Marlene Louise Martin
I knew I wanted to be a writer when my eighth grade social science teacher Glen Russell announced that anyone caught chewing gum in his class would have to write a thousand word essay. I very much wanted to write that essay, so I did not chew stealthily. I chomped Doublemint, and it delivered more than double the fun. Once caught and sentenced, I researched—long before the days of internet help. I wrote in longhand the same way our Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta were written. I chronicled the benefits of the chewing gum business from the workers to the stock holders in the billion dollar plus industry.
Mr. Russell gave the essay to the principal George Leckrone. Mr. Leckrone phoned my mom. She was a single mom who worked six days a week. She used the entire village of Deckerville, Michigan—population eight hundred—to help raise my brother and me. Mom went to Deckerville Community Schools and read the essay. “No,” she assured Mr. Leckrone and Mr. Russell, she did not ghost write it. (Nor did she know I had chewed gum in class.) After the meeting with Mom, Mr. Russell announced that for the rest of the year, my class could chew gum. This was like winning a Pulitzer on my first attempt.
I did not immediately start working on a Nobel. It was a few more decades before I submitted anything for publication. Meanwhile, I earned a B.A. and an M.A. in English language and literature from the University of Michigan. During this time I married and taught in Michigan schools for four and a half years. Next I joined the Peace Corps and spent nearly four months in Puerto Rico learning Spanish. After the training, the Peace Corps sent me to Honduras to teach in a teacher training program. I returned home to get a divorce. Then I worked as a flight attendant for American Airlines. John Martin, an ocean scientist I had met back in Puerto Rico during my Peace Corps training months, initiated a colorful campaign to get me to marry him. He moved to Chicago to devote a summer to that goal. Then he moved to California, where he had accepted a professorship at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station.
Eventually, I joined him in California and married him. He ultimately became the director of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and a paradigm changing scientist. (There is a NASA website about John’s science. Google “John Martin NASA.”)
I taught for a couple years at Pacific Grove High, took a leave for the birth of our elder son Ian, then began my forty-one year teaching career at Monterey Peninsula College. My second son Andrew was born three years later—in the middle of a semester.
All of this was fodder for writing, but I made no attempt to publish until a sea otter pup washed up on a local beach and was rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I wrote about the pup and was paid by the Monterey Herald, our daily paper on the Monterey Peninsula. Locals saw my story and praised me. I recognized the feeling of pride from my Doublemint days. So I wrote more articles and branched out to many other publications. I wrote about travel and plants and interesting people and a day at San Quentin with a doctor friend. I wrote about whatever caught my fancy. I broadened my publishing horizons to The Los Angeles Times and The Christian Science Monitor—and dozens more publications. I developed strong beliefs about the teaching of composition, so I wrote three college composition textbooks, one for Harper Collins and two for McGraw-Hill, the last co-authored with a colleague.
Along the way, I started a thriller novel involving ocean science and a kidnapping. John helped with witty ideas. This was a fun new writing vehicle. After John died of cancer, I put the novel away for many years. I saw my sons through college, and marriage, and the nurturing of their children. I taught and traveled. I was awarded two Fulbrights and three National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.
In my teaching career I served as English Department Chair, Teachers' Association president, and Academic Senate president. In the years since John died, I have maintained my involvement with the marine laboratory John directed. I have spoken at events honoring him in ballrooms filled with scientists where I provided a human dimension to his reputation in science.
From time to time, I examined Threatened, that thriller manuscript. Some of the best ideas were John’s. At last, I tackled the novel again. I wrote and rewrote. Now it is as completed as a work of writing ever is, and I am beginning the search for an agent.
I am well into The Widow and the Lab Rats, a second novel--this time a satiric frolic with a protagonist who plunges into the dating world. I occasionally write a non-fiction article for publication, but my focus is now on writing fiction. I hope it will bring me some of the joy of my Doublemint days.