Years ago, I volunteered at my kids' kindergarten class. We were making a career poster and I asked each child what he or she would like to be when they grew up. It was no surprise that the horse and dolphin-loving girls all wanted to be veterinarians and the daredevil boys wanted to be police officers and fire fighters. Some professions shared gender: Both boys and girls were interested in being astronauts. My daughter wanted to be a plumber.
When I was little, I wanted to drive a Dolly Madison truck. An unlimited supply of packaged pastries was a seductive allure. Zingers were my favorite. Later, I wanted to be the editor of a fashion magazine. Those who know me and my Target wardrobe will find that one amusing. Then there was the year I sent away for the cruise ship catalog. What was a little sea-sickness compared to a lifetime of memories and a scrapbook of memorabilia collected from exotic ports?
At some point, my ambition for pastries, my admiration of glossy Guess ads and my wanderlust for far-off lands faded into more realistic adult goals. Instead of pursuing the dream jobs of my youth, I stayed the course: college, graduate school, marriage and kids. Then, in the fourth decade of my life, a new dream emerged. As childlike and lofty as any. A nagging and nudging tap on my shoulder. An itch that demanded to be scratched.
I wanted to be a novelist. With no reason or logic or evidence to support that I could do it, I began scribbling on scraps of paper: character sketches, plot ideas, timelines. At night, after the children were tucked into bed, I would pound out a few chapters on my computer. I started with what I knew: an experience with infertility, an adoption that followed. Then my imagination took over. My main character became alive for me: her pain, her longing, her anguish. Her angst took root in my heart. I wanted her to feel better, but I knew it wouldn't be easy. Kind of like real life.
I wrote and deleted, cut and pasted, stopped and began again. Months, then years passed. Frustration and self-doubt filled me as I fought with the sense that I had started something that I couldn't finish. I needed some inspiration. It came in the form of a dare.
One night, while on the Internet, I stumbled upon a notice for a novel writing competition: the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It was September and the contest started the following January. It was the perfect incentive for me to get the beast into shape. A contest wouldn't lie. It would provide some much-needed evidence, a needle pointing in one direction or the other.
In January, I -- along with 5,000 other aspiring writers -- submitted my work to the contest. The next month, I found out that I had made the cut down to 1,000. From there, each month brought another list: 250, then 50. The following month, I received a phone call from the VP of Amazon informing me that I had made the top three.
This week, years after this new dream took root, my book -- Daughters for a Time -- was released. At this moment in time, I'm an author, a job title as inspired and dreamy as a veterinarian, fire fighter, plumber, or Dolly Madison truck driver. At this moment in time, my children think I'm cool. My accomplishment is something they get. Mom wrote a book.
Visit Amazon.com to purchase my book, Daughters for a Time. You can also visit me at www.jenniferhandford.com