the tipping point…

by Toni McGee Causey

Eleventy quibillion years ago, when I was in fourth grade, I wanted to
be a writer. I wrote terrible poems, which I think only got worse as I
got older and the teenage years descended like locusts, leaving only
WOE and ANGST. By college, I had brief bouts of sanity, whereupon I
attempted architecture (ohmyGod, they do not tell you about the math),
business (my first accounting teacher gave me the final exam in
advance, with the answers, if I would swear to her I would never, ever,
take another accounting class again), and then journalism (where I
learned they had the picky little annoying habit of wanting reporters
to not make crap up)(this was before Fox News).

And in spite of a fine history of liking to eat and wanting a roof
over my head, I still wanted to be a writer. If you asked a question,
you would get a story instead of an answer. If I could sidetrack into a
couple of tangents? You might as well park a while, because the
stories? They would not stop.

All the while, I wrote. Much of it was bad.

I ran into a
former high-school teacher, who’d also been a librarian, who asked me
the tough question: why wasn’t I submitting for publication? Have you
ever run into one of your former teachers? THEY ARE SCARY. It’s like
they can retroactively fail you or their eyes shoot truth serum rays or
something, and I did not want to stand there in front of my
two-year-old and explain I hadn’t submitted anything because I was a
big honking chicken. So I took her advice and started writing and
submitting to the local paper. (They were insane enough to buy the very
first one. That’s like feeding a stray puppy. They did not realize
this, I think, until I was around so much, they added me to the regular
staff AND the food staff, and this was a fairly prominent paper. One of
my relatives realized that I was being assigned to write about how
people COOK things. He asked, "Isn’t that… fraud? You use the fire
alarm as an oven timer." I look back on this as the beginning of my
fiction career.)

Over the years, and we are not discussing how many, maybe more than
two but less than a hundred, I wrote more articles than I can remember
or count for newspapers and magazines. I started querying and
submitting (and getting sales) at national magazines, but my real love
was fiction. I tried my hand at a novel, but it was a spiraling mess,
and my husband could see how frustrated I was. (And EVERY husband out
there just substituted the words "complete raving loon" for
"frustrated.") So, being a very wise man who liked to wake up breathing
in the mornings, he encouraged me to go back to school for some writing
classes.

For a while, I was lured to the dark side (screenwriting), and
landed an agent, and did a lot of stuff that was almost-but-not-quite
what I wanted to do, which was to sell something I made up. Hollywood,
by the way, will kill you with encouragement, because when you meet the
executives, you will be told you are the most brilliant writer they
have read in forever and where the hell have you been all this time and
they want to be in the "Toni Causey" business. Swear to God, they will
say it and you will believe it because they are that good at
sincere. Until you’re sitting in the Warner Brothers commissary waiting
for the next meeting, furtively looking around to see the FRIENDS stars
on their lunch break (yes, I am dating myself, hush), and the same
executive walks by with his arm around someone else who is not you,
telling them how utterly brilliant they were, the most brilliant person
they’d ever read. That’s when you look down at the script in your hand
that is an action thriller that everyone absolutely loves but could you
make the man a woman and the woman a duck and wouldn’t it be great if
the horse saved the day? and you think, "I’m crazy, but I’m not this crazy." Some writers (our very own Alex and Rob) have the tenacity for that. Me? I kinda wanted to just kick people. (I never claimed to be mature.)

See, I had this idea. An idea for this funny, take-no-prisoners
kind of southern woman, who loves deeply and means well, in spite of
the chaos she causes, and I wanted to write that story and be true to
that story. So I quit screenwriting. (I had had some offers if I’d move
out there. I was not going to move the family.) I had a hard time
convincing my former agent that yes, I was serious. I was quitting to write a
novel. (I think she still thinks I am going to change my mind.) But I
quit, and I started writing Bobbie Faye. I wrote a quick draft
in script form, because I was used to that format, then a friend showed a
friend, the lovely Rosemary Edghill, who said, "Send me some chapters."
And I did. She gave me some notes (smart, smart woman), and taught me
how to write the kind of synopsis an agent needs ("I did not think you
could make this worse," she said of one draft of that synopsis, "but
you did." That’s because I am an overachiever. It took a lot of tries
before I figured out that writing a marketing synopsis is a lot like
writing a non-fiction article, and that I could do.) Next thing
I know, I’d signed with an agent and Rosemary had pitched it to an
editor, who made an offer, and St. Martin’s Press bought that book and
the next two based on three sample chapters and a synopsis. Almost
twenty years from the point where I saw my old high-school English
teacher and she’d said, "Why aren’t you submitting for publication?"

