I first knew I wanted to be a writer when my 8th grade social science teacher, Glen Russell, announced that anyone caught chewing gum in his class would have to write a thousand word essay. I very much wanted to write that essay, so I did not chew stealthily. I chomped Doublemint, and it delivered more than double the fun. Once caught and sentenced, I researched and wrote-long before the days of internet help. I wrote in longhand in the same manner our Declaration of Independence, the constitution and the Magna Carta were written-though I did have ball points instead of quills.
Mr. Russell gave the paper to the principal George Leckrone, who phoned my mother. She was a single mom who worked six days a week and used the entire village of Deckerville, Michigan (population eight hundred) to help raise my brother and me. Mom went to Deckerville Community Schools and read the essay. "No," she assured Mr. Leckrone, she did not ghost write it. (Nor did she know I had chewed gum in class. She ran a tight ship.) Post-Mom, Mr. Russell announced that for the rest of the year, my class could chew gum. This was like the Pulitzer on my first attempt. I was hooked.
I did not immediately start working on a Nobel Prize. It took a few more decades before I submitted anything for publication. Meanwhile, I earned a B.A. and an M.A. in English language and literature at the University of Michigan. During those years I married and taught in Michigan Schools for four and a half years. Then I joined the Peace Corps, spent nearly four months in Puerto Rico learning Spanish, and taught in a teacher training program in Honduras. I returned home to get a divorce and then worked as a flight attendant for American Airlines. John Martin, a scientist I had met back in Puerto Rico during my Peace Corps training months, continued his lengthy and colorful campaign of getting me to marry him. He moved to Chicago to devote a summer to that goal. Afterwards, he moved to California where he had accepted a professorship at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station.
Ultimately, I joined him in California where he ultimately became the director of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. I taught for a couple of years at Pacific Grove High, took a leave for the birth of my elder son, Ian, then began my forty-one year teaching career at Monterey Peninsula Collage. My second son, Andrew, was born three years later-in the middle of the semester.
All of this was fodder for writing, but I made no attempt to publish until a sea otter pup washed up on a local beach and was rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was then located in a small shack near Cannery Row. I wrote about the pup and was paid by the Monterey Herald, our daily paper on the Monterey Peninsula. Locals saw my story and praised me. I recognized the feeling of pride from my Doublemint days. So, I wrote more articles and branched out to many other publications. I wrote about travel and plants and interesting people and a day at San Quentin with a doctor friend. I wrote about whatever caught my fancy. I broadened my publishing horizons to The Los Angeles Times and The Christian Science Monitor - and dozens more publications. I developed strong beliefs about the teaching of composition, so I wrote three college composition textbooks, one for Harper Collins and two for McGraw-Hill, the second co-authored with a treasured friend and colleague.
Along the way, I started a thriller novel involving ocean science and a kidnapping. My husband John came up with witty ideas. This was a fun new writing vehicle for me. After John died of cancer, I put the novel away for many years. I saw my sons through college. I taught and traveled. I was awarded two Fulbrights and four National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.
In my teaching career, I served as English Department Chair, Teachers' Association president and Academic Senate president. I was on the college negotiation team for a quart of a century. After John died, I maintained my involvement with the marine laboratory John had directed. I spoke in ballrooms filled with scientists who were honoring John. (There is a NASA webpage about his science. Google "John Martin NASA.")
From time to time, I examined that thriller manuscript. Some of the best ideas were John’s. At last, I tackled it agin. I wrote and rewrote. Now it is as completed as a work of writing ever is, and I am about to look for an agent and an audience.
I am well into a second novel, The Widow and the Lab Rat, this time a satiric frolic with a protagonist who is left as a young widow and plunges into the dating world.