attempt. My first attempt at fiction was more an exercise in escapism than writing a novel. I was thinking that I might like to write for children (an ambition I abandoned the time time I attended a meeting of CANSCAIP) so enrolled at a creative writing class at the local community college. The teacher believed that you had to constantly exercise the writing muscles, so to speak, and we had to keep a journal every week. At this time I was having some trouble with one of my teenage daughters, nothing out of the ordinary – just normal teenage girl angst, but I didn’t want to write about my own feelings. Instead I wanted to turn my back on my problems and escape into that mythical, always beckoning, Canadian wilderness.

Which I did, in my imagination. Rather than write the class exercise, I wrote the first chapter of what became my first novel, Whiteout. The story, roughly, begins as follows: middle-aged computer professional flees the fallout from a troubled teenage daughter and quits her job, cashes in her savings, and rents a falling-down old cabin on the outskirts of a no-hope town in northern Ontario.

The class loved it. Most of them were middle-aged women, also dreaming of escaping suburban and family life. They encouraged me to continue with the story, because they wanted to find out what happens to this woman. I primarily read crime novels, so it was natural for me to have a crime happen in this woman’s new life.
And thus I wrote a book.

Noticeably, I have never kept a journal since.

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