My Writing Life:
Exploring

My love of stories inspired an interest in newspaper reporting.

Cynthia in high school

Junior Year of High School

In 1986, I served as editor of The Epic at Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park, Kansas; and later went on to major in news/editorial and public relations with a concentration in English at The William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at The University of Kansas, Lawrence.

All along, I wrote poems and short stories but didn't consider being any other kind of writer than a journalist. 

Over the next few years, I reported for The University Daily Kansan and then various community and metropolitan newspapers. This introduced me to interesting people. I talked to an African-American lawyer about his work in the civil rights movement, to a city alderman about his decision to run for state representative, and to a Tony award-winning actress about her guru.

In 1991, I went to The University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor with the idea that I would become a legal reporter and then teach media law at a journalism school. It sounded like a good plan. I'm one of those odd people who loved law school. Michigan has a particularly beautiful (if chilly) campus, and my fellow students were a source of inspiration. During summers, I studied EC law and the French legal system in Paris, worked for a legal aid office in Hawaii, worked for a federal appellate judge in Kansas, and reported for The Dallas Morning News.

By graduation, I already was writing fiction for grown-ups. Like so many people, I put down a book and thought "I can do better than that." I'm not sure why. Maybe I was rebelling from legal writing, from words like "herewith" and "aforementioned."

For almost a year, I worked in the law offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and of the Social Security Administration in Chicago. But I spent my lunch and after-work hours writing stories. They weren't good. They were awful. But it was a start. The important thing was to keep learning.

The article series "My Writing Life" continues with "Children's & YA Writing " →