Guest Post from Becky Due
Becoming a Writer
I wrote, but I wasn’t serious about writing until the summer of 1995 when I sold my car, quit my job, and jumped on a greyhound bus with no idea where I was going. My life was a mess and I needed to find myself. I got off the bus to discover new places like Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, before I ended up in Moorhead City near Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. There I rented a small house (I think it may have been haunted), bought a typewriter and started writing my story, which became my first novel, The Gentlemen’s Club: A Story for All Women.
“No matter where you go, there you are,” kept ringing in my mind. I had heard the saying years earlier but it didn’t make sense until I was alone, sitting in that house, looking for the answers that were hidden deeply inside of me. While writing my book I got honest with myself, and wanted to face my problems the way Angie, my main character, was facing hers. I had to stop running, get strong and stand up for my life. So with the first draft of the manuscript in my hands, I got back on the bus and headed back to Minnesota.
Once back in Rochester, Minnesota, I returned to my old job at Dison’s Drycleaners. I rented a hotel room; I had to pay rent by the week and had to share the shower with others, but at least I had my own toilet and sink. I liked it. The place was perfect for a writer—old, rundown, lots of character and lots of characters living there; I was one of them. With my feet planted firmly on the ground, I focused on work and my writing.
My writing was giving me purpose and a deeper understanding about life. Feeling confident that I wouldn’t run from my life anymore, and being tired of paying for phone calls and eating out for most of my meals, I decided it was time to find a place to live and sign a year’s lease like normal people. I rented an apartment in an old building—another great writing place. I lived above a variety of always failing businesses—furniture store, hobby shop, record store—and the people in the store below controlled the thermostat for my apartment. When the store was empty, I had no heat. So during the winter, I’d pull a folding chair in front of the open oven door, sit down and write for hours.
Around that time, my mother was cleaning closets in her house and wanted to get rid of a lot of old school art projects, report cards and other keepsakes from my younger years. She packaged it all up and mailed it to me. As I sifted through the box, throwing most of it away, I came across an old test comparing students in the same class throughout the state. As I looked down the column of my x’s, it was clear I was average in everything. But I noticed one x that was further to the right, meaning above average. I curiously followed the x to see what it represented—written expression. I started crying and knew this was a sign that I was on the right path.
Never having had a father, I was taken in by a man who owned a small publishing company. Ray offered to help me but refused to publish my books, claiming I needed a bigger publisher. I took the bus or walked to his place almost every day after work all year long. I didn’t have a car, a warm coat or winter boots, but I’d trudge my way through the Minnesota seasons to his place to use his computer and to get his guidance. Ray disciplined me, motivated me, inspired me and encouraged me to be great, just the way I envisioned a real father would.
At night I’d leave his place and walk two blocks to catch the bus back to my cold apartment. If I was early, I’d step inside the gas station and grab a vanilla coffee from the machine before getting on the bus. Then high on caffeine, I’d write into the early morning hours.
I was writing constantly but publishing nothing, so Ray helped me send out about fifty query letters. Eight agents were interested in The Gentlemen’s Club until they read the manuscript. I was told that the story was good, but the manuscript needed some work. I couldn’t afford a professional editor, so my written books were put on hold and I continued writing.
In spite of this, my many rejection letters gave me a sense of accomplishment—at least I had tried. Every small step I took in my writing career was a step in the right direction, and one step closer to achieving my goals. So for two years, I lived a disciplined life of work, writing and living below my means. I went back to school and I started volunteering with Victim Services. I wanted to do better, and I wanted to be better.
When the hard work paid off and I had money in savings, I started looking for an editor and investigated independent publishing, which is basically starting your own publishing company. You put up all the money, do all the marketing, promotion, etc., and hope your book sells. The idea was exciting: Instead of going back through the long route of looking for an agent to look for a publisher, I started Due Publications, found amazing people to help me and the rest is history. I published The Gentlemen’s Club, Blue the Bird On Flying, Touchable Love, Returning Injury, The Dumpster and I’m working on my sixth book, and all of my books have either won or been finalists in several national independent competitions. I’ve made many mistakes; I’m still making them, but I love my career.