(Thank you, Mrs. Ross.)**

There is a great big huge world of "no" out there. Sometimes, following the dream does not mean hoppity-skipping down the easy path. In fact, a lot of times, it means zig zagging past mortars and incoming and a lot of almosts-not-quites and despair and frustration what-the-hell-were-you-thinking? and ugh-this-sucks and occasionally wow-show-me-more. And in spite of how long it took, and how much hard work, I have been exceptionally lucky–there have been friends and mentors who’ve said, "keep going," and who’ve said, "send that in." They changed my life. They were the tipping point for me.

So how about you? Who encouraged you? Or what’s something you tried that someone encouraged you to do and now you’re glad you did?

~*~

CONTEST: just stop in and say HI or name someone who encouraged you OR something you’ve tried as a result of encouragement. ANYTHING’s fair game here.

Remember, it’s CONTEST MONTH — every commenter on today’s post will be eligible for a signed copy of BOBBIE FAYE’S VERY (very, very, very) BAD DAY as well as a hot-off-the-press, not available in the stores ’til the end of the month BOBBIE FAYE’S (kinda, sorta, not exactly) FAMILY JEWELS. Excerpts from book 2 are now up HERE. Winner from this week to be announced on next Sunday’s blog.

WINNER FROM LAST WEEK — Billie! billie! Sister of the soul. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Like last week, I put the names in a hat and
my neighbor chose. So Billie, please email me at toni [dot] causey [at]
gmail [dot] com with your
address and I’ll get your signed copies mailed out to you this week!

**This is part of the interview I did with Bethany Hensel over at Lux Magazine… I’ll post a link here to the rest as soon as I have it. Thanks, Bethany!

42 thoughts on “the tipping point…

  1. billie

    You’re kidding – I WON?! And I get to read the next book before it comes out? And signed copies to boot! I feel like I’ve hauled in a load of treasure just by waking up this morning. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you.

    I loved reading the story of your path to the Bobbie Faye books being published. It’s a reminder that these meandering (sometimes/ often) paths to publication can take awhile and have a lot of interesting curves.

    I wrote “stories” before I knew how to write. I scribbled them in fake cursive on yellow legal pads, filling every line with the pretend writing. I scratched out authors’ names in the fronts of my mom’s novels and wrote my name there instead. There is a photo of me at age 3 sleeping in those pajamas with feet, holding a ball point pen, my arm lying across the yellow legal pad I’d filled.

    I had a second grade teacher who made a big deal about a poem I wrote, and that meant a lot to me. In eighth grade there was an English teacher who actually made us write a short story and READ IT OUT LOUD to the class on Fridays. I was mortified by the reading it out loud part, and felt my stories were way too dark and intense. So I wrote fake bad cheerful stories.

    I also loved horses and cats and dogs so most of my youth was spent secretly wanting to be a writer and actively wanting to be a veterinarian. I went to undergrad and majored in pre-vet. NO one told ME about the 8 semesters of higher level chemistry! My honors English professor the first semester of freshman year pulled me aside and said it was a crime I was not majoring in English. Based on that I added English as a double major, and then as a sophomore I dropped the pre-vet altogether.

    I was really lucky to have Lee Smith as a creative writing teacher during that time, It was in her classes that I wrote the first dark intense stories – the real ones – and she wrote lovely things in green felt tip all over them and made me feel like I was on the right path.

    I ended up taking another path to grad school and being a therapist, but in a way, seeing clients is like writing characters. You listen to their stories and you help them edit. Sometimes you help them write a new ending. But it’s all mining for the truth.

    Fun to think about this morning!!

    Reply
  2. Allison Brennan

    As always, you make me smile and realize I’m not alone. You also make me remember that I’m not funny, but fortunately I never claimed to be ๐Ÿ™‚

    The tipping point for me? A bunch of things. First, I turned 30 and started looking at my life and what I had and hadn’t done. Then I had Brennan #3 and when I was on maternity leave for four month, I read 77 books. One of the things I realized then was that I hadn’t read as much as I used to before kids and family. I mean, I used to read 2-3 books a week for pleasure, then I’d gone down to like one or two a month. I realized that I was missing books in my life and cleared my TBR piles pretty quickly. I started looking at all the stories I’d started but never finished–over a hundred would be novels. I read those 77 books and thought, I can do this. I can write stories. Why wasn’t I doing it?

