Monday, November 28, 2011

Becoming a "Writer"

When I was a kid, my goal never was to become a writer. I liked to write stories and especially draw accompanying pictures in elementary school, but I didn't ever say writer when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I wanted to be a surgeon, even though the sight of blood made me faint. I wanted to be a veterinarian at a zoo, even though, again, there was that whole blood problem, not to mention all the schooling. I wanted to be a flight attendant so I could travel the world for free. I even wanted to be a singer, never mind that I was tone deaf.

But I came from an abusive home. The environment creates a certain need for escapism. As a kid I was constantly daydreaming and envisioning my life as something different than it was. I watched movies and read books and imagined myself in that world as the heroine of my own adventure.

I also created a persona for who I was outside my house. Which means, I lied a lot. Like a lot. Before I even knew how awful it was. And my lies were elaborate with intricate details and safeguards. I told my kindergarten teacher my cat had eight kittens. (My family had a dog who was spayed). I described each kitten in major detail, gave each of them names, drew pictures of them for weeks, and when a parent of a fellow student asked if they could buy one of the kittens from my family, I told them we'd already promised them to people in our family.

Then of course, I grew up and got caught in a few lies and suffered the punishments, and realized that maybe wasn't the best way to go about life.

And I had an English teacher who saved me. Her name was Mrs. Hall, and she loved books with a ferocity that couldn't be anything but contagious. Every time she spoke, in class, in the hallway, to me or to someone else, I was captivated by how passionate she was. I wanted to be just like her.

So I read everything she recommended. I showed up at her classroom every day after school, even when she wasn't my teacher anymore. We discussed hundreds of books--the characters, the worlds, the language, the authors. Everything. 

She asked to read my stories, so I wrote them down. 

And she listened.

That encouragement drove me through high school, and writing itself became a staple in my life, something I did every time I had a free moment whether it was on my computer, in a notebook, on the back of a receipt or on a napkin. 

I tried to write the Great American Novel for a while, and then I read Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of Ages series. The characters and world became so alive and so inspiring that I realized I had it all wrong. Most of the stories I loved most (excluding Gatsby) were all fantasy or science fiction.

So I changed my focus, and I embraced the inner science fiction/fantasy geek inside me and somewhere along the line, I wrote Unraveling. Then Brooks Sherman and Janet Reid and a lot of other people helped make things happen.

First published 10/2/2011, this post can be seen in its original form on Brave New Words.

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