The first time I took on an actual writing project that was my own and not schoolwork was the summer after sixth grade. By this time I was an avid reader. I read on the bus, I read in the lunchroom, I read when I was supposed to be sleeping, my pillow was piled so high with books I’m not sure how I slept. I had even mastered the skill of walking down the hall reading. I was a nerdball reader. Reading was my drug of choice. I especially liked mysteries—Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden. I had read them all.
I decided it was time to try my hand at such a mystery. It just so happened at this same time that someone for some reason had given me a whole pile of Hamm’s Beer coasters. I have no idea why. But they were fairly large about seven inches across and round and relatively thin. While the Hamm’s beer bear danced on one side of the coasters, the other side was empty so I decided to write on them. I guess you could call this my first ream of paper.
I started writing about two mysterious things from my own life: one was a path that someone had made with a jeep around the pond that I lived on, I always wondered about it. And the other was a piece of paper that appeared to be adoption papers that I had found while walking around my neighborhood. I took these two ideas and put them together. I didn’t get too far on this book, maybe a chapter or two, but it set the stage. It primed the pump. It did all those clichéd things that a start is supposed to do. And I remember the feeling of mastery and control I had in creating a world. A mysterious path around a pond and adoption papers—what could they mean? I’ve been stealing ideas from my own life ever since.
I think most writers have one story they keep telling over and over again. My basic story is about a girl/woman who is lost in the woods and has to survive by using what is around her—berries, nuts, the kindness of animals. It’s about getting lost and then finding yourself again. I think my whole Claire Watkins mystery series is about a woman who gets lost in her life and by moving to the country and finding a way to live, she also finds a home.