    Then I went back to work and realized that I didn’t want to be there. I had begun to hate my job, and I didn’t want to hate it. Then my son’s day care provider was accused of child abuse, and I drove back to pick him up, crying, having no sick time, no vacation time (all used up to take my nice 4 month maternity leave) and no way to quit my job because we needed my income to help pay for the house and food and car. I felt trapped and stuck and a month later decided that I needed to work from home, and the only thing that I REALLY wanted to do was finish one of the books I’d started and sell it.

    Yes, seriously, I thought I’d write a book, sell it, and quit my day job. And it almost happened like that. I wrote five books, then sold, then wrote one more, then quit my day job.

    But for me, the tipping point was flipping that internal switch that I would make whatever sacrifice necessary to write, that I would finish, I would submit, and I would keep doing it until I sold.

    Reply
  3. Pari Noskin Taichert

    My mother was the first person to encourage me — in spite of our almost continual conflict — and she never stopped until she died. This wasn’t rosy encouragement; it was admiration and I understood that.

    Like you, Billie, and Allison, I started writing fiction when I was quite young but had far more success in nonfiction.

    The tipping point for writing novels came when I was pregnant with my first child and read so many “bad” (what I thought bad at the time) mysteries that I thought I could do better myself.

    What hubris.

    But it did start me trying and I haven’t given up since.

    Reply
  4. Louise Ure

    My tipping point, not for writing but for “go do something,” was Kevin, my one-time True Love.

    When I told him about this international Masters Degree scholarship I’d heard about, he said, “I could never love a woman who didn’t try for something like that.”

    when I won it, he said, “I could never love a woman who could go off to France without me.”

    Thanks for the shove, Kev. France was great.

    Reply
  5. toni mcgee causey

    billie, yay, I’m so glad you’re happy! And what an absolutely wonderful way to look at therapy – editing, and writing a new ending. That’s brilliant! And I know you’re going to be one of those writers I absolutely must read.

    Allison, not that I’d ever want you to feel trapped, but I’m really glad those tipping points came along, because I would have seriously missed out on a lot of great books and a terrific friendship. I caught Jake’s daycare working downing and trying to hide a bottle of Jack while on the job, and she couldn’t understand why I might think she was a little under the influence and possibly not an appropriate childcare worker. Completely horrifies and breaks your heart to realize you’ve left your kids with someone who was supposed to be trustworthy only to find out they weren’t, and the second-guessing of your own judgment can be brutal from then on out. But your books are absolute must reads and I feel so LUCKY to have you.

    Reply
  6. toni mcgee causey

    Oh, but Pari, it’s not hubris when you actually went and did it, and did it extremely well. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m so glad your mom encouraged you (however it was, at least it was encouragement!), but even more, I’m really grateful you had that moment of hubris. I think we all sort of feel that way… how can we believe we can sit down and write something people will actually pay money for, or go to the library and take their time to borrow and read? It’s a great act of hubris or faith or some combination, and I still wonder how on earth I managed it without hiding in a cave.

    Reply
  7. toni mcgee causey

    Louise, that cracked me up. I’m so grateful to Kev, wherever he may be, and I’m betting he kicked himself pretty thoroughly when he realized what a stupid mistake that had been. (Which, I believe, worked out for your advantage.)

    Reply
  8. Dotty Young

    Ha! Who encouraged me? Most recently, YOU DID!!! I write some random email to an author I really enjoyed, and thanked her for not using crap fillers and cheap tricks in her story–and she writes me BACK! Even better, she says, “Hey, you’ve got something there!”

    Which totally freaked me out, by the way, because I thought, “If I ever write this chic again, I’m gonna want to send her everything I ever wrote, then she’ll think I’ll be a stalker, or that I’m one of those crazed fans that has shrines and voodoo dolls of all the authors that I like…..”

    But a funny thing happened. I went to a songwriter’s conference about a month ago (yes, we’ve all flirted with the dark side) and sat in this one particular class that I really enjoyed. I connected well with the teacher. He was a skinny, likable guy with a bald head and a really long, pointy chin.

    Then I found out he wrote my favorite song from high school! Like, my FAVORITE song–the one I will never learn how to sing because I’ll never do it justice.

    If I’d known that *before* I walked in his class, I never would have looked him in the eye–I’d have been afraid I would be standing in a yellow puddle, trembling like a teeny chihuahua. But he’s a nice guy, just your everyday average geeky Joe!!!!! And you know what he said later? “You ought to send me some of your stuff so I can read it sometime.” (Shock and awe! I still haven’t actually done that.)

