Hello, my name is Judith Kirscht (better known as Judy), author of two novels so far: THE INHERITORS, published in e-book and paper by New Libri Press this year, and NOWHERE ELSE TO GO published by Florida Press, in 2011. What follows is this writer’s long journey of becoming.
Becoming a Writer
The birth of the writer-me, much less the author, is lost in time. My mother said I wrote beautiful stories as a child, but I remember only snatches—one of an old man who lived at the top of a hill. No more. I have no idea where he came from or what happened to him; there are no hills in Chicago, where I grew up. I wrote a poem for my high school year book. I remember that. About my grandmother and great aunt who never got along. My parents were less than amused when they discovered I’d used their real names. My first lesson in writing.
But the writer was still buried deep under family expectations. Born of a professor father and housewife mother, we were raised and educated in the shadow of the University of Chicago’s Gothic towers, and it shaped our lives. My brothers were expected to aspire to its halls, my sister and I were expected to marry professors and live, as our mother did, in service to their academic careers.
Of the four of us, I was the only one to follow that path. Whether from the weight of those expectations or the heavily philosophical, analytical focus of my university education I don’t know, but it took twenty years of marriage and a therapist’s suggestion for me to ask myself what I wanted to be other than a wife and mother. The answer was waiting for the question. A writer, of course. Where had that person grown enough to demand my attention? My husband told me I’d said I wanted to be a writer years before, but I’d evidently buried that in my subconscious, too.
So I signed myself up to talk to Robert Haugh, creative writing professor at the University of Michigan, where my husband was a professor, then realized he would undoubtedly want to see something I’d written. Duh. So I sat down with a yellow pad and started to write. From my pen emerged the story of my brother and me standing transfixed as a squad of soldiers marched back and forth in front of the old football stadium a block from our apartment house. Though we had no idea what was going on, we were watching the birth of the atomic age. When I reread that story today, I realize it is also the story of my troubled relationship with the halls of academia.
“You’re a writer,” he said, and so the writer emerged. Professor Haugh took me on as a student, and I began the long process of becoming. My second attempt at a novel won a Hopwood, the university’s creative writing award, and that first yellow-pad essay another, ten years later.
From writer to published author? Another long story, but ironically enough, that Hopwood novel (Nowhere Else To Go) was the first to see the light of day. With a little luck, the four others in the drawer may follow. So if you are an author-to-be, keep writing.
Next week: From Writer to Author