Monday, August 31, 2009
KATHLEEN E. WOODIWISS INSPIRED ME TO WRITE
by Maria C. Ferrer My favorite teacher in fourth grade was Mr. Myers. He was my English teacher and every Friday he would give us twenty words that we’d have to use to write a story. I loved writing those stories. None of them ever survived my mother’s super cleaning sprees where everything-must-go and did, but I still remember a story of a little mouse playing dress up. But that is not when I wanted to be a writer. I always did well in English class. I loved reading different authors and discovering different genres, and I especially liked doing homework and writing essays on what I read and what I learned. But that too is not when I wanted to be a writer. I have always been a reader, but my appetite grew by leaps and bounds in high school when I discovered romance novels. Barbara Cartland was my first. I loved her romances. They were short and sweet, and there was always a prince and princess who fell in love. It was like fairy tales for adults. I loved them; devoured them; collected them. Unfortunately, they, too, did not survive my mother’s cleaning sprees. (I know --sacrilege!) I met Barbara Cartland once. She was the first romance author I ever met. She was so feisty and already in her 70s, but such a lady. She was wonderful. After her, I discovered Janet Dailey and Johanna Lindsey. Wow. I still have the original Janet Dailey Americana series (all 50 books!) and all the original Johanna Lindseys with Fabio on the cover. I finally found a good hiding place for them. And though I devoured these authors’ books, I still did not think of becoming a writer. I wanted to be a writer when I got to college and discovered Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. THE WOLF AND THE DOVE made me want to be a writer. The history. The Romeo and Juliet plot. The lover’s triangle. Love, betrayal, hatred, revenge. I must have read that book five times that first year, and at least once a year for almost 15 years. I kid you not. I love that book. And I loved her other books as well--THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, SHANA, and A ROSE IN WINTER. It was the ending of THE WOLF AND THE DOVE that awoke in me the desire to be a writer. Oh, Aislinn and Wulfgar defeated the villain, found their kidnapped son and united the Normans and the Saxons in the area. All was right with their world, but Wulfgar had killed a Knight and the William the Conquer was not pleased. I wanted more from those characters and there wasn’t any. So what is a girl to do?! She writes her own continuation and that's just what I did. Wulfgar got a steep fine and was drafted to help tame the other Saxons in the area. He and Aislinn went on to have four more children and the King was a frequent visitor to their home. Hence, began my writing “career.” Soon I was expanding endings left and right. And then one day, I was creating my own stories with my own plots. Writing was intoxicating, challenging, frustrating and wonderful. Thanks to Kathleen Woodiwiss, I had discovered writing, or I should say I had discovered that I wanted to write my own stories. So I wrote. And slowly I learned the craft. Soon after, I found RWA National and then the New York City Chapter, where I learned about the romance genre and the business of writing. I’ve sold a couple of short stories but I am still waiting to sell a book. I have something like 14 unfinished manuscripts in a bottomless drawer and I have two NaNoWriMo “winners” that desperately need editing. I met Kathleen Woodiwiss once at a NJRW conference, and I mentioned to her how she inspired me to write. She was so humble, so lovely. She encouraged me to continue writing, and told be not to be afraid to let my characters have their way. I took her advice to heart and have continued writing away. One day I dreamed of sending Kathleen one of my own published books to thank her for her inspiration and advice. Unfortunately, that day will never come as Kathleen passed away last year. But though, she is gone, her works live on. They continue to inspire and to encourage. And thanks to her, I still find writing to be intoxicating and challenging and frustrating and wonderful. ♥ The Romance Writers of America / New York City Chapter will award Kathleen E. Woodiwiss the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously. Please join us on Thursday, September 17, for the Golden Apple Awards. For more information and a full list of the 2009 Honorees, please visit http://www.rwanyc.com/. For more information on Kathleen Woodiwiss, please visit her website on http://www.kathleenwoodiwiss.com/.