I have always wanted to be a writer.
When I was in first grade, I wrote a two-line poem, probably something that rhymed ‘cat’ with ‘rat’ and showed it to my teacher, Miss Corvo. She liked it and used it for the class writing exercise. My friend Patty decided we would both be poets when we grew up.
Miss Skirm, my fourth grade teacher, encouraged me to write stories. I’d written one called “My Two Dollar Bargain” in which I bought the White House from a discouraged President Kennedy for $2. The story delighted Miss Skirm and she published it in the school’s newspaper.
I decided to write a series of science fiction stories in fifth grade, featuring “The Unearthly Cry.” Whenever tragedy was about to strike, The Unearthly Cry came to the rescue by making such an earthshattering noise the tragedy was averted. When I tried to write one about The Unearthly Cry saving astronauts, I realized I didn’t know enough about astronauts, rockets and the space program to write a story that was believable. I put those stories aside, realizing I needed to learn as much as I could about almost everything to be able to write credibly.
I submitted my first article to a national magazine, The Reader’s Digest, when I was in sixth grade. The Reader’s Digest was a staple in our house and I noticed that it called for articles on “unforgettable characters.” I was heart-broken when my parents decided we could no longer keep my beloved puppy, Greta, and gave her away, so I decided to memorialize Greta in an article, telling why she was “unforgettable.”
After I wrote a draft, I secretly typed it on an old Royal portable typewriter. Hunting and pecking at the typewriter keys, I made plenty of mistakes, which I tried to correct with a terrible eraser that smudged the ink when it didn’t work and rubbed clear through the paper when it did. When I finished, I thought I’d written an article no editor could resist. I sneaked some stamps and an envelope and mailed it off. Every month, for at least a year, I grabbed the Digest and scanned the table of contents to see if the article had been published.
I continued to write stories and poems and had my first publication in a national magazine, Men’s True, when I was 15. The magazine had a page for reader’s anecdotes, so I took a story I’d heard my aunt tell and rewrote it from a man’s point of view. They paid $100 and I thought I was rich!
Through college and graduate school, I continued to write. A few poems appeared in some journals, now defunct. I started to work towards a Ph.D in English at Bryn Mawr College, and wrote my Master’s thesis on Wallace Stevens, a poet who was also an attorney.
By the time I graduated from Bryn Mawr, I was a single mom and needed income. The law was still a relatively new profession for women, and used all the writing skills I developed. During my years in law school and for at least the first ten years in my legal career, all of my time was devoted to learning and honing my legal skills. When I wrote, it was about the law, but the writing never ceased. In law school, I worked with an emergency physician/attorney and wrote newsletters for emergency physicians, nurses and EMTs discussing cases relevant to emergency medicine. When I began working, I wrote legal briefs on behalf of various State agencies, advocating the State’s position before the State’s Appellate Division.
As I became more established in my career, I began to take workshops and classes and to write children’s stories and poetry. With a full-time busy career, writing was part-time. Now that I am retired from the law, writing, my first love, is my full time career.
Being a lawyer was a wonderful career. I had the opportunity to work closely with many New Jersey State Troopers (a fine and noble group of people), argue before the New Jersey Supreme Court on several occasions, do many jury trials, provide counsel to the State’s juvenile detention system, investigate sexual harassment and work-place discrimination. I have been inside every prison and juvenile detention center in New Jersey, but only as a visitor! New Jersey has 21 counties and I have been in every county court house, except one.