    So, I realized then that writers are just people and I should not get caught up in the success (or lack thereof) of whoever is doing the writing.

    Gee–that means **I** can be a writer! My overly-bloated, pregnant, sleep-deprived body and absent-minded brain might be able to cook up something that will touch somebody else.

    So, thanks a bundle, Toni. And keep writing! I already have #2 on reserve at the library, LOL!

    Reply
  9. June Shaw

    Toni,

    My inspiration was my ninth-grade teacher who told me to write about a splinter. That splinter gripped my mind till I was the mother of five, finally getting a college degree. Bless that splinter.

    Enjoyed your story. Loved your 1st book! Can’t wait to read this next one.

    Reply
  10. Kathy Sweeney

    Okay, I have been very good about keeping my mouth shut, but we’re close enough now that I can say it –

    Bobbie Faye Part 2 (that would be Bobbie Faye’s …Family Jewels is FANTASTIC! All the sass and fun of Bobbie Faye #1 but better. Toni really took it up a notch and people are going to love it.

    As a part-time bookseller, I can tell you that here is the best thing you can do for Toni (and Bobbie Faye) – pre-order this book. Go to your local bookstore and ask them to get it for you.

    If you don’t have a local bookstore, call ours (Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Pittsburgh) or order it online:

    http://www.mysterylovers.com/index.php?target=products&product_id=49188

    Early sales are very important – they mean more re-orders, early buzz about the book, and ultimately better overall sales and more Bobbie Faye!

    Mazeltov, Toni!

    Reply
  11. Karin Tabke

    Toni, I can’t wait for book two! My hubby and kids were and still are huge supporters, but I wanted it more. And talk about rejection after rejection. But, my inspiration was my own desire to publish.Happy release day Tuesday!!

    Reply
  12. toni mcgee causey

    Dotty, I *still* remember the specifics of that email (and the Arby’s riff, which was hysterical). And yes, woman, you should be writing. (I am over here basking in the idea that anyone might want to do the stalking / voodoo shrine thing because they like something and not because they actually want to set my computer on fire! woo!). THANK YOU for reserving it at your local library. You totally rock.

    June, I remember your telling of that splinter story and it was very very funny — I’m so glad your teacher encouraged you! I know your own students are benefiting tremendously from having you as an example.

    Kathy, I LOVE you. I’d offer to bear you more children and even RAISE THEM and give them back to you when they were, you know, not annoying. Like when they’re 30sih or somethng. And have jobs. Okay, maybe not, but I would have thought REALLY HARD about it. Thanks for the kind words!

    Reply
  13. R.J. Mangahas

    Hmmm. I would have to say it started in the first grade when I took my first trip to the Philippines. My teacher said I could keep a journal instead of the school work. Of course I took the offer.

    But I think the real defining point was my former fiancee Anne. She always stood behind my writing one hundred and ten percent (cliche I know, but it’s true). When she died, it was her memory that kept me writing. It really was my saving grace during that rough time.

    Now, I’m once again with a really wonderful woman, Jessi, who encourages me to keep striving and reach my writing goals. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she writes too.)

    Reply
  14. McGirl

    First Toni, thanks! I am so glad I randomly picked up the first Bobby Faye, and I can’t wait for the next.

    As for my writing ‘career’ I had two tipping points. One was hearing Eloisa James give a kickass interview on NPR where she defended writing romance and talked about how she did it despite her father being Robert-freakin-Bly. Listening to her, I realized that I’d convinced myself I couldn’t sit down to write until I was ready to write the Great American Novel. Boy, was I dumb. I didn’t even like *reading* the Great American Novel!

    The other tipping point came when I realized I didn’t want to have kids of my own–but I still needed to create *something*. At the time I naively believed I could crank out a book in roughly the same amount of time it would take me to churn out a baby. As it turns out I’m still typing away, which could indicate I was wrong but more likely means I’m blessed with the gestation period of an African elephant.

    Still, one day, my baby will pop out all red and dripping and screaming, and I’m sure I’ll love it and be proud of it and think it’s darling even though it looks like an overcooked prune. It will probably have to live out its entire life under my bed, but that’s okay too. I’m planning on a big family.

    Reply
  15. JDRhoades

    The tipping point/encouragement for me was provided by a guy named Brent Hackney. Brent was an old school newspaper reporter (complete with the legendary vices of that breed) and a former press secretary to probably the greatest governor North Carolina ever had, Jim Hunt. When I met him, he was the managing editor of the hometown paper. I’d sent in couple of letters to the editor, written in my usual snarky, sarcastic style. (I think at one point I asked “Mr. Editor, what color is the sky on YOUR planet”?)

