My first venture into this realm, although I didn't even know the term at the time, was in 1958 when, at the impressionable age of 14, I saw the musical "South Pacific" and fell in love with love. I spent hours with Nurse Nellie Forbush and French planter Emile de Becque, married and living happily ever after. What did it gain me? Writing experience!
Then, seven or eight years ago, I fell into the wonderful world of the "Big Valley Writing Desk", a place where fans of the television series "The Big Valley" (1965-69) came together to remember, discuss, and write about their favorite characters: Victoria, Jarrod, Nick, Heath, Audra, and the elusive Eugene. Because the show and one of its stars, Barbara Stanwyck, were dear to my heart, I felt I'd come home. Over the years, I probably wrote some 50 or more stories, some of them better than others. I created some characters of my own, namely Victoria's second husband Royce, and KatieBee, the daughter they adopted.
The person in charge of the site gifted the authors with pages of their own on which to display links to their stories. I used to--and still do--click into my page and look at it--and sigh with pleasure. At this point, encouraged by the other "Valley Dwellers", as we called ourselves, I began to write seriously. There were discerning readers there, as well as other authors whose opinion I valued, so I had to work harder at crafting my stories instead of just writing "for my own amusement." Having written all my life and said, "Someday I'll be published", I knew that "Someday" hadn't arrived yet. Nor was I in any hurry for it to arrive. I was content in the Valley. Indeed, every day that I spent there, I was learning and growing. Every comment--positive or negative or perhaps with a suggestion for a different direction--helped enormously.
But better than all of that were the associations I formed--either by meeting a fellow Valley Dweller in person or online. My world expanded, and my life grew infinitely richer with these friendships. Whether we simply shared the love of the television series or an interest in future writing endeavors, we were part of a larger world with ever-growing boundaries. What did I gain? More writing experience and people with whom to share it.
Tomorrow: Part II: Fan Fiction--An End or a Beginning or Something In-Between?