US Navy veteran leads a novel life

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Rancho San Diego resident Megan Westfield is not what you’d typically think of as a Navy veteran. In her 30s, Westfield is a wife and mother of two children—and what’s more—a romance writer and mountain climber. Her new novel, “Lessons in Gravity,” was released late in 2016.

Rancho San Diego resident Megan Westfield is not what you’d typically think of as a Navy veteran. In her 30s, Westfield is a wife and mother of two children—and what’s more—a romance writer and mountain climber. Her new novel, “Lessons in Gravity,” was released late in 2016.

Westfield said she has been writing since longer than she could remember. As a small child, she typed up stories about her paper dolls using her father’s old manual Underwood typewriter. While in middle school and high school, Westfield kept journals and lists of story ideas.

“It wasn’t until my mid 20s when I was in the Navy that I knew definitively that writing is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Westfield said.

A recruiting poster that Westfield saw during her junior year of high school prompted her to entertain the idea of joining the military.

“I was always attracted to doing things that were different than what I was familiar with, and the military fit that bill exactly. The fact that they would pay for college was a huge bonus,” she said.

After being offered ROTC scholarships with the Army, Air Force and Navy, Westfield decided on the Navy. She reasoned that she would be more likely to be stationed on the coast rather than the interior of the United States.

During college, she was required to minor in Naval Science, which was a combination of course work in leadership, military basics, shipboard engineering, navigation principles, physics, calculus, and military history. She was commissioned in the Navy on the day she graduated from college and reported to her first ship within a few weeks. 

Westfield didn’t serve as some yeoman or typical female role. First, she was the fire control officer on the USS Mount Whitney in Norfolk, Virginia, then she transferred to the USS Preble in San Diego as the navigation and administration officer. She then transferred to Newport, Rhode Island to be the international instructor at the Surface Warfare Officers School. During her time there, she deployed to Iraq with the Army.

“During my time of service, only about 15 percent of surface warfare officers were women.  Fortunately, I was prepared to work in this environment after participating the ROTC program in college and having worked at Boy Scout camps while in high school,” Westfield said.

Her sense of adventure carried over into sports climbing. The first place she ever rock climbed was Smith Rocks, near Bend, Oregon. “I had always wanted to try it and when some of my ROTC friends invited me I jumped at the chance. I love the meditation-like focus that happens in the middle of a pitch while climbing. 

“Nothing else matters except the section of rock right in front of you and how you’re going to get through it.  All other worries and distractions fade away,” she said.

Her novel “Lessons in Gravity” initially arose from many rock climbing trips to Yosemite National Park with her then-boyfriend during her final years in the Navy and the first years of her transition to civilian life.

“The park is such a sublime and powerful place and I wanted to write a book fully set there.  Yosemite is an internationally renowned destination for climbing and since I had a strong working knowledge of the sport, I decided to also center the novel in the unique rock climb culture there.” Westfield said.  

She explained that sports romance is a romance sub-genre where the books center in professional athletics. Typically, the sports are major league ones such as football, hockey, or baseball. But what is different about Westfield’s book is that she writes about rock-climbing, a type of adventure sport, as opposed to team sports. 

Westfield juggles her busy days with fiction writing, a part-time technical writing job and raising her two children. 

“It’s taken me a long time to end up where I am, but I think that my journey is a good example of finding a balance between low-paid–or not-paid–creative pursuits and being able to earn a living.  Because I served in the Navy, I don’t have college debt, and that has given more financial freedom to pursue writing than I otherwise would have had,” she said.

Westfield is working on a second novel with her publisher. Due out this fall, the book is set in the Himalayas and centers on a young female mountain guide. 

“In the big picture, though, I hope to build a strong connection with a core group of readers, who like me, long to read women’s fiction and love stories rooted  in unique modern cultures and located in stunning geographical settings,” she said.

When she is not writing or working, Westfield enjoys taking her kids on walks, going to the Rancho San Diego Library, Hilton Head Park, the Water Conservation Garden and the McGrath Family YMCA. 

Westfield will read from her novel at a book-signing event at the El Cajon Library on June 17. For more information, go to her website at www.meganwestfield.com.

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