    Anyway, Brent liked the style so much he asked me to do a weekly column. After a couple of years of that, he said “hey, you know, you’re pretty good, why don’t you write a novel”?

    So I guess he’s really to blame.

    Brent’s demons finally caught up with him a couple of years ago and he passed away. He was only 57. I realized I had never thanked him properly, so I dedicated SAFE AND SOUND to him.

    Reply
  16. Tom Barclay

    My mother said she read to me when I was an infant, and I wouldn’t let her stop.

    For me, it’s always been words and stories; told aloud by my father’s childhood pal, on the pages of all those library books Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Borland let me take home when I was a child, song lyrics, poetry, screenplays, stageplays, text set to classical music. Words in my ears, words on my tongue, words trailing (too slowly!) from my fingers.

    So it appears, Toni, that I was born tipped, and there’s no help for it.

    Right now capital-L Life has intruded pretty badly. But I’ll get back to work somehow. Can’t seem to help it.

    Reply
  17. Faye Kempfer

    I’ve written to you before – like when I said my valentine gift to the Mr. would be a six-pack of beer tied up with a bungee cord….also I invited my husband and myself to stay at your house for a week or so back in January (hey, it was 30 below here in MN at the time and I know it was warmer where you live. Heck, it was warmer everywhere then.) I did offer to leave hubs at home tho as he’s not all that much fun (he’s a farmer you know and all he knows how to talk about is the price of wheat/chemicals/fertilizer and when is it going to rain by golly? Jeez Louise. He needs to get a life – unlike my well-rounded self. (let’s NOT get into that nasty weight thing here)OK, that was the long way around of saying that I’m with Dottie in that I was afraid to write again for fear you’d think I was some wierd kook who might not only stalk you but also try to infiltrate your mind and look around in there. (God, wouldn’t that be fun? Shoot, now you know I really am a kook. sorry. I’ll work harder at supressing that part of my personality.)So.o.o, let’s talk about me. I have 3 grown children who are happy and reasonably sane considering who their mother is. I have one granddaughter and one grand-puppy. (what can I say? my kids are not cooperating in the grand-kid dept.) I garden, quilt & teach quilting and am teaching myself to use the shed full of woodworking tools hubs keeps buying me. Seems to me it would have been cheaper just to buy furniture than all those tools – (not that I can build furniture) plus a building to put them in. It’s a man thing I guess. Anyway, I’m up to birdhouses now. I’m thinking flower boxes next? The sky’s the limit, right?Enuf – you’re bored to death by now. I do tend to ramble when I get on a keyboard – if you saw me in person, I wouldn’t be able to say a word. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.Amazon sent word that your new book is winging it’s way to me as we speak and I am waiting with bated breath. Well, I will breath or I won’t be able to read it but you know what I mean……Now, a word of advice. Quit wasting your time reading/writing me and get to work on your next book. You just can’t write them fast enuf to suit me. Love you. Have a great Memorial Day.

    Reply
  18. Pammy D

    Hmm. Encouragement and Tipping Points.

    Short story featured in 4th grade ‘Bethel Lutheranians – Yea!’. Something about how Ivy became “Poison.” Very well received.

    Multiple attempts at authoring various self-help books only to realize that I needed the help, and should not be dispensing it.

    Distracted by painting and making jewelry and oh yes, school and more school and this thing called a career.

    Several non-fiction tear-jerking articles published in an anthology around the time my Dad died and husband bolted.

    Compiled and edited an anthology called ‘Mending America’s Quilt’. Which went no where. No market at the time for teaching tolerance.

    When my idea for a movie sold, I attempted the script writing thing. 4 scripts later, two definitely suck and the other two kind of suck.

    Oh, and then this TONI girl wrote this fab book called ‘Bobby Faye..”

    Around that time something really awful happened to ‘Someone, aka Mr. Smarty Pants’ who had been enormously cruel, mean, and sheer evil to me. And a premise popped into my head for a novel. A funny novel. And I told Toni. And she said, go for it.

    And yes, I have an alibi.

    I’m very excited about Bobby Faye #2. Thanks Toni!

    And RIP, Mr. Smarty Pants. After all that, you were a Tipping Point.

