Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How I Became a Writer

Please welcome, Gloria Alden, my Wednesday guest blogger. Gloria writes the Catherine Jewell Mystery series: The Blue Rose, Daylilies for Emily’s Garden, Ladies of the Garden Club. The Body in the Goldenrod, as well as a middle-grade book, The Sherlock Holmes Detective Club. Her published short stories include “Cheating on Your Wife Can Get You Killed” winner of the Love is Murder contest, “Mincemeat is for Murder” andThe Body in the Red Silk Dressin Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, “The Professor’s Books” in Fish Tales, “The Lure of the Rainbow in Fish Nets, “Once Upon a Gnome” in Strangely Funny and “Norman’s Skeleton’s” in All Hallows Evil. She lives on a small farm in NE Ohio with assorted critters: her collie, Maggie, two house cats, a canary, two old African ring-necked doves, two ponies, and six rather old hens, plus one loud guinea fowl. She blogs with Writers Who Kill on Thursdays. Website:

 I am a writer. I write poetry and mysteries. Although I’ve been writing for over thirty years – not counting my teen years – I only started calling myself a writer when my first story. “The Professor’s Books, was published in the first Guppy Anthology, Fish Tales. Before that I labeled myself wife, mother, Girl Scout leader, teacher, etc., but not a writer.

The first time I had something published was the year I started college as a non-traditional student. My first English professor encouraged me to submit an essay I’d written in class to the ICON, a twice-a-year Trumbull Campus literary magazine of Kent State University. It was an emotional piece, “Saying Good-bye,” about the death of John, my eighteen-year-old son, from cancer the year before. I received many positive comments about it which encouraged me to start submitting poetry.

From then until I graduated, I had at least one if not more poems in each issue of ICON, and I won The Virginia Perryman award for freshman writers covering all of KSU for a short story I entered, but I still did not call myself a writer.

When I entered college as an older student, I was unsure how I’d do. It had been twenty-five years since I’d graduated from high school. However, I thrived. I loved the academic world and was that eager student at the front of the class. Well, maybe not so much in the math and physics classes I took. After that first semester, I always took extra classes, and almost all of them were literature, poetry or writing classes. I was that odd student who loved writing; term papers, poetry, research papers, whatever. Even though my professors liked what I wrote, it didn’t necessarily mean I was a writer.

When I graduated, I became a third-grade teacher. I loved it but missed the academic life so I went on to get a Masters. Fortunately at that time, I was able to get it in English and didn’t have to pursue something relating to elementary education. Again I was in my element; reading, researching and writing. I’m still not sure how I did it because as a teacher, I always went above and beyond what was necessary. It was probably on very little sleep. In those years I was a teacher, and that was the only way I saw myself, not as a writer.

Sometime after I got my Masters, I started my first book, a cozy mystery with a gardening theme since gardening is one of my other passions. I’d planned to write a mystery for some years, but I procrastinated, until my sister, Elaine, came up with the idea that together we should write a book. We worked on it as a team in the beginning. However, since we don’t live near each other, before more than a few chapters were written, I took over the writing. It took several years, but I finished The Blue Rose. But since it wasn’t published, I still didn’t consider myself a writer, only a wanna-be.

Off and on for the next ten years or so, I sent out query letters, and with each rejection, I’d stop sending out query letters for several months or longer before starting up again. But I didn’t stop writing. I finished a second book in the series, Daylilies for Emily’s Garden, a middle-grade mystery, The Sherlock Holmes Detective Club, and went on to write two more books in my Catherine Jewell Mystery Series: Ladies of the Garden Club and The Body in the Goldenrod. I’m now working on my fifth in this series, Murder in the Corn Maze, and have lots of ideas for more books.

Those small successes of having short stories accepted encouraged me finally to self-publish that first book. I felt even more like a real writer at the launch of The Blue Rose when I sold and signed copies. Being asked to join the Writers Who Kill blog several years ago was also a validation that I was a writer.

Many people think about becoming writers without pursuing it. We’ve all heard people say “I could write a book if . . .” and then come the excuses. I think many writers need some catalyst to actually get them started down that path. For me, it was the death of my oldest son. Only those who have lost a child can understand the pain. Over the years I’ve written well over thirty poems for John. I plan on putting them together with a few essays I’ve written into a book. There are several ways to deal with that kind of death; one is to spend your whole live grieving and another that I chose: to do something positive that makes a difference not only in my life, but others. I chose to become a teacher, and it was one of the best choices I could have made to help the healing. The writing just kind of worked its way into my healing process. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think of him often, but I’m content and happy in my life as a writer.





Gloria Alden said...

Thank you for having me here, Judy.

Gloria Alden said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kait said...

What a marvelous story. Both as a tribute to your son and as validation for those of us in second (and third) careers. I used to have a saying on my wall attributed to Agatha Christie. It had something along the lines of being a professional because she wrote even when the ideas would not come. For my own journey, I knew I was a writer my entire life, but I never thought anyone else knew it until I sold that first story. And because I sit at my desk when ideas will not come.

I owe you a thank you by the way. Something you said a few years ago started me on keeping a garden journal. It brings me happiness to compare the year to year. So, Thank you.

KM Rockwood said...

I love the way you approach life (including the mourning process) by embracing what comes along and using your talents and strength to move forward.

You Catherine Jewell mysteries are a treat. I have read them all!

Gloria Alden said...

Kait, thank you for stopping by. My first career was working in a small office doing everything including washing dishes in the break room.That was before my first child was born.I

It wasn't until my story was accepted for the first Guppy anthology and I saw it in print that I felt I could tell people I was a writer.

As for the garden journal, I regret to tell you that after the horrible, no good, very bad summer I had last year with too much rain and too many weeds, I included my gardening thoughts and comments in with my regular daily journal. However, someone in some blog or other suggested keeping a writing journal, so now I keep a small one for that, too, although the entries are quite short."Wrote chapter 23 today. Sent for review." etc.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you, KM. I love your Jesse Damon series, too.

The only option I had was to make life miserable for everyone around me including my other kids who were grieving in their own ways, or get on with my life. Some people seem never able to get over the bad things that happen in their lives whether it's the death of a loved one or a divorce. I chose not to bury myself in grief. John wouldn't have wanted that nor would anyone else who loved me want that.

Marilyn Levinson said...


What a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading about your journey to become a full-fledged author. I was touched to learn that writing is your tribute to your son's memory. I believe our passions and experiences impact our novels as gardening certainly plays an important role in your mysteries.

Gloria Alden said...

Marilyn, I think that is why as we age we become better writers because of the more life experiences we have. I think everything in our life in some ways shows up in our writing whether obviously or as an undercurrent. My main character, Catherine Jewell, lost her only child as a twelve year old and her husband at the same time in a car accident. The books start ten years after this happened, but I can write realistically about her grief and healing because I've lived it.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you, Marilyn. I believe that as we age and have more life experiences it makes our work richer because we have more understanding of people in general, and ourselves, hopefully, too.

Judy Alter said...

Oh, Gloria, I think it's so true that as we age we have more understanding--and we become kinder, gentler people. I wish I knew thirty years ago what I understand now. And I don't think I've ever been happier in my life.

E. B. Davis said...

Your writing may have started as a way of dealing with and healing from John's death, Gloria. But it has evolved into a life of its own. We're so glad. Your stories have wonderful characters that validate the goodness of life.