Many different lives

In first grade, a teacher praised her reading and set Debbie Kaufman on the road to becoming a lifelong reader. Reading let Kaufman experience a “number of different lives,” beginning with the magical lives of fairy tale heroines. Later, becoming a writer as well as a reader opened the door for Kaufman to use her own many “different lives”—from airport manager to journalist to parent—to inform her stories.

Transcript

How did you become a writer?

In first grade, my teacher—I remember the first praise I ever remember getting in my life was when I was reading well. And I had caught on quickly and she praised me. And of course, then I was going to read like crazy because it was really the only place I was getting any praise in my life. So I think that Mrs. Smith in first grade had a big deal to do with me becoming a reader.

Oh, I was a huge fairy tale reader. But I liked everything from Cinderella, of course, was a huge theme. You know we all wanted someone to come rescue us in those types of situations. It took me a while to figure out that that wasn’t going to happen. And then, I’m trying to remember the name of the fairy tale, but it’s about the sister whose brothers were turned into swans. And I always liked that fairy tale. It wasn’t really a romantic type thing where the guy came into rescue you. Because like I said, I’d already pretty much decided that that kind of stuff wasn’t happening, but I really liked her because she was strong and she set out to do something and to make a change and I think that was the fairy tale that really got me going. I’ve had a lot of different diverse things in my background. I think that that’s what makes me a better writer is they all finally get to come home to roost. They find their home in stories.

I did everything from selling cosmetics door to door to running a small airport with my husband. That was an interesting experience, learned a lot about life then. I was a journalist for a small town paper, caused trouble there too. Just like Sunday school, I got thrown out of meetings because I asked all those questions about sunshine law and they really didn’t like that in that small little county. I went to work as a school teacher and taught English for several years. I also ran an international adoption program and my fourth child is from China as a result.

I think that’s why I’m so happy about writing. I feel like all those other things, I like to live a variety of different lives.

I didn’t really start writing until I had my fourth child and I wrote 25 pages of a suspense story. My husband said it was wonderful. I put it in a drawer and it sat there for several years because I didn’t know what to do with it. Someone told me about RWA and I went online and found out about it. My husband gave me that for my birthday. It was such a life changer. And he was so supportive. He kept saying, “You gotta finish that book. You gotta finish that book.” So I finally after a little while, I drug it back out and I finished that book. And then I wrote book two. That’s the one that finally sold for me. And I’m real excited about that obviously. But I’m not sure what possessed me that time except that I had always been such a huge reader and those stories, I think this is the theme that you hear from a lot of writers, those stories were always in my head. And just reading other people’s stories finally wasn’t satisfying enough.

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