June Shaw is the author of the humorous mystery series featuring feisty widowed Cealie Gunther and her sometimes-ex hunk Gil Thurman, owner of a chain of Cajun Delights restaurants. One reviewer said their relationship sizzles more than Gil’s hottest hot sauce. Deadly Ink nominated her first book for its new David award for Best Mystery of the Year. Readers say the books and characters are lots of fun. June will send one of our commenters a copy of her latest, Relative Danger, by June 4. Please comment on June's blog to be eligible for a copy!
Maybe you’ve hoped to achieve some dream you carried, possibly for so long you often thought you’d never achieve it. You don’t have time. You have children to raise or a parent to tend to and a job where you have to report every day. You’re getting older. Will you ever have time for yourself? Is it possible to reach your goal? You could be a multi-published author with many awards, yet there is something else you want to achieve. Should you go after that dream?
If you reach for the moon and catch only a star, will you fail?
My deepest desire began in ninth-grade. My teacher said he was sending me to a district literary rally for English I. That was the first time I appreciated that my mom constantly corrected my grammar.
I didn’t, however, appreciate literature until many years later. What my teacher sparked that day was my passion for what an author could do. During most of my school years, we read stories by old dead European men. Being a young teen girl, I couldn’t relate. I could never imagine that I would want to be one of them. (Okay, not just being a man or dead. For each story, we needed to spend tons of time figuring out what the author meant. Why couldn’t he just tell us?)
So my teacher said I was going to the rally, and to prepare, I should practice writing a paragraph while the rest of the class practiced grammar (which I knew so well because of my mom’s annoying habit. “Mom,” I’d tell her, “I know what’s correct, but if I answer the phone and say, ‘This is I,’ and it’s one of my peers, she’ll probably never talk—speak—to me again.”)
I needed to write a paragraph about a splinter. I skulked to my desk, thinking my teacher was the most boring person alive to come with such a topic. Scribbling a paragraph that described a sliver of wood, I edited my work and carried it to his desk. “June, this is boring,” he said. I agreed but said he’d told me to write it.
And then he worked magic. He suggested I start like this: “Ouch!” He said to write from the splinter’s point of view. Someone just sat on it.
Wow! That was it—my inspiration and instruction for creative writing. I don’t recall the topic we had to write on at the rally, although I came out first. (The test was almost all grammar—Thanks, Mom.) I have, however, always recalled that splinter. No teachers ever had us write creatively. We wrote term papers. Uggh.
What my English teacher did with the word Ouch was make me realize an author could create any object or person and make it or her do or say anything. “Ouch!” also introduced me to modern writing and humor, which I discovered I loved much more than pieces written by old dead men from across the ocean. (I have since come to appreciate—and teach—stories and poems those guys created.)
Occasionally over the years I would recall the splinter and get excited, but I remained busy after school with band and clubs and my buddies and boyfriend, who was a few years older. We married soon after I completed high school and during the next six years, had five children. As they started to grow, I sometimes thought of trying to write, but then one of the kids said, “Mom, I need to go ….”
When the oldest was eleven, my husband died. I needed to support the children and wanted to be a writer but had only read of cereal boxes for years. I completed college and started teaching (English I.) Over time I read and wrote and occasionally sold an essay and story (that did not need an explanation).
My kids grew. Some married. Mom became almost blind and moved in with me (and kept correcting my grammar). I became her caregiver and the grandmother of eight—and then sold a novel! I sold the second one in the series. It was recently published.
Do I believe you can hold a dream for years before finally fulfilling it? Absolutely. I sincerely hope you realize your own goals—or at least grab a handful of stars.
** Please note: I’ve never used terrible grammar. Mom corrected everyone, especially movie stars she heard on TV, until she passed on this January. She was 102—and still happily correcting people’s speech. You can see her dancing the Macarena for her 100th birthday on my Web site, http://www.juneshaw.com/. There’s also a lot about my humorous mysteries, RELATIVE DANGER and KILLER COUSINS, which I hope you will consider reading.