Oh, Happy Day!
When I look back on my life, it's still wondrous to me how three people are responsible for me being a writer.
First, there was Joann Ragsdale, my high school English teacher. At the end of my sophomore year, she took me aside and asked me if I'd like to take her journalism class next year. I asked her (no kidding, I did!), "What's journalism?" She told me we would study newspapers, magazines, and the yearbook. She mentioned that a couple of my best friends were going to be in the class and that's what sold me. I signed up.
That nudge from my English teacher set me on a career path that has been a pleasure and infinitely interesting. I fell in love with journalism and opted to be part of the newspaper staff in my senior year. Journalism was my major in college and earned me a scholarship or two. My first jobs when I graduated were working for newspapers and I've always been extremely proud of that noble and necessary profession.
While on assignment for the Tulsa World, I covered the state women's conference that would result in the selection of delegates who would attend the historic women's conference in Houston in 1977. At the state conference, church buses packed with women and a few men marched in. During the vote for delegates and the planks of our platform, the church bus men sat at the end of rows and wore white gloves. They raised those gloved hands during the voting and the church bus women watched for those gloves and dutifully raised their hands, too. Thus, Oklahoma adopted a strictly conservative platform that was against the Equal Rights Amendment and women's reproductive rights.
I also was sent to report on the national convention where Phyllis Schlafly and other anti-feminists (along with Oklahoma's) moved the Republican Party to the right more forcibly and managed to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. It was an eye-opening experience and I didn't know what to make of it.
Slack-jawed along with me were two women who were having trouble getting into meetings because their "press credentials" weren't legitimate. I eavesdropped and decided to help them. I told the door monitor that they were with me and they were allowed in. We struck up a friendship.
These two women -- Peggy Fielding and Mary Alexander -- had a huge impact on me and my career. They were feminists, loud, proud, and talented. They were writers, editors, educators, and speakers. They were bigger than life to me and they took me under their wings. They made me believe that I could not only finish writing the novel I'd been working on in secret, but actually sell it! And they were right.
After their generous and astute tutoring and the largess of the Tulsa Nightwriters club, the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., and Romance Writers of America, I did sell that book to Simon & Schuster and have since sold more than 50 others.
In the cases of Mrs. Ragsdale, Ms. Fielding, and Ms. Alexander, I had no inkling that they would be monumental in the direction my life would take. Only in retrospect can I look at those chance meetings and marvel. When I think about those moments. I can't help but wonder what if I hadn't decided to take that journalism class? What would I be doing now if I hadn't decided to help those two women gain access to that conference meeting? My life would be so different, and I'm sure, not nearly as fulfilling.
It seems to me that when fortune smiles on us we usually don't even notice. Not until that smile has long since faded do we remember and thank all our lucky stars for those serendipitous decisions. Those three women are no longer on this earth, but their enormous contributions to my life continue to this day.