Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins


Today's blogfest is all about the radioactive spiders that bit us and caused our writer selves to be born. Maybe you didn't have spiders. Maybe you had an accidental exposure to some gamma (grammar?) rays instead. Whatever it was that inspired you to be a writer, this blogfest is all about telling that tale and celebrating it. It's brought to us by DL Hammons, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Katie Mills and Matthew MacNish (click on the picture to the left for a complete list of all 190 participants).

So here's the story of how I became a writer:

It's an interesting story. Actually, I don't know that. I have no idea whether this story will interest you or if you've already hit the 'next' button on your blogroll. I don't even know if such buttons exist so, there you go.

As you may have already suspected, I don't know a whole hell of a lot. What I do know is that I'm that person Rainer Maria Rilke was talking to in Letters To A Young Poet when he said, "Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity."

My answer is a resounding "I must."

And this is how I got there:

I always liked to read as a kid and I know I used to scribble down stories and little poems. One weekend, I remember commandeering my mother's electric typewriter (yep. That's how old I am) and a corner of our basement so I could write a murder mystery story à la Ten Little Indians. I think someone died from poisoned breakfast cereal.

But my first real memory of really writing stories comes from my year in seventh grade. The English department was trying out some new experimental program where our reading classes were spent reading any books we wanted and then writing a summary about them in a special notebook. (I read a lot of Sweet Valley High books back then.) Then we had writing classes where we could write anything we wanted: poetry, short stories, anything. I wrote short stories. My best friend, Amanda, and I wrote a lot of corroborating stories. Of course Amanda was very much into Stephen King at the time and so our corroborations were pretty much twins in a bad horror movie. I don't remember a lot about those stories but I do remember one of them contained the following line:

...and then the eyeball popped out-- Ping!!

We were very impressed with ourselves. Our teacher, I think, was sick.

Seventh grade was also the year I wrote my first fantasy story. And it was bad. I mean, really bad. Really, really bad. It involved pterodactyls and talking unicorns. And pop tarts (what can I say? I really liked pop tarts. Kicked toaster strudel's ass.). I don't think I ever let anyone read it. I don't even think I still have a copy of it anywhere. But you know, even as I think about it, I still think that somewhere in that piece of crap of a manuscript, was something good.

Well, maybe not.

I got more serious about writing when I hit high school but still it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life (I think at that time, I wanted to be an actress). English classes were no longer devoted to reading and writing what I wanted so I spent my time sitting in the back of the classroom reading and writing what I wanted anyway. In high school, I wrote the first draft of what is now known as How Many Angels. I also wrote a new fantasy novel, something that's come to be known as the very first draft of what is now known as Second Nature. My friend, Ben, came up with the title. Gone were the pop tarts and pterodactyls. I kept the talking unicorns though (C'mon! Those things are awesome!). My CP was a girl who lived, quite literally, over the river and through the woods from my house. We would trade stories and poems all the time in school. She was a much better writer than me and I'm sure she still is.

But I kept at it. Writing, I mean. By the time, I got to my second year of college, I had had twelve different majors and Second Nature had seven companion novels (which pretty much ended the series) but still I didn't think that maybe I should be a writer. No, then I was pretty convinced I wanted to be a photographer (even though I didn't-- and still don't-- know how to work a camera) or an opera singer international ass kicking superspy or a computer programmer (Yeah all right, so I didn't even make it to the end of that first class before I changed my mind).

It was just anything but a writer.

Meanwhile, I wrote some other things: some poetry, an autobiography (of all things), another mystery novel (never finished. I don't even know who the bad guy was supposed to have been) and a young adult novel among them. I took a creative writing class and had a semester of people falling over themselves to tell me what a talented writer I was. I even broke up with a boyfriend who had had the audacity to clean up my dorm room while I was in class because in the cleaning process he ruined my carefully arranged and perfectly sensible to me scattering of notes on my revisions and future plans for How Many Angels. He thought it was just a bunch of paper.

It wasn't.

But I don't think it ever really occurred to me that I should maybe be a writer until the summer before my junior year of college. I'd transferred schools, met The Man and was working three jobs. But that summer was also the summer I found myself wanting to go back to the fantasy world I'd created. It was like an obsession. No, it wasn't like an obsession. It was an obsession. I couldn't think of anything else so I decided I had to go back there to write new stories in that setting. But since there was no way forward (I mean, that series was done moving forward. Trust me.), that only left going back.

So I wrote a prequel. And thus Effigy— and my so called writing career— was born because once I'd started writing that story— even that terrible, terrible first draft (no pop tarts. I promise), I never looked back.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

47 comments:

  1. I love a long winding road to get back to what you must do. Pterodactyls and Pop Tarts are definitley the coolest odd pairing ever.

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  2. Aw, I want to read that story involving pterodactyls, talking unicorns and pop tarts.

    Your writing story is wonderful.

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  3. I'm seeing such a common theme of childhoods filled with daydreaming and wild imaginations in this blogfest. I love it.

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  4. I think we all started out writing crap. Still, it felt good to escape into OUR OWN world, not someone else's. I fondly remember those days when I thought I could write about anything and it would be hailed as creative genius... even if it didn't have pop tarts in it. : )

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  5. Love you imagination and how it dictated your journey. Bravo!

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  6. You know, the Ten Little Indians was one of the reasons I wanted to write mysteries.

    What an imagination you have!

