Birthdays are always surreal events, aren’t they? They’re moments of bombardment, with well-wishes from near and far. And then one’s thoughts process just how old one is. For myself, I think, I’ve gone around the sun again, an astronaut in my own way. Not quite the way I imagined myself, but now I can say that is okay. In fact, it’s better.
I was born and grew up in East Tennessee, a place that in spring evokes a pink dogwood confection, in summer looks deep green and lush like Hobbiton, and in autumn it blazes with rainbow-hued leaves and smells of distant woodsmoke. Winter, however, was never my favorite. Once all the leaves dropped, it resembled an apocalyptic wasteland. And so I really never cared for February when I lived there.
I eventually moved to a more rural area called Gray, but my life was full of color and adventure there. That was where I felt enchantment, and where I invented all my worlds and characters to keep me company. I wrote and drew constantly, and yes, I did want to be an astronaut. Everything shifted when I saw the Challenger explode. I still wanted to travel to the stars, but wondered if we really could.
In my mind, I always did anyway.
I wrote with a kind of galloping madness, unstoppable, and acted out my scenes in the woods. I illustrated as I went along. Oh, how I wanted someone my age to be there to share the stories with me. For a time, I did have someone, a neighbor boy a year older than I. We pretended we were brother and sister, because people always teased us about being boyfriend and girlfriend. And we did sort of look like siblings. I was always on my blue Schwinn bike, pretending it was a craft that took me through the air or through space, or through interdimensional portals. We were space travelers.
Eventually I wrote a novel! And I knew it was going to be part of an epic story, with women heroes as well as men, women with flaws and great outfits and superpowers and cravings for yummy things, and creatures and robots and everything.
The writing and art fell aside for a number of years in my late teens to late twenties. Education, career, moving, all sorts of changes happened in that time. But I would steal away moments, and I would sketch in the margins of notes I took.
After I had children, I returned to writing for a job: science writing. This was another avenue of writing, which I enjoyed, for my background is in science. I had children, and they began telling their own stories. So I decided it was time I got mine into the world, to show them they can pursue their dreams.
And here I am today, in gratitude, and disbelief, at forty-five, with my first published book out in the world, my second arriving soon, and the third and fourth already partially complete as well. There are more stories to tell, but the one in which I’m an astronaut, grateful for all of you launching me into my firmament of dreams…that’s my favorite. February is now a beautiful thing. Thank you.
Image Credit: Photo of J. Dianne Dotson holding a T-shirt with the cover of Heliopause: The Questrison Saga: Book One, by J. Dianne Dotson, Copyright 2019