Fifteen years into her accounting career, Padgett began writing southern fiction. When she accepted that her passion for writing had surpassed her passion for accounting, she retired in September 2010 to write full-time.
Two days after leaving her challenging, rewarding and financially secure career, Padgett said, "What in the world have I done? I love to write and I know I can write, but is that enough? Does anyone else think I can write?"
As she wrote furiously, trying to prove she'd made a wise decision, she received the following email from a former co-worker:
Ben and I spent Thanksgiving at his parents' cabin in Black Mountain. His sister, brother & his brother's kids were there, as well. Thursday night, the kids went downstairs to get away (as teenagers tend to do) so we did a little storytelling upstairs. I had my copy of "Self Rising Flowers" with me so I decided to read your story. Everyone loved meeting OO and her sweet daddy. It was fun to read aloud. They all think that you did a great job and that you should pursue your writing so we can meet more of your wonderful, colorful characters!
Several days later, still walking on air, her head huge with validation, Padgett was suddenly slammed to earth and reality when a self-addressed stamped envelope arrived in the mail. All writers recognize those SASE's. They contain let-you-down-as-gently-as-I-can notes from literary agents that say, "Though we all love your manuscript and think you have great writing talent, this just isn't for us. But don't give up!" So she opened the envelope, pulled out her rejection folder and started to slip the letter in. Then something caught her eye. It was the word "CONGRATULATIONS!"
The letter read, "Congratulations! Your entry "The Art of Dying" won first place in the short story fiction category of the Southwest Manuscripters National Writing Contest! It was a very absorbing work and justly deserved first place in the competition."
It was Padgett's first award for writing, unless, of course, you count the second place ribbon in the Falling Spring Seventh Grade Poetry Contest a half century before. Oh, she was on a roll. Her perseverance had paid off: from 2nd place to 1st place in only 50 years.
The author ran to her computer and wrote like a woman on fire.