Monday, August 3, 2009

How this madness got started

A friend recently asked me how I got started writing, and how I ended up writing what I do today.

Talk about a question with a convoluted answer! Nonetheless, I'm going to try to answer it. This saga is going to take us some strange places, but here we go.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Actually, I wanted to be Fiona Sunquist, who has traveled all over the world writing for magazines such as International Wildlife and Audubon and other high end conservation magazines.

I went to Florida State University to get a degree in biology, intending to use that as a place to start following that path. At the time that made sense to me, but looking back from the distance of 30 years, it would be nice to go back and tell my younger self that that degree in biology wasn't going to do what I wanted it to do. All it really taught me to do was work in a lab or go on to graduate school; I would have been better off with a degree in journalism or one in conservation of natural resources.

About the time I graduated from FSU, I got a phone call from someone in the Florida 4-H Department at the University of Florida. I was involved in 4-H all thought high school and into college, and knew a lot of state level faculty members, so this call wasn't totally out of the blue.

Dr. Tom Greenawalt wanted me to come to Gainesville and work in the Florida 4-H Department writing a new set of youth materials in marine science. This was right after the movie Jaws came out, so there was a lot of interest in all things marine, and in fact the very first document I did was on sharks.

I only spent 6 months in that job; it was a temporary position with no benefits that ran out at the end of 1975. But the materials I wrote were well received, and the Florida 4-H Department eventually hired a full-time regular faculty member to expand the program.

And having something I wrote be that well received reawakened my desire to write.

So that's step one on the road to how I became a writer.

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