OPINION

If the shoe fits

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

I first made up my mind to be a writer, rather than an actress by the fifth grade. After playing Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, in our class production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, I was stage struck and decided perhaps my eventual career might be in theater. When I shared this ambition with my mom, however, she said she’d rather I choose something else and I asked, “Like what?” And she said, like being a writer or an author.

The shoe fit and I knew it. The previous year a poem I’d written had appeared on a special Saturday morning page in the St. Joseph Gazette. I’d submitted it because some of my older cousins could draw and their work had appeared there. I couldn’t draw and knew it, so I penned a poem.

I spent a good portion of my time at school, scribbling out my first effort at a novel in the back of my blue pressed cardboard binder in Mrs. Berryman’s classroom on the second floor of Webster School. For each page of story, I also drew an illustration. The pages stacked up, one at a time, in the work I had already titled “Good-bye Dixie”. When it was finished, I carried those pages home to present them to my parents with pride.

My dad was impressed at the fact his ten-year old daughter had written a novel, no matter how childish or bad. Of course, it was quite bad, but his praise further fueled my ambitions.

From that year onward, I wrote – stories, poems, and more. In the eighth grade, I was on the staff of the junior paper newspaper.  I wrote through high school, usually earning A’s and encouraging remarks. In college, I was on the staff of the Crowder College campus newspaper and on the staff of the first literary magazine. I signed up for creative writing courses and began to submit my work. At MSSU, I took additional writing courses and one of professors, in a conference, suggested that I could become a writer, even an author.

My first job after college was at a radio station During those years, I got serious about submitting and began to gather byline credits.

Writing novels was always my first love but it was always going to be later. Fast forward to the time I’m married with twin infant daughters and I realized if I was ever going to do it, the time was now, or I might one day look back with regret. So, I wrote a novel, then more.  Most people told me I was crazy, to start writing novels with two infants, then toddlers. The first one was rejected over 80 times but eventually I got an acceptance.

In the past 11 years, I’ve grown my back list of novels and novellas to almost thirty. My last novel was published in October 2017 and the hiatus came due to my husband’s declining health. Then, working full time (and more) made writing fiction more challenging.  This week, however, I signed a new contract with Evernight Publishing and I have several new works-in-progress.

I’m now engaged in my original career goal and my first love as a writer – fiction. “A Cure For Love” will be out in May and there will be more to come. In the meantime, check out my backlist and don’t forget, some titles are available at the local library.

Yes, the author shoe still fits and I’m still wearing it.

-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a former journalist. She is a long time freelance writer and an author who makes her home in Neosho, MO.