MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT WRITING
I’ve always loved to write. The first thing I ever completed was a play in 6th grade. I don’t remember the title but I do recall some of the dialogue, “The plumbing’s out.” “Oh really, where did it go?” Well like I mentioned, I was in the 6th grade.
Every Friday at Tulia Junior High School there was an assembly during last period. And everyone with one iota of talent had the opportunity to be on stage. There were all kinds of skits and singers and dancers. Occasionally the Jr. Hi band would play or the choir would sing.
I took tap dance from Mary Lou Evans the local dance teacher. She was a dandy and also very patient with little girls who wanted to grow up and be a June Taylor Dancer on the Jackie Gleason Show.
Taking tap with me was my friend Delores. Mrs. Evans taught us a routine and we performed once for the Friday Assembly. I still remember what we wore. White blouse, black skirt and red neck scarf. Delores and I Shuffle Ball Changed across the junior high stage to Mrs. Young’s piano playing and young boy’s snickers. But the silly snickers didn’t bother us, after all, a future with June Taylor awaited.
Once in assembly my friend Janice sang “Let Me Go Lover” to another friend, Charlie. Occasionally there would be a magic show by an itinerant magician or some cowboy singers passing through town, but mostly it was local “talent.”
When I wrote my play I gave it to my 6th grade teacher Mrs. Henderson. I just knew she would think it so great that she would choose a cast, with me in the lead, and have us perform it at a Friday assembly. A couple of days later she handed it back without a word. So I asked her if she liked it. She said it was fine, turned and walked away; my first rejection.
But it didn’t keep me from writing; my mom couldn’t keep me in notebook paper. I can still hear her “You mean you’re out of paper? I just bought you some last week!”
I’ve written everything from poetry, to newspaper columns, to books. I am not a formally trained writer but more of a story teller. I love research and when I find some wonderful nugget of information I want to share it with anyone who will listen, or better, read.
My first chance to write for profit came in 1975 not long after we moved to Canyon. I took my “portfolio,” which included some articles in a church newsletter and a story I had done for the Tulia Herald, to Troy Martin, Publisher of The Canyon News. I still can’t believe he hired me on the spot. I sailed out of his office my feet hardly touching the ground.
H.M. Baggarly, publisher/editor of the Herald had surprisingly put my story on the front page his paper, the entire front page. And it was the largest paper he published all year, the “Picnic” edition. I had written about the founders of Tulia, W.G. & Lucy Conner and hand delivered it to H.M. He would print accounts of history by local people for the “Picnic” paper and I had thought maybe this was my chance to get in print.
On Thursday of that week my mom called me and said excitedly, “You’ve got to come down here and see the paper! Your story is covering the entire front page!” I couldn’t believe it. Of course my husband and I jumped in the car and headed for Tulia.
That paper was in the portfolio I took to Troy. Maybe he thought if the well known and greatly respected publisher of the Tulia Herald thought I was good enough for the front page, he’d give me a chance. I was on the payroll.
Troy not only gave me a desk, even if it was over in the corner, he also gave me a title, feature writer. Later he created a weekly consumer advocate column just for me and I was known as The Lady in the White Hat. He borrowed a large white hat from West Texas Western Wear, took my photo and I had another full page. It was a fun job and I learned a lot.
At first I would take my articles to Troy for him to look over. One day he said “Lana, you’re the writer; I don’t need to see it, just take it to the typesetter.” He actually called me a writer, and that invigorated me to work harder. I loved Troy Martin; he trusted me and gave me a chance. Something Mrs. Henderson hadn’t done, too bad she wasn’t around to see my by-line.