From early childhood, Evelyn Cole played with the sounds of language, created scenarios, and peopled them with her inventions. Her mother disapproved, so she led a secret life. As a teenager, she was never bored. And, if the boy she loved spurned her, she created one who adored her. Seriously doubting all religious tenets, she loved the sound of the Bible—King James version—if not its sense.
As a college student she had the impossible dream that majoring in psychology would enable her to raise children without hurting them.
As a young mother she took philosophy at night to offset the wonderful mindlessness of her days, and wrote doggerel to amuse her children.
As a divorced mother of school-aged children she discovered that money did not grow out of bureau drawers. She went to work. Her first job was copywriting for an advertising agency. She enjoyed the work, but not the pressure when the agency doubled its number of clients and refused to give her equal pay as male copywriters. She asked her father to support her while she learned to write fiction professionally. Wisely, she believed, he said no.
At this time, she ghost-wrote articles for two psychologists which were published in “Voices” and “Presbyterian Life.” However, such work did not provide a regular income. Looking around, she discovered teaching. At the time it was the only field outside of freelance writing where men and women were paid equally. While working as a publicist for World Campus Afloat at Chapman College, she enrolled in their program for the teaching credential. She chose to teach English so she could relearn the basics of the language.
Teaching, then, became her second love. Leading students in creative writing took most of her creative energy, although she continued to write poetry on the side, which she published in Poetry Forum and College Poetry Review.
She continued her study of literature for the M.A. degree. Although she wouldn’t teach Milton or Joyce to teenagers, she could let their works and spirits infuse her as she encouraged the kids to write their hearts out.
As a mentor teacher for her school district, she wrote and edited a teacher’s manual of integrated language lessons, K -12, and taught summer writing courses to district faculty members seeking professional growth. She published an article in California English on the use of technology for cross-age tutoring.
Finally, when her own children grew up, she found time and energy to learn the novel form. She attended novel workshops at Orange Coast College and two Bennington College summer workshops. Subsequently she returned to Chapman for the M.F.A. degree which she received with honors. Also, teaching at California State University at Fullerton part time, she could focus more on the novel, which she called the best of her writing and teaching worlds. Besides, college students understood her sense of humor.
General Motors used to have an exhibit at Disneyland that broadcast repeatedly, “Progress is our most important product.” She makes fun of that phrase, yet recalls it often. In writing, she believes, process is more important than product. The process of writing a novel forces the writer to examine all facets of what it means to be human. If the process is true, the product will be.
Fred Allen once asked, “Why take a year to write a novel when for just a few dollars you can go out and buy one?” And, a student who rarely spoke but wrote eloquently once asked Evelyn if she thought he had enough talent to continue writing. Her answer to both questions: “You have no choice.”