Kristy Woodson Harvey: Writing is a good way to make a life

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 15, 2015

It’s February. The month of love. So maybe that’s why, in the recent interviews I’ve done about my upcoming novel, “Dear Carolina,” I’ve been asked so much about falling in love. With writing, that is.

Everyone wants to know about the moment I knew. And I feel very lucky that I have an answer.

And I owe that to The Salisbury Post.

I interned at this paper in high school, and that year marked a lot of firsts for me: the first time I ever wrote a column, the first time I ever got to see my byline in a real publication, the first time I got to copyedit a piece that someone else had written. Those early mornings at The Post certainly gave me the writing bug. And that internship no doubt influenced my decision to go to journalism school at UNC.

But I don’t think it was until the summer after my freshman year in college, when I was interning at The Salisbury Post yet again, that I actually fell.

If you’ve ever been an intern, you know that you aren’t exactly at the top of the food chain. You’re there to learn, of course. But you’re also there to do the things that no one else wants to do. That summer, the thing that no one else wanted to do was write about big vegetables.

I can’t remember exactly what they called these pieces, but they were about interesting things that Rowan County citizens grew in their gardens: 10-foot-tall sunflowers, the biggest zucchini on record, a squash that looked exactly like a heart.

Looking back, I can see why the other reporters didn’t exactly think this was their opportunity for a Pulitzer. But I was thrilled. This was a chance for me to see my name in print over and over and over again. This was my shot at going back to UNC with a file of clips that would impress my professors who were always referring to our hometown newspaper as one of the best small dailies in America. Well, if I could make a heart-shaped squash worth reading about, of course.

I remember standing out behind a house in a big lot, swatting away the summer gnats, and realizing as I talked to the couple that had grown said squash that I wasn’t here to write about plants. I was here to write about people. Interesting people. People with lives and hopes and dreams and families. People, as my journalism professors would say, with a story.

Something clicked for me that summer because I realized that that’s the kind of writer I wanted to be. I wanted to write about people. And the more I grow up and the more I write the more I realize that that’s what we’re always writing about anyway. People. When I write about design, it’s about people. And when I write novels, they’re about people too.

And every, single last one of us, from top to bottom, has a wonderful, interesting story. And it’s ours to tell, whether that telling allows our names to end up in print or not.

When I was finished telling my story about falling in love with writing, the interviewer asked me about the process of getting a book published. After I detailed the steps, the highs and lows, the rejections and the triumphs, she said, “That sounds awful. Aren’t there easier ways to make money?”

I just laughed. Because a lot of things in life are about making money. But, for me, writing isn’t one of them. It’s about having a story in your heart and getting to share that with the world. It’s about sticking with something until you round out the edges and make them soft, about passion and commitment, taking the good with the bad, giving away your whole heart. In short, writing is a lot like falling in love.

Kristy Woodson Harvey, a Salisbury native, lives in Kinston. Her debut novel, “Dear Carolina” (Berkley/Penguin), is available for preorder from The Literary Book Post and Amazon.