Yesterday, James Reasoner noted in a blog post (http://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com/2008/12/32-and-counting.html) that he was celebrating the 32nd anniversary of his first sale, and it reminded me how long I've been doing this.
I've been writing since the 8th grade and seeing my work in print in various amateur publications (junior high and high school literary magazines, high school newspaper, science fiction fanzines, etc.) and semi-prozines (publications that paid a fraction of a cent per word) beginning in the 9th grade.
I made my first professional sale in September, 1977. The acceptance letter is dated September 2 and I received it on September 8. The story--a young adult fantasy titled "The Magic Stone"--wasn't published until November, 1978, when it appeared in Young World.
So 2008 marks the 31st anniversary of my first professional sale and the 30th anniversary of my first professional publication.
Not bad for a kid who just wanted to tell stories.