Today's guest blogger is Kat Heckenbach. Kat is a dear friend and a talented writer. I could go on and on because, frankly, I adore her, but if I get started I won't shut up and this post is supposed to be about her writing journey. It's my pleasure to feature links to her work, and share her inspiring story.
If you asked anyone who knew me at any time from elementary school through my senior year of high school, they would have said I'd become an artist someday. I doubt there is a single person who would have guessed otherwise. I drew constantly and thought of nothing else as a possible future career. Aced the AP Art exam. Envisioned myself with my works in galleries across the country...
Yes, I was an avid reader, and a total lover of words, but I hated writing assignments as much as the next student. I certainly never aspired to become a writer.
Not exactly, anyway.
There were those times I sat on my bed during high school, with a legal pad and pen in hand, desperately wishing I could see my name on the spine of a novel just like V.C. Andrews, Madeline L'Engle, or Piers Anthony. But a pile of crumpled paper and a few tears later, and those moments became memories that I locked away.
There were also the fourteen-page notes I wrote to friends on a regular basis. But notes are different...
And despite my hatred for timed essays, I always got A's on them. But that's school, and an essay about Wuthering Heights is a totally different animal than creating a whole new world.
Move forward twenty years. I've graduated high school, graduated college (with a B.S. in Biology of all things), stopped drawing pretty much altogether (replaced it with painting and scrapbooking), found my niche as a math teacher (yep, I actually enjoy solving quadratic equations), and then quit that job to homeschool my kids.
So, where does an artistic, math-loving, science-geek go from here? Bring in Harry Potter and you've got your answer.
The seventh Harry Potter book and the fifth movie were released the weekend of my 37th birthday. I had counted down the days and read the first six books again in anticipation of number seven. I watched the first four movies over and over until I nearly had them memorized. All I could think was that I wanted more than anything to create a world that people wished could be real the way they wished Hogwarts could be real. The way I wished it all could be real.
Memories suddenly flooded me. Not just the legal pad and pages of notes, but years of pretending there was a secret passage in my closet that led to an enchanted forest (a.k.a. my back yard). Years of watching Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie and wishing I was the magic one among the mortals. Years of reading books and losing myself in them, just as I had lost myself in Harry Potter.
The problem was, I didn't know what to do with the memories or all the wishes. I sulked a bit, and finally talked to my husband about it.
He said, "I've told you before--if you want to write a book I'll be supportive."
"What are you talking about? I never said that!"
He shook his head and gave me that look that says tsk, tsk. "Yes, you did. You said it just now."
I jumped in the car and drove to the place I always went when I wanted time alone, when I needed to think...Barnes and Noble (missed clue number 4,327. Duh.)
This time when I pulled out the legal pad (ok, laptop) I had the life experience to draw from, and the words began to flow. Characters appeared in my head, and they said and did things almost of their own accord. In three months I had what Anne Lammot calls, in slightly different terminology, a crappy first draft. But I'd done it--I'd written a book! A year later, the manuscript had been edited by several friends who are avid readers and some writers themselves, and my best friend came up with the title Finding Angel. I revised, and revised, and revised again. I also attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference and got my butt into a critique group. I'm currently shopping for an agent and/or publisher and working on book number two, Seeking Unseen, a sequal to Finding Angel.
In the two years since I decided to start writing, I've also sold nearly a dozen personal essays and had a couple of short fiction pieces published online:
"Eyes on the Hilltop" can be found in Christian Fiction Online Magazine at http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/EyesOnTheHilltop.html
My horror/allegory "Willing Blood" which won the Editor's Choice Award in The Absent Willow Review can be found at http://absentwillowreview.com/archives/willing-blood).
"Sparrows" is featured in the current issue of Einstein's Pocket Watch at http://peafant.wordpress.com/sparrows-by-kat-heckenbach/
More of my fiction pieces are forthcoming in Mindflights ("The Artist"--a fantasy based on Finding Angel, date TBA)
A complete listing of all my published and soon to be published work, as well as the first chapter of Finding Angel, can be found at my website, www.findingangel.com.
Kat, I know this is your post, but I'd like to add one more link from one of your favorite readers, my daughter Lexi. Lexi has a photo published in Cafe Del Soul this month, and as her mother I have to brag. http://cafe.cynicmag.com/default.asp?articleid=2995&crpg=1#bkmark2995 I'd also like to say that, Finding Angel, Kat's book, is one of Lexi's favorites.