Like a lot of writers, my first and biggest “Ah-Ha!” moment occurred on the day I opened the envelope that contained my first acceptance letter and contracts for my first professionally-sold, professionally-accepted, professionally paid-for and –published short story. I stood there alone in the living room of my parents’ home (where I was still living at the time – don’t ask, it would only depress you), hands shaking as I re-read the acceptance letter from Alan Rodgers at Twilight Zone’s NIGHT CRY. Needed to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, that I hadn’t at last taken that swan dive off the deep end that lands one in the Twinkie Mobile on its way to the Cracker Factory. I hadn’t. After over one hundred submissions, I had made my first professional sale. I realized then that I wasn’t deluding myself; I was good enough that somebody was willing to pay me to publish my work. So I began jumping around there in my parents’ living room, hollering like an idiot and aching to tell someone my unbelievably spectacular, epoch-defining, life-changing news.
I was, of course, alone. And I could not remember anyone’s phone numbers to save my life. So I went out onto the front lawn and began hollering and dancing and singing and laughing and crying. Yes, the police were summoned; yes, a sobriety test was administered; yes, I passed it and the police left after I assured them this would not be repeated.
The actual “Ah-Ha!” moment came when I went back into the house and sat at the kitchen table, still clutching the letter and contracts. The epiphany was this: being a professional writer was going to get me in trouble, and I would be spending a lot of time celebrating alone, and – you know what? That was fine by me. Ah-ha! I was a writer.
And on the Newark, Ohio Police Department’s “People to Keep an Eye On’ list. I probably still am.
The moral of this story – I like stories with morals, don’t you? I think every story should have a moral, and the moral of this story is: write the story you want and do not for one second consider how others may view you and it; don’t worry that it’s going to get you into trouble, or that your mother or father or dear old gramma is going to look at you sideways, wondering how it was that the gene pool managed to spring a leak and produce something the likes of you; write for the most important, demanding, and unforgiving audience you will ever confront: yourself.