Thursday, August 17, 2006

How I Got Here—The College Years

It never occurred to me to seek a degree in a field related to books. I am a compulsive reader, but I don't read just anything unless there's nothing else. I resented every book I was assigned to read in class, so English lit was definitely out. I took a physical geography class my freshman year to meet a distribution requirement. It was the only class I never fell asleep in, so I declared that my major. Another geography major and fraternity brother of my then-boyfriend-now-husband encouraged me to double major in environmental studies, which was more commercial, so I did. I also graduated a semester early (slap for shameless bragging).

Somewhere along the way, I started to get interested in writing. I was getting high accolades for my term papers. Two of them were selected for inclusion in the Student Scholar, for permanent shelving in the university library, and one of those won a writing award (first money for writing!). I also had some articles published in newletters and the newspaper while I worked a summer job at a nature center.

I'm not sure exactly when it was; possibly the end of my junior or beginning of my senior year. I wrote part of a first chapter of a romance (because though I read widely in high school and college, romance was very top of my list, and because I already knew I preferred fiction, despite my success in non-fiction). Back then, we had a computer lab in the library. I accidentally left my disk in a drive. Lots of us did that. Protocol was to leave them in the aide's desk until the loser remembered it. But when I went back, the Bigger Loser aide had used my disk to try to recover something for someone else, and erased it.

Yes, my romance novel was gone. As was my award-winning term paper, the other published paper, and three-plus years of college work.

No, I did not throttle her. I did learn a very valuable lesson, however.

Buy your own computer.

I didn't write fiction again until after I was married and we bought our first computer.

The early graduation was a really good thing, because it enabled me to apply for and obtain an internship at National Geographic Society. I worked the 27th International Geographical Congress, proofreading field guides and editing geographical abstracts, many of which were poorly translated or written by those for whom English was a late-learned language. The Chinese ones were the most fun.

This was the first time I was serious about working with words for money. I applied for a job with the industry journal Explorer, but it was given to someone else. Someone no more qualified than I except that he had a penis. But we won't go any further into my one and only encounter with sexism in the workplace. :)

Tomorrow...How I Got Here—The Books


Typing Slave said...

I was afraid of computers until graduate school. Them newfangled thangs? So sure! I used a typewriter. Laboriously, considering what a poor typist I was/am. Good on yer, jumping right into the computer revolution!

Tess said...

I came to computers pretty early - used the mainframe system starting in second year. Way easier and much cheaper than paying someone to type up my essays and worrying what mistakes might be in there.

Natalie Damschroder said...

My mother had one of the earliest Apples, so I did high school papers on that. Also had an old Underwood typewriter (should still be here somewhere) and an Olympus my mother passed on to me when she got a Selectric.

SHE wrote several books on the Selectric. In fact, she might have written her first romance on the Underwood. Do you guys know what the touch is like on those keys??? Talk about carpal tunnel!