Beware of old people reminiscing. We have stories to tell that you are just dying not to hear. But we natter on anyway, bless our hearts. For example, he plunged on, ignoring his own instincts, I just ran across the first story I ever had published in a magazine. It was called “Jule Learnes to Ride” and came out in a small publication called THE YOUNG CRUSADER in 1966. I was paid $5.03 for it. Jule is spelled Jule because that’s how my sister’s name was spelled.
The story was about a brave little girl who saves the lives of her big brother and his friend who have become trapped in a tunnel. I wrote the story in 1962 as part of a class I was taking at Evansville College (now University) in Evansville, the only children’s writing class I ever took. I was a pharmacologist for Mead Johnson at the time and was taking occasional classes at EC to help me in my work. I also wanted to take a writing class but the only one they offered the semester I wanted it was writing for children. I still have my notes from the class tucked away somewhere in this house.
I sold “Jule Learns to Ride” in 1966 on its 13th submission. But the most important thing about the story was that I submitted it two years earlier to an Indiana University Writers’ Conference and won a $100 Bobbs-Merrill fellowship to attend. By then I was the children’s editor at Hallmark in Kansas City. My new boss approved my trip to the conference on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington and paid the rest of my costs.
At the conference I was privileged to take workshops under Kurt Vonnegut, Harry Mark Petrakis, and Anya Seaton. One of my takeaways from the Petrakis workshop was that he submitted something like 100 stories to the same magazine before he finally sold his first one. I returned to Kansas City with renewed determination. It could be done!