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 in Minneapolis 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 did—Blue didn’t fly; he rode on the backs of other birds. At the time, I was working on my self-esteem and sometimes 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 very little 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. But I noticed one x that was further to the right, meaning above average. I curiously followed the x to see what it represented—written expression. I knew this was a sign that I was on the right path.
Never knowing my 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 Ray’s 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—I was saving money for an editor.
I started going to church on Sunday mornings and sometimes Monday evenings, and I worked my way out of isolation though it was my favorite place to be. I was happy, content and fulfilled, and writing was the key. Moving full steam ahead toward my goals and dreams, I knew nothing would stop me.
Then I met a man.
To be continued…