My Journey to Becoming a Writer by A. Y. Stratton

August 8 2014


During the summer between eight grade and high school, my mother encouraged me to read Gone With the Wind.  She said it was a classic, adding that she hoped I wasn’t too young to understand it. (Of course that comment made me eager to read it!)

Not counting Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, that was my first grownup romance. During that especially sweltering summer I remember lying in bed in my tiny bedroom with the windows open, hoping for a bit of a breeze on those hot nights, and going crazy waiting for Scarlett O’Hara to finally admit her love for Rhett (sigh) Butler.

Did I love the story? Yes! Did I read even after my mother told me to turn off the light? Yes! Did I think I would ever complete a book with so many pages? (I think it was 1066 pages.) No!

What compelled me to keep slogging along through misunderstandings, grueling Civil War battle scenes, death and destruction to find out the rest of the story?

The romance, of course! I was desperate to discover how they would finally declare their love and live happily ever after. And, boy, was I ever disappointed with the ending!  How could an author create such a compelling story with such vivid characters set in such a dramatic moment in history and not give me a happy ending? After I finished the book, I stayed awake rewriting the ending in my head.

That was the moment that I wished I could write stories that ended the right way, with characters that didn’t lie or cheat on each other. That was the night I began making up stories.

I didn’t write romance stories right away. I preferred Nancy Drew, my mother’s World War II adventure books, and the mystery magazines my father left on the coffee table in the living room. At almost fourteen, my goal was to be the next Agatha Christie.

After college (where I majored in English), I wrote a batch of short mysteries and then longer ones.  I enjoyed bumping off bad guys.  I found two critique partners and learned a lot. I also learned that getting rejections from agents and publishers is NO FUN!

Hoping to connect with other authors to critique my work, I hit the jackpot when Vickie Hinshaw suggested I meet her at a Milwaukee writers’ group, (part of WisRWA). The following year, I attended a WisRWA conference, and sitting next to me at breakfast was one of the women who started The Wild Rose Press. She asked me what I wrote and then suggested I should send her a few chapters. I did. And voila! My dream came true.