How I found the snow path to Dingle

KillarneyART162687I feel it is a great honor when readers share with me that they read my book, Sharavogue, and then describe the parts that affected them most. In a few cases it has actually sent a chill up my spine because, well, it is every writer’s dream that her writing will be enjoyed and will actually touch someone. In that sense, it is really a dream come true.

People ask all sorts of questions, but several have told me they’d be interested in learning about my writing process. I’m flattered, and a little embarrassed. I’ve been less than methodical in my research, so probably not a good model. But, everyone has their story, right? So in honor of my new friend Joan Butler, today I’m starting a series of posts about just that. I’m expecting it to be about 10 or 12 posts, and will gladly take questions from readers to cover a specific topic.

This being first in the series, I’m starting at the beginning — how I got started writing this book in the first place. So hold on to your jammies, here goes. We’re going back. Way back:

I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. Alone in my bedroom, maybe 10 years old, I wrote little stories about dogs and squirrels and gave them to my mother to read (top secret, of course, because if my sisters had known about them they’d have teased me relentlessly). And Mother in Heaven forgive me, once I even had a story about a swan on a lake. (I know, it’s been done…) My poor mother had to come listen to it accompanied by me on my ukelele (I thought the instrument was cute and had to have it, but never actually learned how to play it…). My father always called me “the dreamer.” Little did he know.

In grade school and then college I continued my dreams. I dabbled in English, and then Education, until my roommate finally convinced me: If you want to write, study journalism! I did and have never regretted it, but in a way it distracted me from those stories. And my career drifted even further, from journalism to corporate communications, until I believed my stories were gone for good.

The last time I saw my father alive was in the fall of 1996. By then I was married and living in Seattle. I was visiting him in Florida. He took me to lunch and asked, “When are you going to start writing again?” I don’t think he knew about the squirrel stories, but had always been proud of the newspaper ones. I shrugged and said I didn’t know if I could write anymore. My writing was all bureaucratic now.

He said, quite simply, “You’ll write when you’re ready.”

We lost him in March of the following year. It was almost exactly a year after his death that I was awakened from a deep sleep, as sure as if someone had shaken me, and a phrase was in my head: A snow path to Dingle. A snow path to Dingle — a phrase so strong and nonsensical, it had to come from somewhere, for some reason, and it refused to leave. Hardly having any choice, I resolved to do some research to discover its meaning.

And, because I already loved historical fiction, and had twice visited Dingle in the west of Ireland to explore our family’s Irish heritage, I felt I had a basic foundation and a clear place to start. And so I was off…on a real adventure.

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