I was asked more than once when I was young if I was planning on being a writer. The answer, at first, was yes. But most teenagers don’t have a lot of discipline or patience. It took me a few decades to come back around to the idea. I even stopped reading novels for several years. What was I doing during that time? Being a boring lunkhead, I suppose.
The Bay Area was my home for the first 25 years of my life. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from San Francisco State University. After learning to design and draw, drape patterns and build costumes, I became a television newscast director. Obviously. Then I hopped around the country–mostly chasing a man–and was finally able to use my professional skill to build my own wedding dress.
So what does all this have to do with writing? That guy I caught also used to write. When he decided to recapture his own lost talent, I told him I wanted to play, too. We’ve had so much fun since the autumn of 2016, and have discovered that, while rusty, our storytelling skills are still at least halfway decent.
What I really need to do is recapture the arrogance of a teenager who believes she has an original insight, something to say that’s never been said before, or at least a knack for saying it better than anyone else.
Born in Omaha, moved to Colorado, graduated from Colorado State, started a career in Broadcast Television in Cheyenne that lead to Michigan and Florida; met a California girl along the way and started a family, happy to be home in Denver. It’s the well rehearsed bio that I’m finding tiresome just writing out. For the sake of everyone’s interest, allow me to elaborate.
Aside from a serious struggle with appropriate punctuation, my high school Creative Writing teacher loved almost everything I wrote. Ms. Wallis was sure I had a career as a novelist ahead of me. To a shy, gangly teenager the imagined life of a network reporter was irresistible: Traveling the world from home base in London, investigating corruption and criminality, seducing Oxbridge-educated supermodels. As you do.
Instead, I lugged a Betacam around Cheyenne Frontier Days, then got irritated when the future Mrs. Ortmeier blocked my view of the newsroom TV. Can’t she wait until the commercial break to crank up that camera? Rude. It didn’t take me too long to figure out she was the better view.
Julie and I spent the next twenty years discovering what we wanted from life and each other. Every once in a while we visited the dusty, cobwebbed parts of our brains that used to transform ordinary life events into fairly compelling stories. How delightful it was to find that our nascent talent could be combined with more than two decades of shared experience as friends, lovers and parents to form a creative partnership that is deeply satisfying.
We’ve tried to define what roles we played as M.J. Ortmeier. I snatch stories from the ether and hammer out a rough plot with plenty of manly drama and a sexy romp or three. Julie tames the savage beast with a gentle woman’s touch, lending elegance and warmth. Or sometimes it’s the other way around. We’re finding our soft and hard edges, which we both have in abundance, and the wonderful ways they fit together. The appropriate punctuation? That’s all her. Sorry Ms. Wallis, the struggle continues.