Friday, January 22, 2010

Old Dream, New Dream

I once wanted to be an astronaut. Seriously.

My father says it's because I "sat around and took up space." (This same sense of humor landed me the name Monta Carla to go with Monaco.) But really, I worked tremendously hard to squeeze the required high-level math and science into my surprisingly normal life as a teenager and succeeded. I got accepted to Cornell.

Great, right? Except one day early freshman year, it dawned on me. I didn't actually like math, science or Cornell (but that's another story). Equations and experiments suddenly seemed less a means for "slip(ping) the surly bonds of Earth," and more like a punishment in one of Dante's Circles of Hell.

What I did enjoy was writing. I'd loved working on my high school paper, and the off-campus office of the Daily Sun was one of the few places I fit in at Cornell.

As soon as I was able, I switched majors (eventually schools too) and later landed a job working for a wire service in Washington, D.C. As a 22-year-old kid, I found myself doing things like going to the East Room in the White House for a joint press conference by President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and participating in an interview with former Secretary of State James Baker.

(And having a haircut interrupted so the hairdresser could go cover up Larry King's bald spot with black paint. Totally irrelevant, but I've always wanted to tell that story.)

After working for a publisher of magazines and newsletters and going to graduate school for a Master's degree in American history, I passed up an assistant curatorship at the Navy Museum to try my hand as a freelance writer. Newly married, I liked the idea of something I could continue after I had children. I still write today, albeit not as much, while staying at home and homeschooling my two sons.

Why try my hand at fiction? My journalism career has been about informing people. I'd like the chance to captivate them.

About a year ago, I put fingers to keyboard and started a young adult novel where the life of a 16th century pirate has repercussions for a contemporary teenager. (It's set at the Jersey Shore, but I swear, no one is named Snookie. If you have no idea who I am talking about, count yourself lucky.)

It's exhilarating to be in control of my own fictional world. It's getting less terrifying to let the real people in my wonderful critique group read about it. It's rewarding when they understand, and I'm thankful that they are able to explain when they don't.

I still would like to "trod the untrespassed sanctity of space," but it's more likely that I will write a story about it, than actually go. of my books makes enough money for me to afford a commercial flight on the space shuttle. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Quotes are from one of my favorite poems: High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.


  1. Wow! I'm impressed, Monta. Of course you can dream. And check out some other authors' "big dreams" on Lisa Schroeder's blog, at

  2. Now we know who GRACE ACTUALLY IS!!! A HA!! Great intro.

  3. The sky is the limit - or maybe it isn't!

  4. I actually was thinking that if you added a title to your book, something like "Intrigue at the Jersey Shore," you would could so capitalize on the inexplicable fascination with that show! That's pretty good that you have been working on Grace for only one year!