Having spent all of my high school years in an all-girl environment, I couldn’t wait to get away to a coed college. A party school, no less. At that point, I hadn’t settled on what to do with my life. I was leaning toward commercial art, since it was one of my strengths.
The first semester of my freshman year I loaded up my schedule with all the requirements, while dodging the creative writing and English part. If it had been up to me, I would have gotten my degree without those courses. Fate wasn’t on my side, or so I thought. My counselor told me I had to take that stuff during my second semester.
I steeled myself for the worst and it came faster than I’d anticipated.
The very first paper in my creative writing course came back to me with no grade this time, but the same ominous ‘see me after class’ written across the bottom. Crap, I thought. Here we go again. So, I wasn’t Faulkner or Dickens. That didn’t mean I had to be raked over the coals every time I wrote something. By college, I’d developed a pretty thick skin so after class I wasn’t trembling as I’d been in high school. I was ready for a fight.
The TA who taught the course was probably four years older than I was and very sweet. She gave me this huge smile and said, “Your work’s good. Really good.”
I was floored. Down came my walls. My eyes welled with tears. “Really?” I asked.
She assured me she wasn’t lying, being cruel, kidding around, whatever. She told me that the piece had shown such promise at the beginning, filled with emotion and heart, but by the middle, it was as though I’d given up or was afraid to dig any deeper into my soul.
“Do it again,” she said, “don’t hold back. Bring it to me tomorrow and I’ll grade it then.”
I went back to my dorm and worked on that sucker for hours. I poured out my heart. The girl who sat next to me in class was really smug, telling me she was born to be a writer. She got a B. I got an A+. Every paper I submitted received increasing praise from my teacher.
I was thrilled, but not hopeful, not yet. Could be the TA was so sweet she felt sorry for me.
When sophomore year rolled around and the next creative writing class came up, I stalled again, not taking it until second semester. For our first paper, the teacher (a young guy this time) wanted something light and comical.
I was working part-time at a local bakery to supplement my tuition, so I wrote about that, calling the piece Alice in Bakeryland, a play on the Wonderland plot. I recalled what the TA had said about writing from the heart. I did. My newest teacher liked the piece so much, he read it to the other students. After class, he asked, “Have you ever thought of doing this for a living?”
Six years after my high school teacher had told me I’d never write anything but my own name, another teacher was saying I could make a living at it.
I was on my way…but it would be a long journey.
Tina Donahue is an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic romance, and an admitted chocoholic known to down semi-sweet candy bars in grocery checkout lines. She lives with her family in Palm Springs, California where tires melt in the 120-degree summer heat and an occasional earthquake puts everyone on notice to bolt things down. When she’s not writing her steamy stories, trying to stay cool, or crawling beneath her desk during a trembler, she loves shopping, eating at her favorite Mexican restaurant and meeting other authors. Before she wrote romance, Tina was the editor of an award-winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.