When I was eleven, I began my first venture into the world of publishing. The year was 1953 when my best friend and I started a newspaper. Lola and I lived next door to each other on Broxton Road in Shaker Heights, Ohio and named the paper The Broxton Blab. The paper died after one issue when our mothers objected our trying to collect ten cents from the neighbors for our scribbles. In spite of this first publishing failure––my desire to write stayed very much alive and has continued throughout my life.
My dream had always been to write for adults, but my first published book turned out to be a children's book. At the time of my divorce in 1971, when looking for a book about divorce for my kids, I came up empty. Not a single children's book on the subject existed. I was convinced there was a real need for a story that didn't pull any punches about how hard divorce is on kids, but one that had humor and hope, and I decided to try to write it myself.
After seventeen rejections and many years of trying, My Mother is Not Married to My Father was published by Putnam in 1978. It was followed by a sequel, It's Just Too Much, about second marriages and step-siblings, inspired by my second marriage in 1973 when my two daughters gained a step-father and I gained two stepsons. (Joe Okimoto and I celebrated our forty-fifth wedding anniversary in 2018 and we now have six grandchildren). It's Just Too Much went on to win the Washington Governor's Award, now known as the Washington State Book Award. The response was amazing to me and with that wonderful encouragement, I continued to write for children for many years.
It's very difficult to make a living as a writer, or in any of the arts, and I have been blessed to have had another job I loved. For thirty-five years I was a psychotherapist and the clients I was privileged to know over the years enriched my life. I continued to write the entire time I was a practicing therapist and found the two careers complemented each other. As a therapist, you unfortunately can't always count on a happy ending for all clients as much as you hope for one, but it was cathartic to know I could always make things come out all right for the characters in my books. And seeing clients face the very real struggles in their lives helped me keep in perspective the disappointments that inevitably accompany a writing career, or any career in the arts.
Over the years it was really gratifying to see my short stories and books for children and young adults published, as well as a non-fiction book, and a number of plays produced. However, when I retired from my psychotherapy practice, I decided to go back to my original dream of writing for adults. The Love Ceiling, a novel about women and creativity, was published in 2009. It was followed by Walter's Muse and The Reinvention of Albert Paugh. Running through the novels is the theme of aging. I find old age a challenging time of life and one I hope to continue exploring in my fiction.
Publishing has changed dramatically since my first book was published in 1978. One of the important changes I applaud is digital publishing. Corporate publishers are no longer the only avenue to publishing a writer's work. Thankfully, they are not the gate-keepers they once were. I've often heard it said that real writers are published writers (usually meaning those published by corporate publishers) but I believe a real writer is simply someone who really writes. Period. Full stop. And for those who are so inclined, they can now publish and launch their own work. Maybe the audience is primarily focused on one's family and friends, or maybe there are dreams of a best seller, but the work itself, regardless of the scope of the audience, has value. It matters. For me writing is often hard work, but the process itself is one of the great joys of my life. And I hope to keep going as long as I can.