    Reply
  19. Bella Andre

    Congrats on the new release. Tipping point? Um, I heard about a company called Ellora’s Cave and read a few sample chapters of books on line and said to my husband, “Oh my god, I could never do that” and he said “You never know till you try” so I tried and 8 hours later I had the first three chapters written of a really fun, really filthy ๐Ÿ˜‰ book called Authors In Ecstasy which they bought a week later and then I sold to Pocket and Random house and lo and behold I”m now writing suspense (still with some sex, but not nearly as much) and it’s a total f-in blast!!!

    ๐Ÿ˜‰ Bella

    Reply
  20. Rosemary Edghill

    …I said that?

    *snicker*

    Oooh… tipping point(s).

    I am honestly trying to remember, because I put my first story down on paper when I was about four (in crayon with pictures) and I’ve always told stories to anybody who didn’t run away fast enough. I guess that partly it was reading the Almost But Not Quite The Worst Novel Ever (and it was published!) and partly having George Lucas’s artistic vision betray me (we do *not* mention any Star Wars movies released after “The Empire Strikes Back” in *this* household, sweetie, let me tell you…) and partly the fact that the vampire-hunter market had dried up (oh, loooooong story) and anyway: novel. And then another novel. And then another one…

    (hi there.)

    Reply
  21. Helen

    The person that tipped me was an aunt who read to me starting when I was so young that I cannot remember but I do see the pictures in the family album. When I lived with her one of my years in college we took turns with the reading aloud. I passed this on with my children and grandchildren. Reading and writing are so important – you do not have to be a best selling author to benefit.

    Reply
  22. Laura (in PA)

    First of all, I have to agree with Kathy. I was lucky enough to get to read Bobbie Faye #2 early, then gave it to my daughter to read, and I already wrote Toni a long, gushing email, and I’m sure I’m now on her list somewhere of people who make her nervous.

    Anyway, it totally rocks. I loved #1, and #2 is even better. So get yourselves out there the moment your bookstore opens on Tuesday, and don’t put it down until you’ve finished it. I’ll be buying at least 3, and passing them out to anyone who doesn’t out-run me.

    I am currently waiting for my tipping point. I guess it has to be something that will let me look past the fear of whether I can do it. Wish me luck. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Reply
  23. Bill Cameron

    My ninth grade home room teacher reach a little two-pager I wrote, then looked at me and said, “You really wrote this?” I said yes and he said, “Really? You actually wrote it. You promise.” Yes, I told him. Then he said, “Wow. Keep it up.”

    There have been many others along the way, but that was probably the first pour of concrete in my foundation.

    Reply
  24. toni mcgee causey

    Rosemary… (hi back atcha)… yep, you said that, and (sadly) it was probably the *kindest* thing you could have said at that point. Honestly, I was grateful, because my instincts said it sucked, so at least I had something right. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I wish I could borrow your brain forever. (She is *that* smart, people. Seriously.)

    There *are* no other Star War movies after The Empire Strikes Back. I thought that was a Rule of the Universe.

    Reply
  25. toni mcgee causey

    Karin, thank you! And you’re such a strong motivator and such an encouragement to others, I am not at all surprised at how self-motivated you would be about getting published.

    R.J. – what a cool thing for a teacher to do. I love it when they think outside the box for kids. (Mrs. Ross was like that — she came up with ways to actually make grammar fun for the guys. Seriously, she gave them all musical instruments and they had to “play” their instrument, i.e., make as much noise as they could… but only when their particular punctuation was called for in the sentences we were diagramming. I have never seen boys pay so much attention. She also gave out candy. We loved her.)

    And Anne is so beautifully and well-remembered, R.J. — what a fitting tribute you give to her, the way you live your life. I know Jessie’s got to be proud of you, too, and I’m glad you’ve found someone so special.

    Reply
  26. toni mcgee causey

    Dear Lord, McGirl, the “gestation” line had me spewing diet coke. Thank you so much for picking up book 1 and I hope that you enjoy book 2.

    What a great point about writing what you love to read, and how perfectly put!

    Dusty, clearly Brent was an incredibly smart, savvy man. *I* wish I could go thank him for giving you that advice. Seriously.

    Tom — I love that line, that you were “born tipped.” I sometimes wonder if writers really are born so completely different. Are we made that way? Or is it something genetic? Fingers crossed for you that real life starts running smoothly; I truly know how that feels, for there to be too much chaos to be able to get the words on the page.

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  27. toni mcgee causey

    Faye, not only do I remember that email, but you cracked me up *and* I still have it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m thinking you’d need body armor to root around in my brain. Maybe an Uzi or two. And some sort of map, because it is a very confused, scary place in there. (You. With tools. Are CRACKING ME UP.)

