Some years ago, I finally pursued my dream to write a novel. Thanks to a friend who inspired me to enter a western fictional writing contest, I began a journey as demanding as a college degree. I wrote of Adelaide, a young Missouri woman who goes west, to see if she can teach. That was the catalyst, but not enough to drive the story. I exited this for a better plot.
Thus begins the journey of all writers. You start with the idea, then you throw it back on the potter’s wheel and reshape it. Many times. If it goes dry, you start with new clay.
This was unlike anything I’d experienced. As a Christian, I began to pay the Lord more honor and attention, seeking His counsel. I connected with people I never otherwise would have known. A wise writing contest judge advised me to take writing classes at Pima College since I was clueless how to stay in the correct Point of View! Embarrassing, but you have to start where you are. I stuplified myself be writing sixteen new chapters, based on those first recommendations of the writing contest judges.
Then I remembered their best advice and registered for a second level writing class, just in time. To my horror, I discovered the crux of the course was evaluating each other’s stories, so I would have to share mine! And accept their criticism and give them mine. I almost backpaddled. When it was my turn to receive input, I felt almost sick. However, the professor had set boundaries, to be honest but kind with our comments. And my colleagues were mostly merciful and marvelously insightful. It really is true that another set of eyes sees things you cannot. Letting others read your work is risky and painful. Without surgery, the injurious parts of a story get imbedded and ruins everything. Sometimes, compliments come–these are a soothing ointment. It’s also true that you become a better critic of your own work if you can critique others. I remember the night I felt outspoken enough to suggest to another student’s bar scene brawl that is was a bit too buffoonery and cliché how the protagonist knocked everyone out, and rode off into the sunset. My critique held some positive points, but was a long stream of fast words. When I finished, everyone burst out laughing, including the writer. Humor had won the day! And I wasn’t even trying to be funny!
I got the idea to read my story to my mother whose eyesight was failing. All along the way, I watched her face responding to all the ups and downs with Adelaide. Mom gave minor suggestions. She fell in love with the story. I will always have that memory of her face, how her lips would pucker, eyes twinkling as she raised her hand to her chin and held it there. We almost reached the last chapter! But on May 31, she took a fall, bled internally, got sepsis and died in the space of four days.
I went into shock. My writing evaporated; the faucet broke. I knew grief took awhile, but when I was still depressed three months later, I got help. I joined a Grief Share class at my church. This was so wonderful, I took a baby step.
I forced myself to take another writing class, knowing Mom would want me to finish my story.. Though it was mechanical, I somehow managed to write the chapter about Adelaide being in the morgue at St. Mary’s Hospital and how this affected her. The class thought it was tantalizingly gross and shocking and loved it. I was so surprised!
Three months later, and nearly nine months to the day of my mom’s death, the sky opened and I was able to write again, like a flowing river. Not unlike a baby, new life! Another friend recommended I hire the service of a professional publisher, and through Wheatmark of Tucson, I purchased the services of a successful New York editor. Putting her advice into action gave my story polish and refinery.
All this was worth the patience of Job, though it cost as much as a degree. A Western Rose was born and she lives today on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love my story. I love Adelaide Morgan and her family. Come meet them. I hope you find your go-to wish in the story.
Adelaide grows up in Independence, Missouri, not far from the boyhood home of Harry Truman with whom her brother plays. Blessed with parents who did not embrace every Victorian value, she learns banking from her father and is hired as a teller/secretary in 1889 at Stifel Bank. She finds bank work intriguing and is skillful but has to face a constituency of clients who scoff at women in any profession besides teaching. Determined to overcome societal rebuff, she must have courage or be defeated. Things improve until one day, she overhears her manager and assistant. Hiding in the back room, she listens further, and suspects they are embezzling the bank. If she stays silent, she’ll be accused. If she reports it, she’ll still be accused but probably vindicated. The men are arrested and the courts scenes are harrowing.
Dampened by scandal, Adelaide does something otherworldly. Hearing of the University of Arizona opening in 1891 to women, she goes west. To protect her identity in case the ruinous manager were to later search for her, she takes another name and chooses another profession. To help her asthmatic father, she considers some kind of medicine.
It was my delight to write a work of historic fiction. It was made public on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in February of 2020. Days after that, the pandemic virus arrived and spread widely through our land. Who could have known such a phenomenal horror could have greeted us in March that year?
Currently, I hope to possibly speak at libraries, and book clubs, to reach a wider audience with my story.
I’m now writing a sequel, likely to be titled A Summer Tanager. Adelaide and her fiancé Oliver continue to do life together, including their wedding in June 1893. Their adopted girls, from different races, encounter the consternation of many, forcing a consideration of how people are treated. Oliver is from Georgia, an entirely additional world. Because Addie has lost her maternal grandparents, she wants to meet his grandfather, Knoble Oliver Mason. But first, she must decide on her university work. The University of Arizona doesn’t offer upper-level classes in medicine. Will she attend The Women’s College in Philadelphia and if she does, where will she work next?