I was adrift, alone. After college, my life had somehow turned into a blur of wake, work, eat, and sleep. Sometimes I wondered if I might be stuck in the movie Groundhog Day. I hadn’t yet found the community that I have often written of as so important. Even though I was working editorial for Addison Wesley/Benjamin Cummings, I had no connection to the fiction-writing community—not for fantasy and SF where my heart lay. I didn’t even know a genre community existed.
My favorite place to break the parade of endless days was a little hole-in-the wall mom-and-pop SF/F bookstore on El Camino in Palo Alto. I used to drop in and talk to the owner. It gave me a tenuous but much treasured connection into the genre world. One day, the subject of writers groups came up. Turned out, she knew a customer… I was so excited to have hope of getting involved in anything writing. It had been years since I’d had that at college. In those pre-Internet days, I left her my phone number and prayed that her customer would use it.
That call was one of those moments that your life changes, and you don’t even know it. She not only brought me into a writers group that boasted professional genre writers (oh, the thrill of it!), she introduced me to my first SF/F con. The seed of friendship sprouted fast and rooted deep. We spent hours talking about writing, the mechanics of it, the people, the cons, the books. She talked most about her Clarion West experience and one of the instructors that changed her life, Algis Budrys. She was always on the look out to hone her skills or discover new ones to, as she put it, put in her writer’s toolbox. Algis and Clarion evidently put some pretty nice tools in there.
Looking back, I now see that moment was the linchpin in my genre life. Without her I wouldn’t have met the friends who fill my life and make up my community almost entirely. Had she not chosen to dial the phone number of a young woman loitering in bookstore and bugging the hapless proprietor, I would not be posting this here today.
Her name was Tina, and she opened her heart, her world, and her toolbox to me. I am sad to say, she only graced my life a few short years before she died, but I’ve never forgotten. So today, I honor her by opening up my toolbox to you. I have a lot I want to share after 35 years of editing and writing, so in Tina’s honor, I have put together this series, The Writer’s Toolbox. In each of these blogs, I will take out one tool and share it with you. I will tell you why I like this tool and how I use it. Maybe you will be able to find a use for it, too, and tuck it into your writer’s toolbox.
Here’s to you,Tina.
Next in The Writer’s Toolbox: There’s Got to Be a Better Way