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.


Petra @ Safari Poet said...

I'm glad to hear that you had someone like Mrs. Hall. I wish I would of met someone like her and gotten into books when I was younger because I had the same need for escapism.
I think that's one reason why books and movies continue to be so popular with everything going in the world. Everybody needs that escape sometimes.

Looking forward to finding out more about your book :-)

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