    Pammy, you’ve been funny since the first day I met you. (I swear, I *never* can predict what you’re going to come up with next.) If anyone should be writing, it’s you.

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  28. toni mcgee causey

    yay, Bella, for husbands! I’m so glad he encouraged you, because your stuff is so much fun to read. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Writing definitely is a blast, especially when it’s purely about the writing, and not about expectations or the business side of things.

    Helen, what a beautiful memory! And I love that you passed it on and read out loud to your aunt, as well. I didn’t read as much to my kids as I wish I had, but I’m going to get to do a lot more reading with grandkids, and I plan to make sure it’s a tradition, like you’ve done. Beautiful inspiration, thank you.

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  29. toni mcgee causey

    Laura, seriously, THANK YOU. And wow, you aren’t making me nervous, you’re making me sit here in *awe*, so very very grateful that you’re being so kind. There is nothing in a writer’s world that is as much of a *true gift* as a letter from a reader, especially when they’ve enjoyed something. I treasure those letters. They get me through the really dark days when I’m absolutely certain I’m not a writer and the whole world is about to figure that out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  30. Becky Hutchison

    My tipping point came when I got tired of writing nonfiction for my work and later for a local weekly newspaper. I’d been wanting to write fiction for a while but hadn’t attempted it since high school (@ 30 years before). So I decided to go to a weekend fiction writing seminar to see if it was something I could do.

    On Saturday the teacher asked us to bring in a sample of our work on Sunday so the class could critique it. As I had no samples, I had to quickly write a short story so I’d have something to read in front of the class the next day. That night I wrote my first piece of fiction about a gambler at a horse race (my inspiration, the Kentucky Derby, had run that day).

    I was pretty nervous, but I offered to be one of the first to read my story to the class. My teacher and classmates couldn’t believe that it was my first piece of fiction and that I’d just written it the night before. I received lots of positive feedback for that story and realized I just might be able to write fiction after all.

    Now I’m deep in the throes of writing and have dreams of one day being a published fiction author. But, darn it, I need to finish a manuscript first. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  31. Kymm

    I am far too busy having a terrible toothache to think of something funny or interesting to say on the topic at hand, but I can just about manage to join this contest. Hi Toni! Miss you!

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  32. Michele

    I’m soooooo looking forward to the next book… only a little longer, yay!

    Does having my ex say one too many times that I couldn’t leave, he’d kill me first (thereby giving me the gumption to get my ass the hell out of that house, that state even, and leading me to my current husband, a man well worthy of the position) count?

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  33. kitty

    Well you know when I met you I had quit writing for four years. I think I’ve told you before that hearing you tell me about Bobbie Faye amidst the Katrina turmoil was a tipping point for me to go back to what I love doing. I just need to do more of it and submit. Butt in chair…

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  34. Yvonne Hewett

    My mother encouraged me to write, from an early age – when we were living in a tiny place in rural southern Ontario. That was long ago and very far away and I’ll always be grateful to her for that. I’m sorry she’s not around now to read and critique what I’m doing.

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  35. Emilie

    I’m gonna look like the kiss-up in the class, but it’s true that YOU have inspired and pushed me. You’ve been my Mrs. Ross, always there the past few (most important) years when I struggled. And I love your meandering stories cause I always get something I didn’t expect. LOL.

    My parents, who recently read a draft of my book out loud to each other, which really touched me. Rick Blackwood, who also lured me to the dark side of screenwriting for a while. David Madden whose advice is always helpful even if we sit on opposing sides of the spectrum and often disagree. And always, always, my first fiction teacher Mr. Lewis who taught me to accept criticism graciously and who helped me develop my thick skin. Stephanie Nash, who’s incredibly insightful and always willing to read something. Clarence Nero, who taught me a lot about being true to your story while everyone else is trying to change it. Jamey Hatley, who by being my friend and fellow writer, is teaching a master class in writing every time I see her. My sister Aimee – when we were kids, we’d write stories about our stuffed animals. Every day, when we’d begin to write, I’d say, “Now let’s read everything we wrote yesterday, refresh ourselves and edit it up a bit.” And she’d yawn and say, “Let’s just write.”

    There are certain to be more — but those are a few that came to mind. I think it started to read like the acknowledgments to my book, so sorry. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  36. Sharon Reynaud

    Toni, Hi!

    So, so happy for you, you never gave up! You are a perfect example of someone who never gave up on their dream. Was in the New Orleans airport a few months ago and picked up a copy of Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans; wonderful stories.