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  7. Love it! It's like the best place ever, isn't it? That zone of full creativity. It's why we obsess over it. :)

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  8. Great post. I hear ya and 'I must' also.

    Strange advice -don't give up the pop tarts.

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  9. Now I totally want a pop tart. :)

    Love your origin story!

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  10. Now I totally want a pop tart. :)

    Love your origin story!

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  11. The "ping" made me laugh! Genius line. :)

    Loved your origin story. You were destined for this!

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  12. Toaster strudels were a fad. Pop-tarts are a long term success story. That 'never knowing what you want to do' thing is also a common theme among writers. Glad you surrendered to the call.

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  13. You can add my vote to keep the Pop Tarts. Great story!

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  14. As Melissa says "Pterodactyls and Pop Tarts are definitley the coolest odd pairing ever." Don't eyeballs go "Pluuush!" when they pop out. Just funning. The long journey is the most soul-defining one. Great origin.

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  15. Oh, that Rilke quote gave me the chills as I read. Love it! And I'd love to read the Pop-Tarts and pterodactyls story. I am a Pop-Tarts junkie. :D

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  16. Is it too late to become an international, ass-kicking superspy? Cause that's almost as awesome as writer!

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  17. These daydreams are persistent things, aren't they? And...I dunno, I might be willing to part with a few thousand words here or there if someone ELSE would ever clean my "dorm room" for me.

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  18. I wrote science fiction in the 6th grade and let the guy in front of me read it. It got a poor rating if something gross (like exploding something) didn't happen.

    So I understand.

    Keep it up.

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  19. You've had quite a journey to becoming a writer. Hehe! I read a lot of the Sweet Valley High books too. And I love the line: ...and then the eyeball popped out--Ping!!. *grins*

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  20. What an adventure you had getting to the Writer stage. This was marvelouslly written too. I enjoyed your story and all the entertaining quips.

    I think a unicorn story with the pop tarts could be quite interesting :)

    .......dhole

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  21. Hey,

    Love your story... so awesome that you never gave up. Love the pic of the unicorn and finally:

    I must.

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  22. haha, I laughed at exposed to "grammer" rays. And you are right, talking unicorns are awesome. I also co-wrote stories with one of my best friends, and it was a blast. Writing IS fun, contrary to popular belief. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  23. as I read this, the following quote came to mind: "Never give up, never surrender!"

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  24. Good for you starting so young. I used to write really bad poetry too. Glad you kept on going.

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  25. oh man, your seventh grade year sounds AMAZING!
    I wish i could take classes like those right now!

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  26. ~ And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity." ~

    I LOVE this, M.J.!
    And, I absolutely LOVE, LOVE your synopsis of 'Effigy'!! Wonderfully exotic names you've chosen, the plot is outstanding, and the characters themselves are incredibly engaging. It appears your WRITING CAREER is already upon us! Write. Write! Write!!

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  27. Pterodactyls? Talking unicorns? Poptarts? What more could a story need? Hehe, it's great to be able to look back on the silly things we wrote when we were younger. Really love your origin story!

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  28. The poisoned breakfast cereal killed me! Enjoyed your post! Following!

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  29. Your ORIGIN was a story in and of itself, and very entertaining to read! I thoroughly enjoyed it and have no doubt that you are in the right place!

    Thank you for sharing! :)

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  30. I've always loved to read as well. Great post!

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  31. I love that your college whodunnit didn't actually have a who. I have to admit, Edward Gorey-esque images flashed in my brain when you described your Ten Little Indians story.

    And I think you might just need to revisit your Pop Tarts and pterodactyls story. That idea is solid gold if you ask me.

    Glad you're still at it!

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  32. Talking unicorns??? What's in those Pop Tarts? I want some. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. That was fun!

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  33. SO COOL!!!

    it feels amazing to write. Even though I do contemporary, I love to build the world my people live in. I can't imagine the satisfaction you get from building a much more complex world.

    jo

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  34. Rilke's "Letters To A Young Poe" is one of the best books on writing I've ever read. Highly recommended!

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  35. a stellar history!
    love grossing out the teacher =)
    great beginning!

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  36. Great Origins story - thank you for sharing! :)

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  37. Why is that unicorns and dragons seem to always want to talk?

    Great origin, though, even if there weren't any spiders.
    No, wait, you write fantasy; you have to have giant spider somewhere.

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  38. Wow! Love how we're so eerily similar in our writing roots (the avid reader, the typewriter, the 7th grade novel).
    I didn't read too much of SVH--but I did love reading the SVH Sagas.

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  39. I love poptarts. And talking Unicorns.ha

    Great story, thanks for sharing!

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  40. I loved reading your origins story!

    Pterodactyls, unicorns, and pop tarts? At least you can't say it was unoriginal. :)

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  41. Great pics:) I luv Rilke by the way. Groovy blog!

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  42. I think more eyeballs should go Ping. And I think more blogs should have pictures of Mrs Peel! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  43. I love unicorns and poptarts. Love your origin story. Thanks for sharing it.

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  44. "...and then the eyeball popped out-- Ping!!"

    That is one of the best lines ever. Seriously!

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  45. Hahaha you definitely spent a significant amount of time in denial. Glad you saw the truth, though. ;-P

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  46. OK...now I have an image of Emma Peel riding a Unicorn that's galloping towards the bad guys.

    Pass the pop tarts!

    Bornstoryteller #125 (sorry for coming late: been trying to read the blogs and have a life)

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  47. Its cool Origins story - thank you for sharing! :-)

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