Becoming Becky Due, the Writer – Part 1
I wrote, but I wasn’t serious about writing until the summer of 1995 when I sold my car, quit my job, and jumped on a greyhound bus with no idea where I was going. My life was a mess and I needed to find myself. I got off the bus to discover new places like Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, before I ended up in Moorhead City near Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. There I rented a small house (I think it may have been haunted), bought a typewriter and started writing my story, which became my first novel, The Gentlemen’s Club: A Story for All Women.
“No matter where you go, there you are,” kept ringing in my mind. I had heard the saying years earlier but it didn’t make sense until I was alone, sitting in that house, looking for the answers that were hidden deeply inside of me. While writing my book I got honest with myself, and wanted to face my problems the way Angie, my main character, was facing hers. I had to stop running, get strong and stand up for my life. So with the first draft of the manuscript in my hands, I got back on the bus and headed back to Minnesota.
In the middle of the night while sleeping on the bus and dreaming about my future, I was sexually molested by a man across the aisle. This was my test, and I wasn’t going to fail. In truth, I wanted to beat the **** out of him, but instead I walked to the front of the bus and told the bus driver to call the police. The driver took the first exit, the police came, and my molester was taken away. Being sexually abused as an adult was very different than being sexually abused as a child—I had experienced both. The experience made me more determined than ever to take charge of my life.
Once back in Rochester, Minnesota, I returned to my old job at Dison’s Drycleaners. I rented a hotel room; I had to pay rent by the week and had to share the shower with others, but at least I had my own toilet and sink. I liked it. The place was perfect for a writer—old, rundown, lots of character and lots of characters lived there; I was one of them. With my feet planted firmly on the ground, I focused on work and my writing.
That’s when I wrote my children’s book, Blue the Bird, On Flying. The idea came from a dream I had, and I’m pretty sure the reason I had the dream was my fierce desire not to depend on others the way Blue depended on others—Blue didn’t fly and rode on the backs of other birds. At the time, I was working on my own self-esteem and feared losing my independence.
My writing was giving me purpose and a deeper understanding about life. Feeling confident that I wouldn’t run from my life anymore, and being tired of paying for phone calls and eating out for most of my meals, I decided it was time to find a place to live and sign a year’s lease like normal people. I rented an apartment in an old building—another great writing place.
I lived above a variety of always failing businesses—furniture store, hobby shop, record store—and the people in the store below controlled the thermostat for my apartment. When the store was empty, I had no heat. So during the winter, I’d pull a folding chair in front of the open oven door, sit down and write for hours.
In 1997, my mother was cleaning closets in her house and wanted to get rid of a lot of old school art projects, report cards and other keepsakes from my younger years. She packaged it all up and mailed it to me. As I sifted through the box, throwing most of it away, I came across an old test comparing students in the same class throughout the state. As I looked down the column of my x’s, it was clear I was average in everything. I noticed one x was further to the right, above average. I curiously followed the x to what it represented—written expression. I started crying and knew this was a sign that I was on the right path.
Never having had a father I was taken in by a man who owned a small publishing company. Ray offered to help me but refused to publish my books, claiming I needed a bigger publisher. I took the bus or walked to his place almost every day after work all year long. I didn’t have a car, a warm coat or winter boots, but I’d trudge my way through the Minnesota seasons to his place to use his computer and to get his guidance. Ray disciplined me, motivated me, inspired me and encouraged me to be great, just the way I envisioned a real father would.
At night I’d leave his place and walk two blocks to catch the bus back to my cold apartment. If I was early, I’d step inside the gas station and grab a vanilla coffee from the machine before getting on the bus. Then high on caffeine, I’d write into the early morning hours.
I wrote two more novels. Sixty pages of one of those books became the story of Christy, Paul and Brian—Touchable Love: An Untraditional Love Story—my bestseller and a finalist in several competitions. This story is about a young woman who hasn’t treated her body like the temple it is—she wasn’t careful with sex or her lifestyle choices—and feared she had contracted HIV. That fear causes her to avoid love, but she learns to love herself. In my own life, I was lonely and wanted love or at least a partner in life. I wanted somebody to understand me and love me just the way I was—imperfect.
I was writing constantly but publishing nothing, so Ray helped me send out about fifty query letters. Eight agents were interested in The Gentlemen’s Club until they read the manuscript. I was told that the story was good, but the manuscript needed some work. I couldn’t afford a professional editor, so my written books were put on hold and I continued writing.
In spite of this. my many rejection letters gave me a sense of accomplishment—at least I had tried. Every small step I took in my writing career was a step in the right direction, and one step closer to achieving my goals. Writing was my life and it was all I wanted to do. I didn’t realize I was slipping away from the real world and hiding in my safe fiction-filled world. I became somewhat agoraphobic, isolating myself from family and friends, only feeling safe in my routine of work and writing. I even had my groceries delivered. For two years, I lived a disciplined life of work, writing and living below my means, because I needed money for a professional editor to help me with my manuscripts.
I started going to church on Sunday mornings and sometimes Monday evenings, and I worked my way out of my isolation though it was my favorite place to be. I worked hard to get to a place where I was happy, content and felt valuable, and writing was getting me to that place. Moving full steam ahead toward my goals and dreams, nothing would stop me.
Then I met a man.
He brought in his dirty clothes to be cleaned. With work slow that morning, I was working on another novel and was totally absorbed in my story when he interrupted its flow. Not even trying to hide my annoyance, I asked, “Do you want these washed or dry cleaned?”
“Oh, I don’t know. What do you think?”
“They’re your clothes. We can wash them or dry clean them,” I snapped, wanting to get back to writing.
