- I was “Born Before 1945.” Born before penicillin, frozen foods, Xerox machines, and plastic. Born before television. I was 12 when we got a black and white TV.
- Born before credit cards, air conditioners, and drip-dry clothes–and before a man walked on the moon.
- Born before cell phones. I talked to my childhood friends on a two-party line.
- Born before people “came out of the closet.” When I was young, we stored shoes and clothes and board games in them.
- Born before daycare and group therapy. We made do with what we had.
- Born before tape decks, electric typewriters, and word processors. I used manual typewriters until I was in my twenties. In my childhood house in Salt Lake City, Utah, I wrote two Susan Benson mysteries patterned after Nancy Drew. I wrote them in longhand in pencil tablets then typed them on my mother’s old Underwood typewriter, wearing out more than a few ribbons.
I was born May 13, 1940 at St. Marks Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, a small modern city that was a desert when my Mormon ancestors crossed the plains in covered wagons in the mid 1800s, and made the “desert blossom” like a rose. Thousands of years earlier, the Salt Lake Valley was Lake Bonneville, a prehistoric lake you can read about on the Internet.
As soon as I could read, I wanted to write stories. I wanted to be a published author.
The Forties and Fifties was the golden age for fiction writers. Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, McCall’s, Collier’s, the weekly Saturday Evening Post, and Seventeen and Ingenue magazines published wonderful short stories. I still have in my files a yellowing collection of Redbook’s Famous Fiction.
I once sent a story to Ingenue. On the rejection slip, the editor, Myrna Blyth, wrote a handwritten comment. I was ecstatic, and kept writing. I was a senior in high school when I submitted a short story to a Seventeen magazine contest. My name appeared with several others who received special commendation.
As an undergraduate in college, I took every creative writing class that I could. My stories, essays, and poems were published in campus magazines. Some of them won awards.
As a graduate student in an MFA program, I wrote an autobiography for my thesis. I was forty-eight years old. I’m now seventy-one, and can see my life as a whole more clearly than I could then. “Emotion recollected in tranquility,” as the poet Wordsworth said. When I wrote the thesis, I thought I was “tranquil” enough to write about my past–about two troubled marriages and a catastrophic accident–but I wasn’t. However, I tried, and over twenty years later decided to take my not-so-well-written manuscript and revise it. I did, and queried a new start up publisher. With their editorial skills, WiDo Publishing helped me produce a book I feel good about.
A good story has characters and conflicts. Without conflict there is no story, which is as true for memoir as it is for fiction. “The happy childhood,” as the late Frank McCourt said, “isn’t worth your while.” Nor, I would add, is the happy life. Without opposition, how would we know what a happy life was?
In the twilight of my time on earth, the triumphs and tragedies of my life have led me to a genre I love: memoir.
It’s been a long journey, but I hope the end is at least several decades away.