Ten Things You Don’t Know About My Writing Journey

Lea Wait, here, suspecting you’re reading this because you know me, or you know my books, or you love mysteries, or write them, or you have nothing scheduled for the next few minutes. Lea on Wiscasset town pier

So, I thought today I’d share a little bit about how I got to where I am. I’ll focus on my writing, not on all of my life. (My life would take at least two blogs.)

  1. I decided to be a writer when I was in second grade. I kept escaping my classroom to the library (never one to set low goals, I’d decided to read every book in the library) and my teacher had a serious talk with me. “When you grow up you can be a writer, and spend all your time in the library. But first you have to finish second grade.” From that point on I told everyone I was going to be a writer.
  2. A little later on I was editor of my high school newspaper, which won an award from the New Jersey Press Association for being the best high school newspaper in New Jersey that year.
  3. I spent one summer in high school working at The Boothbay Register, a weekly paper in Maine that’s still around. My job was to proofread, walk around town to pick up ads, and remind local columnists if their columns were late. One of the men I worked with pinched. (Welcome to the adult world!)
  4. I majored in English and drama in college, since I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. I wrote plays for children’s theatre and poetry. Several of the plays were produced on campus, and one of my poems won a national award. Marianne Moore was the judge of the poetry contest; she praised my work, and I was thrilled. (The poem is on my website (see “Ellie Poem” under “Books”) and is used in high school and college classes in several countries today.)
  5. My first post-college job was as an executive speech writer at a now-defunct company called Western Electric, which manufactured telephones and other equipment for the old Bell System. When I was given my first assignment on the executive floor, the secretaries there wouldn’t let me in. They didn’t believe a woman could be a speechwriter.
  6. Later I worked for AT&T and for two years was the producer, writer, and on-camera talent for a daily CCTV show for employees in New York City and New Jersey.
  7. My master’s thesis (New York University) was on the changing role of the mother in fiction for teenagers written from 1950–1955 and 1960-1965. (As I remember, most of the 100 books I read focused on team sports or getting a date for the prom.)

    My daughters, Xmas, 1987

    My daughters, Xmas, 1987

  8. For about ten years, as the single adoptive parent of four and advocate for older child and single parent adoption, I wrote a bimonthly adoption newsletter for adoptive parents and prospective parents, and contributed articles on adoption to anthologies.
  9. My first published fiction was a short story from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old girl giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome. It was published in a literary magazine called Happy.
  10. And the first full book I wrote, a mystery, was rejected by over forty agents. Eventually,  about six years later, it was published by Scribner as Shadows at the Fair, and was a finalist for a “best first” Agatha. It wasn’t the first book I’d had published, though. That was a book for ages 8-12 set in 1806 Maine called Stopping to Home.

I’ve had sixteen books published since Stopping to Home in 2001, and two more, one in each of my mystery series, will be published next fall: Shadows on a Morning in Maine in September, and Dangling By a Thread in November.

And I’m still writing. The journey continues ….. thank you for coming along!DSC02520

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13 Responses to Ten Things You Don’t Know About My Writing Journey

  1. Your steady record of accomplishment as a writer is inspiring, Lea. I love that you knew from the get-go what you wanted to do with your life and set yourself on a course to do it. That you achieved all of this while raising four daughters on your own is remarkable. You are a role model, on so many levels.

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Thank you, Brenda! Just stubborn, I suspect!

  3. Beautiful and inspiring journey, thank you!

  4. Gram says:

    I hope you pinched him back! (I tend to be a little feisty).

  5. Lea Wait says:

    Gram — I was only 17 — so — no! I just dodged a lot, and hid behind furniture!

  6. My master’s thesis was also gender focused but on the effects of gender and strategy on compliance gaining. Yours sounds like more fun. BTW I also live in Maine.

  7. Julianne Spreng says:

    From as far back as I can remember I have always been a reader. I’ve never felt the need to write. I simply enjoy the stories of others. My mum worked for Penton Publishing in Cleveland, Ohio, before she had us girls. Our home had a library full of classics, history, research and reference books, cartoon collections, you name it. Titles spanned The Turn of the Screw to Walt Kelly’s Pogo. Most scholars would groan at the idea of an hour-long bus ride to and from school. I took advantage of the extra reading time! When I was in jr high school, my goal was to read all the books in our school library in order from A to Z. I didn’t signed them out. If one was gone I began the next. There were often 10 or 12 books I was reading in rotation at one time. I was able to sneak in and spend all lunch and study hall periods happily reading. At the end of three years I wasn’t done, but I met characters, authors, and genres which would have remained unknown to me.

    Thank you for what you do!!

  8. Lea Wait says:

    Steph — interesting! I still think it’s important to be aware of (and.or study) stereotypes — of all sorts! And my main issue with the thesis was finding teen books from the early 1950s … most libraries had tossed them because they were worn out. I got to really appreciate inter-library loan in both New York and New Jersey! And, Julianne, you sound a lot like me — except that I wanted to write as well as read. What would people like us have done without libraries? We’re so lucky to live in a country where we have access to so many books, and so much information.

  9. Barb Ross says:

    Hi Lea!

    My daughter taught your Ellie poem again this semester, this time to freshmen taking a required comp & lit class. She gave them extra credit if they wrote their own “bio poem.”

    • Lea Wait says:

      Love, love, LOVE that, Barb! And hope the mother-of-the-bride is coping well … look forward to seeing you later this spring.

  10. Kait Carson says:

    Lea, you are the only other person I have ever heard of with the goal of reading all the books in the library. I worked at it for years in grade school until one day I saw the librarian shelving the new arrivals. One went right between two books I had already finished. I knew then it was a fruitless effort. Love reading about your steady progression. You have beautiful children.

  11. Lea Wait says:

    Thank you, Kait! They’re grown women now — and I have 8 wonderful grandchildren! Love that you also wanted to read all the books in the library. It seemed like such a reasonable goal at the time! Now — my house looks like a library. Floor to ceiling bookcases in every room (except the bathroom) — and, yes. I’ve read most of them.

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