A little over two years ago, I sat down to write a novel and told myself it was just for the fun of it. Deep down I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t have the courage to admit it to myself or anyone else. So I decided I was just going to write a novel on a whim. That’s how I spun it, in order to make it okay. I thought it would be an interesting project and maybe not even that hard, since I had always been a voracious reader and I wrote essays and stories all through college. Easy breezy piece of cake, right? Ha. After I finished my first draft, I read it over and realized that it wasn’t fit to line the bottom of a birdcage. It bothered me so much that I decided to keep going.
I began taking classes. Lots and lots of classes. I joined the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and went to my first conference, where I mostly hid in my room because I felt like such a fraud. On the final day, I got up the nerve to pitch to a very nice agent, who asked for a partial of my manuscript. That was the first moment I realized that there might be hope. Real hope–the kind that makes you suddenly stop thinking in self-depreciating ways and start thinking in self-propelling ways, instead. I flew home on a pink puffy cloud of happiness, and then read my manuscript again. It still wasn’t ready. I needed to work harder. I began re-writing and re-re-writing. I joined critique groups and met amazing, wonderful writers who kept me going even when I felt like giving up. I joined the University of Washington‘s Popular Fiction Writing Program, taught by Pam Binder–the best writing teacher I’ve ever had.
Somewhere around the zillionth edit, I entered my manuscript in the 2011 PNWA Literary Contest and became a finalist. Now I’m working on my second novel, and I’m still unpublished, but I have hope that someday I will find the right place for my stories. I am going to make the committment to be honest about the process, and honest about what I really want. It’s a lot of work, but I’m not afraid anymore. I’m going to figure this writing thing out, because I love it and it’s what I want to do. So this is me, sitting beside a pile of laundry in the corner of my bedroom, in a suburb outside of Seattle, Washington, saying to anyone who’s listening, “Hi. My name is Tara Sheets. I’m here now. And I’m going to be a writer.”