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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/.

16 comments:

  1. I think that many romance devotees began their reading - after Georgette Heyer and some of the Gothics of the likes of Phyllis K. Whitney - with Ms. Woodiwiss. Her sweeping historicals had a sense of grittiness and an epic-like quality that truly swept you away. Heroes and heroines and and stories that were larger than life and equally romantic. The Wolf and the Dove was my absolute favorite. Romance fiction has changed a lot, and some folks turn up their nose at the forced seduction/rape that existed in her books. But without Kathleen's ground-breaking books, where would we be today? I'm sure that she cheered all the changes that romance has been through, and all of the genres that continue to grow, merge and meld - satisfying every romance reader's taste. And for the "younger" generation of romance writers who may not have read any of her "canon", you can't know how we got here until you know where we started.

    Thanks for a beautiful blog, Maria. About the joys of writing, and your love of romance, and your enjoyment in those great, grand, romantic books.

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  2. I got hooked on romance with the Bronte sisters, but it was not until Shanna by Woodiwiss that I finally knew what I wanted to write - romance.

    THE WOLF AND THE DOVE is my all time favorite book that I've read and reread more times than I can count. Thank you for this wonderful post and honoring such a great lady.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this and am glad to have been pointed this way. It has been years since I read any KW books, but your blog makes me want to go back and reread some I did read long ago!

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  4. What first inspired me to be a writer back in my teen years were the science fiction novels of Ursula LeGuin. I loved and still do love sci-fi and always had a bit of the geek in me. Her characters were so well-developed and real to me and I wanted to write books just like her.

    It was years later that I discovered romance. I read many romance authors that I loved, but the one who inspired me the most was the late Dawn Thompson. I even took a workshop from her about a year before she died. I have several of her books and will keep them forever.

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  5. Thank you for stopping by my first blog post. Kathleen Woodiwiss was a pioneer of historical romances, and her books inspired many. I’m glad you can relate. THE WOLF AND THE DOVE and SHANA seem to be running neck and neck among the favorites. If you re-read any of her books, please do come back and let me know what you think of them “today”. And if you are in NYC on September 17, do consider attending RWA/NYC Golden Apple Awards where Kathleen Woodiwiss will be presented with the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award. I believe her editor will be accepting for her family. Thanks, again.

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  6. Maria, what a great post! I'm ashamed to say I've never read KW (don't smack me!), but I know I MUST!

    Julia Quinn was actually the reason I started writing. I had never even heard of the Regency and certainly didn't read romance, which seems silly to me now! LOL! I picked a JQ book up on whim and ended up devouring the entire Bridgerton series in a month. And that was it...I knew that's what I wanted to do with my life :)

    Thanks for a great post that reminds us all of why we started writing in the first place :)

    -Jerrica

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  7. A lovely post, Maria. Dare I confess that I've never read The Wolf and the Dove? Well, you've certainly inspired me to add it to my exceedingly long "to-be-read" list. Your personal journey to becoming a writer is insightful. Kathleen W. may not be able to celebrate your first published book with you, but the rest of us will!
    Lis

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  8. Hi, Maria, I think I may have met you a long time ago. Loved your blog. I too loved Kathleen Woodiwiss. My favorite book of hers is Shanna. It occupies a special place on my bookcase. The author who inspired me to write was a YA author whose books I devoured when I was a teen. Her name was Elizabeth Howard. She wrote YA romances. A few years ago, I tracked down my favorite book of hers and bought it used. I even wrote to her when I was a teen. I told her I wanted to be an author but I didn't have a typewriter (that was well ahead of computers). She wrote back that I didn't need a typewriter to write. So I started writing my first novel in longhand. I didn't get too far. Good luck with your own writing.

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  9. Great post, Maria. I think as writers we all have that one book that inspired us to write. For me it was the Diary of Anne Frank. And to think you were lucky enough to meet her.

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  10. I love reading blogs and yours is great. I, too, was a big Janet Dailey fan. How cool that you have all fifty of her first books. Do you ever go back and read them? The one that sticks in my mind is the two sisters (or were they cousins) who looked alike and switched places to fool a fiance.

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  11. It's lovely to read about other inspiring authors. And now I have new authors to discover: Ursula LeGuin, Dawn Thompson and Elizabeth Howard. Thanks for the recommendations, Ladies.

    Jerrica-- I too love Julia Quinn's Regencies. There is just something about a Regency. I have a plot in mind for one but have never fleshed it out. Will have to.

    Carolyn M-- I also writing in long hand. Sometimes a computer --even a netbook -- is not available and paper and pen work just fine. I love a new blank notebook. They are a vice.

    Shirley-- I still do re-read by Janet Daileys. I met her and Johanna Lindsey in Hawaii of all places. I don't remember the twins though. Guess it's time for another read.

    Happy Fall, everyone. And, Happy Writing!

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  12. Awesome post Maria. Honestly, I never read a Kathleen Woodiwiss novel. One of the first novels I read was Valley of The Dolls by Jacqueline Suzanne. But my biggest inspiration came from Jackie Collins. My first novel I wrote out long hand and typed it out on a manual typewriter and I still have that original manuscript.

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  13. Karen--I've read Jackie Collins, but never Jacqueline Suzanne. That's another author to add to my to-read list. Do add Kathleen Woodiwiss to yours. Happy Reading!

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  14. For me it was the Bronte sisters, then when I was about 13, I wandered into the adult section of the library I picked up a number of Harlequin novels. I couldn't even tell you who the authors were back then. The first author I read that made me say, "I want to write stories like her" was LaVyrle Spencer. She made me cry, laugh, etc. like not one else.

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  15. Maria, I finally figured out my glitch on Blogger, so albeit late I just wanted to say your post made me ecstatic and almost cry I loved Kathleen Woodiwiss so much! My mom was a reader and I inherited all of her books and she would tell me how the story went beforehand. The Wolf and The Dove is one of my favorites as well.

    I am not surprised she inspired you too...

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  16. As a teenager I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss
    and became enthralled and addicted to her writing. With me when I read I visualize the story in my mind and it plays out like a movie on a screen. My life is crazy going back to school and working so I found myself wandering into the local library and found myself looking in her section, I admit I have read each and every book she wrote but found the library didn't have her whole collection so I asked for help on their computer system and it showed me a book I had never read and I was so excited that they could order it for me. They called this morning to say that it was there. I couldn't wait to finish my day and open my new gift. I believe that books are gifts and opening them is the very best part and then passing them on to others is the reward. I rushed home and opened the cover and read the dedication and the back part about the author, my mind couldn't wrap around what I was reading, my very favorite writer, yes I adore and love many other authors but Ms. Woodiwiss has a special place no other will ever have. They spoke of her in the past tense and I thought no, she couldn't be, it's not possible
    that she is gone and I went to her wed site only to realize that she is gone from here but she will never truly be gone. Having in my possession her lastest (to me anyways) book and knowing now that she is gone, this is a treasure I will cherish. "Ms. Woodiwiss, you had me at the The Flame and the Flower and I will always keep you with me in my mind and heart. Thank you for all the afternoons and late nights that your writingtook me places and gave me something that cannot be bought, touched or seen. They can only be felt. I never had the pleasure to meet her but I feel I knew her because of her writing and the connection between author and reader. The posts were great by all of you, thank you for helping to share the loss of someone we all loved and respected. Everlasting is waiting for me, so I can begin my journey back into the World of Woodiwiss. May you all enjoy your journeys in the written world as much as i do and will continue to do so...Carmen Jean

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