Friday, April 11, 2014

J Is For the Journey

(This was also posted on my personal blog as part of the A-Z Challenge. Hence, the strange title.)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker to a group of women at church. My topic was Following Your Dreams. As part of the speech, I was asked to share my journey to accomplishing my dream of becoming a published author. This is kind of what I said:

When I was a child, I had a plan for my future, I was going to be a ballet dancer in New York, an archaeologist, a famous actress, a marine biologist (translation: one of the people who got to swim with the whales at Sea World) and a mom. But of course I would mostly be an author. I loved books so much, there was no doubt that I would someday write some, and yet I didn’t. I was absolutely NOT one of those children who were constantly writing stories. Being a writer was always some future event. In fact, in college I didn’t even take an English course. My ACT scores were high enough that I didn’t need one and to tell you the truth, I was at college to play, not to take extra classes just because I was interested in the subject (oh silly Melanie. If only I could go back…)

I was in my last semester of my Master’s program at BYU when I realized what an opportunity I was wasting. There was a class on the course schedule called “Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy” and I realized that I needed to take that class, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with my degree in Special Education. So I signed up, blissfully unaware of how foolish I was being. It was a 400 level class, but I was in a master’s program, which somehow made me feel overqualified for any undergraduate class.
So here I am, with a full master’s degree course load, working on my thesis, with a full time job. Did I mention I was also engaged? Our wedding date was two days after the semester ended. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy was taught by the amazing Dave Wolverton, though years went by before I realized how cool that was.

My favorite part of the class was our textbook, a book full of short science fiction stories, including “It’s A Beautiful Day” by Isaac Asimov, which is still my favorite short story ever. My least favorite part of the class? Writing. I had no idea how to pull a plot together, how to assemble a cast of characters…And this class was not about how to write a story, it was about how to perfect a story, and how best to add fantastical elements to it. I was hopelessly out of my depth. And busy with my “real” school life, and my jobs. And addlepatedly in love with my fiancé. A few days before the end of the semester, I realized I was getting a C in my writing class. A C! As a master’s student, I could not get a C on my transcript. It would be dreadful.

So I met with Professor Wolverton. I explained my situation, in the hopes that he would give me an extra credit project or something. He was very nice. He said that he thought it was awesome that I had taken the time to take a class out of my program of studies, and that he had done the same thing as a student too. He agreed that a master’s student could not get a C on their transcript and promised to take care of it.
And he did. He gave me an A, no strings attached. When, years later, I found the Daily Kick In the Pants, and realized that my former teacher was an icon in the science fiction world, this little blip in my path to writing took on even more significance to me.

More to come...

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