Writing With the Heart

 

Martha’s love of writing began when she was a child. She started a couple of novels when she was ten years old in the hope of following in the footsteps of her favorite childhood author, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Alas, Martha didn’t live the life of a pioneer, didn’t own a sunbonnet, and her family didn’t churn their own butter. Instead, Martha lived in the white bread world of suburban Dallas and thought her life to be entirely lacking in color and excitement. It took her awhile to realize that a person didn’t have to cross the prairie in a covered wagon to have something to say—that even white girls from suburbia have stories to tell.

Her longing to write found purchase when she began taking writing classes through Field’s End, a writers’ organization on Bainbridge Island. She then joined a critique group led by author Sheila Roberts and began writing Shame on Me, which, like most first novels, was a semi-autobiographical attempt at working out old issues. After four years of writing and revising, she began sending the manuscript to literary agents. Sadly, none of them were able to see her genius, and thirty-five rejections later she became convinced of her status as a no-talent hack. I know, I know. Cry me a river. She could have continued sending it out, but a voice inside her said, “You can do better. Keep learning.”

So she kept learning. She started three more novels only to give up each time she’d written 25,000 words. Ugh. After taking every community and continuing education writing class she could find, along with attending numerous writers’ conferences, Martha decided to take the next step. In 2012 she began working on her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts and found her tribe. She completed her degree in 2015. People will debate the merits of getting an MFA forever, but Martha considers the experience to be three of the best years of her life.

Martha is now busy doing final revisions on a young adult manuscript, Fight Like a Girl, and making plans for a new novel set in 1968.