Last week someone asked me, "How long have you been writing?"
Short answer: Since I could read.
Long answer: I actually began talking about writing when I was in middle school, and would frequently write stories to amaze and astound my friends. These were incredibly juvenile, of course, but, although my writing often sparked on the idiosyncracies of teachers and our collective hatred of the principal, I was given a green light to write an 8th grade play that several in the class permormed to a packed gymnasium. It was a musical, and I talked several of my weaker classmates into delivering the lines and singing the tunes. My mother (who taught in the school) was appalled. Some teachers stopped speaking to me. I was a hero to my friends for weeks. This early experience taught me that writing does have power and that I should never listen to the critics. There is no way on God's green earth a school administration would allow this to take place today--and I don't know how I got by with it then! I was twelve--maybe thirteen--years old.
In high school I started writing really bad poetry, but did manage to make my first sale when I was seventeen. The five line poem was published in a religious journal--and later I placed a number of equally bad lines in some publications that have long since gone out of print. On one occassion I recall receiving a check for $25 for one poem.
I was seventeen, and I thought I was rich.