Then he asked the simple question that made me crazy about him. “Do you like mornings?”
Both knowing I had been rude to him, I started laughing. “Yes, I do love mornings. Best time of the day,” I said.
And that was it. After he left the store, I called a friend and told her I was in love. A day later, I told my uncle I had met the man who was going to break my heart. I knew he was the one.
But it was not going to be easy. I didn’t want to be tied down so I had only dated men who lived out of town, out of state, or had plans to move soon. “You’re going to college where? Is that another state? Oh that sounds wonderful, sure I’ll date you.” or “You’re moving to Malaysia in March? Fantastic! Yes, I’d love to date you.” And now there was Scott, a gentle and confident man, the greatest man I had ever met, and he lived in a different country. Perfect. But this time I was really going to try. I put my writing on hold. I wanted to fall in love, real love, and Scott was the one I’d give it all up for.
Never having had a healthy relationship, I was nothing but trouble. I moved to be with him and started losing myself in the relationship, a relationship with no real commitment. I had given up my job, my friends, my apartment, my dreams all for this amazing man. I put my life aside and my writing aside for love. It only took a few months for me to question what I’d done. How could I make my life unimportant and stop working toward my goals for a man and no guarantees that we would live happily ever after?
I left him and moved back to Minnesota—Jobless, loveless and homeless. I had been homeless before, but luckily, this time, my uncle let me live in his basement while I picked up the pieces of my broken heart. I started my own business (Due’s Doo-Doo Removal) and got a few clients, but business was slow. I was forced to beg for my old job back. I loved having my own business and learned a lot, but I loved working for Dison’s Cleaners and the steady paycheck even more.
Searching for an affordable apartment in Rochester, I realized something greater was at work: I ended up in the exact same studio, handicap apartment I had lived in almost ten years earlier during one of the hardest times of my life. At that time, I had run away from my life and an abusive relationship in Colorado and moved to Minnesota—and it looked like I was still running. This was a sure sign that I had some work to do.
I started writing again, I went back to school and I started volunteering with Victim Services. I needed to stop focusing on my own problems and do something positive for other women. I wanted to do better. I wanted to be better.
Because of my hard work and picking up extra hours at Dison’s, I became debt free with money in savings. I started looking for an editor and investigated independent publishing, which is basically starting your own publishing company; you put up all the money, do all the marketing, promotion, etc., and hope your book sells. The idea was exciting: Instead of going back through the long route of looking for an agent to look for a publisher, my book, The Gentlemen’s Club, could be published quickly. So I started Due Publications, found amazing people to help me and the rest is history. I’ve made many mistakes; I’m still making mistakes, but I love using both sides of my brain. And I love my career.
Because The Gentlemen’s Club is a story for all women, I realized I had another opportunity—speaking. So I started speaking at events, colleges, high schools and women’s shelters about violence against women. I donated many copies of The Gentlemen’s Club to women’s shelters and advocates to use as a tool to help women who are stuck—I know what it feels like to be stuck.
In 2007, I started Women Going Forward, the first national telephone support group for women. We met via phone every week with topics to discuss—everything from relationships to self-esteem and violence against women. We had some amazing guests and lots of support for each other. Women Going Forward ran for about two years and had over 500 members from all over the United States and Canada who listened in when the topic fit their needs.
Women Going Forward ended when I started getting more recognition for my books. One topic often covered during Women Going Forward was the importance of talking care of ourselves and doing what feels right. Touchable Love had been a finalist in several independent competitions and I believed I could reach and touch more women through my writing than through Women Going Forward, so I put all of my focus and energy back into my writing.
Watching Nancy Grace and Jane Velez Mitchell, I became so tired of hearing about women being victims of violence. So I wrote Returning Injury: A Suspense Celebrating Women’s Strength about a woman, Rebecca, who doesn’t want to be a victim yet willingly plays the role, denying there is a problem, second guessing herself and not listening to her gut while dealing with a stalker. Ultimately, however, she wins. I believe all women are strong enough and brave enough to win against violence. Returning Injury encompasses some of my own learning experiences about how to protect oneself emotionally and physically. Returning Injury: A Suspense Celebrating Women’s Strength is the winner of the 2011 NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE BOOK AWARDS (Suspense).
After writing three issue-driven novels, it was time for something light and fun. Again, a dream helped me create my romantic comedy, The Dumpster: One Woman’s Search for Love about Nicole, a cute, slightly overweight, twenty-something woman, who is looking for love in all the wrong places. I had fun writing it, and I hoped my readers would enjoy the lighter side of women’s issues. The Dumpster: One Woman’s Search for Love is the winner of the 2011 NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE BOOK AWARDS (Romance).
Then it was time for an app to go along with my two latest novels, Returning Injury and The Dumpster. Rebecca, from Returning Injury had this great ability to check in with herself and get to the real issue whenever she was upset. Nicole, from The Dumpster had two best friends, one who gave her tough love and one who was gentle and threw her a pity party whenever she was upset. I combined the two concepts into one fun yet helpful and inspiring app for women called I’m Upset!
The process of getting back on track with my life and my writing led me back to my greatest love, Scott. We had a few more ups and downs, but eventually made it through our relationship struggles and, today, we are happily married. Scott is my best friend. He supports me and trusts me in everything I do. He tells me and shows me how much he loves me every day. I am blessed.
I’m working on my next novel, a couple new apps and I have a few more things up my sleeve…
More about Becky Due: http://www.becky-due.com
Her App: I’m Upset! http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/im-upset/id386765718?mt=8
Her Interviews: http://www.becky-due.com/BalancingAct.html