    How’s the Grandma part of your life going, I’ve never seen the baby,haven’t seen Jake for a long time. Are you having another book signing at Barnes and Noble?

    So many congrats on your second! book, will be looking forward to getting it!

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  37. Liz

    Of course, I need no information on why you are “the insane writer person” you are today. I have always known this.

    BTW, I did fianally get photos of Angels Grace, she looks like you. Yes, that is what we needed, another little Toni!

    Love ya lots! Much success!

    PS – math? are you kidding?

    Reply
  38. Jackie Valentine

    First I have to just say โ€œHi! Toni, as I havenโ€™t corresponded since Bobbye Fay #1. Canโ€™t wait to get #2! โ€˜Bout time!

    Also, Toni, when you and Carl first got married you told this hilarious story about your grandfather (?) shooting more than one deer at the same time or something. I donโ€™tโ€™ really remember the story, but I remember laughing more than I usually do at those get togethers. So, will you tell me and everybody else that story? It was just too, too funny.

    My tipping point is actually in relation to a whole bundle of things that might be referred to as life. I have always been relatively shy and unsure of myself, and stepping out of my comfort zone was not even an option. There was a list of things to pin that on- lack of funds, four stair-step aged kids who needed me, hubby, blah, blah, blah. But when it came down to it, I was just bogged down with fear of the unknown.

    I went to work at a local business just because of the benefits, and although I liked the place, working in the mailroom wasnโ€™t all it was cracked up to be. Ever wonder why postal workers โ€œgo postalโ€™? Try making sense of mundane menial work that is done day after day for the sake of some crappy insurance you think you have to have. But hey, thatโ€™s what I had settled into, so there I was.

    The worst of it was that there were only three of us in there and the other two people hated me. Wonderful, sweet little oleโ€™ me! I mean hated me. My daily drives home were sprinkled with prayers, cussing, crying or lengthy diatribes that I wanted to unleash on the two ugly mailroom stepsisters, but instead saved for the enjoyment of my steering wheel. This went on for about three years (Iโ€™m persistent to a fault), when the editor of our newsletter asked if anyone wanted to write an article for that month. At this point my shyness and fear had taken a backseat to my absolute need to get out of the mailroom! So, I stuck my neck out and wrote my first article. Within a month I was asked to write an article for our magazine, and soon after I was asked to move down to the publishing department. How da ya like that! I was astounded that I had actually found my way out!

    Now it seems that there may have been more of a reason for me moving down the hall than just to write articles. My editor, Wendy, is twenty years my junior, but the most self- assured person that I know. She really didnโ€™t understand my hesitance to move forward. She really didnโ€™t understand my lack of belief in myself. How could I not know how intelligent I was? Why hadnโ€™t I told them that I could write before now? How could I stay in the mailroom position for so long? And why, exactly, did I allow those two mean, ignorant women to get to me? I didnโ€™t really have any good answers for her, and all of a sudden, I started to get it. I was experiencing a spurt of personal growth and self awareness that everyone needs. Wendy started to rub off on me.

    And none too soon. About a year after I started work on the magazine, I found out that I had uterine cancer. Now, I am not going to tell you that I was not scared out of my gourd. I was worried about my husband, Doug, and my grown kids, but I knew that if the doctor could just do a hysterectomy, maybe I could cheat this thing. Any other time I would have done my neurotic thing and freaked out early on, but I just decided to wait on that until I knew more.

    So when they did the hysterectomy and it was just barely contained inside the uterus, (the tumor filled my uterus and most of the uterine wall; two more millimeters and it would have spread to other organs) I knew I could lick this thing. I had radiation treatments and went through the whole thing, and I had my family and my faith by my side all the way. But you know what else I had with me? Wendy had given me a belief in myself and the knowledge that I actually had plenty left to give and do. The girls in that department really loved me, and I couldnโ€™t help but realize what a difference it had made to leave that old position in the mailroom.

    Today, I have been at this magazine job for three years, and I love it. I donโ€™t know where I am going with my writing, other than what I do on a regular basis, but I know that I CAN do whatever I want! WOOOOHOOOO! Thatโ€™s a liberating thing, you know?

    (One more note here- itโ€™s a real kick in the pants that my cousinโ€™s wife happens to be writing these crazy novels about this wonderful, pleasantly deranged Louisiana girl!)

    Reply
  39. Julie P.

    I have seen these books everywhere the past few weeks — that’s good right? I have heard wonderful things about both books and I’m dying to read them too! Congrats on your success.

    Reply

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