Newspapers have always loomed large in my life, for as long as I can remember. In my earliest years, I spent my days with my grandparents while my parents worked. Granny and Pop began each day with coffee and the newspaper. The St. Joseph Gazette was the morning paper in those days and they read each page, every story, every ad and each obituary.
The paper fueled the breakfast conversation each day and I struggled to hold up the large papers in my small hands. I grew into being able to hold the paper eventually.
St. Joe, my hometown, had a morning and an evening paper. Once the Gazette had been throughly read, Granny folded it with care.
In the late afternoon, the News-Press hit the porch and if it wasn't on time, my Granny wasn't happy. My dad spent years as a youth as a paper boy and he always delivered.
Once the evening paper arrived, it was time to check for news updates and anything new to discuss.
My very first publication at the age of nine, came in the pages of the Gazette. Each Saturday morning, a page was set aside for children to share their prose or artwork. Several of my cousins had their art published but even at an early age, I was well aware that my talents were lacking in that type of art.
Words were my gift and so I wrote a poem which was published.
Somewhere, I have a clipping of that poem tucked away along with a few copies I later made of it.
My family made much of it and because the poem was about pioneers and what I then called "olden times" in St. Joe, it brought me to the notice of a great-uncle.
At a family reunion he made it a special point to talk to me and tell me about the Lewis family history, which sparked my lifelong passion for genealogy.
I was on the staff of the 8th grade paper in junior high school. At Crowder College, I majored in journalism where I was on the staff of the college newspaper, The Sentry, and editor, a legacy that my daughter Megan has continued. I was also on the staff of the first Crowder Quill, the campus literary magazine. At Missouri Southern State College, I was part of the Winged Lion staff.
After college, my first "real" job was in broadcast radio. I spent more than seven years working for KBTN Radio in Neosho and on occasion for their sister station KSEK in Kansas.
I also launched a freelance writing career. My first publication was in my hometown newspaper at the age of nine on a children's page. During my college years, in addition to my work on The Sentry, I also wrote for the campus literary publications.
In the mid-1980's I began selling some of my work, both fiction and non-fiction to a variety of markets both regional and national.
Fast forward to 1994 when I got married and to 1996 when our twin daughters were born. I managed to sell a few pieces during their baby days. I always wanted to write a novel and so when they were toddlers, I decided if I didn't make a real effort to write a novel that might sell, I never would. So, no matter how crazy it seemed, I started writing what would become Kinfolk.
More than eighty rejections later and after penning several more manuscripts, Kinfolk was accepted by Champagne Books in the summer of 2010. That fall, I sold other works to Evernight Publishing and today, I have more than two dozen novels and assorted novellas published by several different publishers. My books are on Amazon and Barnes and Noble along with other sites. Some are available in print but all are available in electronic formats.
I've written a column for the Neosho Daily News since the fall of 2004. In early 2017 I began working as a stringer or independent correspondent. In April last year, I became a full time staff writer or reporter.
I love what I do. I think newspapers are still viable in the 21st century and I'm sure people will always want stories, whether it's what's happening around town or fiction.
So I write and I remain devoted to newspapers - I've always been both.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a staff writer for The Neosho Daily News.