.A Lifetime of First and Final Drafts

June Smith tells the story of how and why she writes

As I look back over the years, I realize I’ve followed in the footsteps of my paternal grandfather, Edwin, a longtime newspaper columnist. Perhaps, it makes sense, as I was born under the Gemini zodiac sign in Mercury, the planet associated with strong communication skills.

It started in grade school when I entertained my class with a made-up-as-I-went written saga. Then, as a freshman in high school in a suburb of Chicago, I volunteered to be the enquiring reporter for our school paper. This gave me the chance to hobnob with basketball and football stars, because otherwise, in order to get attention as a girl at my school, you had to be either rich or drop-dead beautiful. This was the same high school Ernest Hemmingway had attended, and I imagined absorbing his talent while sitting at his desk in journalism class.

Years later, I married Jim Smith, an engineer who teamed up with a home winemaker friend to start a small winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As co-owner of Roudon Smith Winery, I offered to edit the Winegrowers Association newsletter and was elected publicity chairperson.

When the travel editor for the daily newspaper in Santa Cruz retired, I applied to write travel articles and later became a wine columnist and regular correspondent. The rise of television in the 1950s started the decline of newspapers, and then the explosion of the Internet in the 1990s taught me that it was time to start writing online. That was easily accomplished, and I applied to write a wine column for Examiner.com, joined by my wine rep friend, the late Jerry Starr.

It was a perfect union; Jerry wrote about local wines and events, and I took on personal stories about the winery owners. After Examiner.com ceased operations six years later, I looked for other options and found Suite 101, a collaborative publishing site that offered writers the platform to supply “the 101” on any subject they felt qualified to report on. I won $101 in its writing contest!

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Press privileges helped me interview local singer James Durbin and other American Idol finalists, as well as contestants in So You Think You Can Dance. I went on to write for The Los Angeles Times, Santa Cruz Visitors Council, Good Times Santa Cruz, Patch.com, the Santa Cruz Small Business Monthly, plus a dining column for the Times Publishing Group.

My husband, Jim, passed away in 2003, but I kept writing. Jim and I had traveled to so many beautiful spots during our 46 years together, and “The Spectacular Pleasures of Tahiti” was a story needing to be told. Also as a tribute to him and to relay a special experience I had on the evening of his passing, “A Gift From Beyond” spilled out of me. The story was accepted numerous times in numerous places.

In 2005, local writer Karen Kefauver and a small group of published women writers formed a critique group, Women of Words (WOW). Each of us had expertise in a different category. I became a better writer, winning awards from the National League of American Pen Women and The California Writers Club.

Casting director and friend Judy Bouley invited me to work as an extra in “The Lost Boys,” then later in the production of “Turner and Hooch,” starring my favorite actor, Tom Hanks. I wrote, “I Put My Life on Hold for Tom Hanks” for the Sentinel, showing a photo of myself on the set with Tom in the background. From that day on, I was cast in every movie filmed in our area and loved writing about these exciting experiences.

My writing process is simple:

  • Get the idea.
  • Pitch the idea.
  • Write the “shitty first draft,” as advised by bestselling author Anne Lamott. She talks about the importance of having a “shitty” first draft, which can lead to a better second, and a great third — and trusting the process.

Needless to say, what you’re reading is not my first draft. In fact, this story, like others I’ve written for Good Times, will undergo edits and rewrites that will lead to several drafts before it’s published. And at age 92 in the year 2023, you might assume this is my final story—but it’s not! I predict my writing will continue. There are so many more stories to be told.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi June…very impressive. Judy gave me a gift of Storybook, where they send me a question every week to write about. I have my book completed. There are subjects important that are missing yet, it is a good overview of my life. Several of my friends and family have read it. If you are interested I can mail it to you and you can send it back to me when you are finished. Wow, I can’t believe you are 92…I just turned 82 in December. What a wonderful journey your life has been and I’ve enjoyed being along for at least some of the ride! Hope your new year is filled with fun adventures and good health. I so enjoy keeping in touch with you. Sending hugs and best wishes, Carol and Marty

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