Friday, April 8, 2011

G Is For Genesis

Or, 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 (that I might have been able to pull off) 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.

17 comments:

  1. Wow, I totally envy your passion!
    And pterodactyls, talking unicorns and pop tarts? That's like the trifecta of awesome! :P

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  2. I admit, I laughed out loud at the line about the eyeball popping out and your teacher being sick. (My kids asked me what was so funny.)

    I loved hearing how you got into writing. :D I've written a lot over the years, but my first "proper" novel was written with my co-author and it kicked off a twelve book series. O_O (We have three and 1/3 books in the series written.) Plus, you know, all the books I'm writing/have written alone.

    It always fascinates me to hear about the journey of other writers. I wish you all the best on your books!

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  3. I'm still laughing at "Kicked toaster strudel's ass!"

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  4. What an awesome history! Funny, I had a wood shop teacher with a glass eye he use to put on the desk and say, "I'll be watching you." Guess we believed him :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  5. *laughing at the "eyeball popped out" line*
    Talking unicorns are cool. :-)
    "How I became a writer" journeys always interest me, so thank you for sharing your story.

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  6. Funny! I love talking unicorns, I even know one!
    :)
    Have a nice weekend!
    - EEV

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  7. Oh, great Genesis story... Your view on your early stuff is hysterical, but I think my favorite piece is the twin horror stories *snort*

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  8. I wish I would have figured it out sooner. I wanted to write, but didn't think I could do it until I finally sat down and just started writing.

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  9. Great story of how you became a writer. :)

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  10. This was a great story. I love hearing how people decide they want to be writers, and your story shows how sometimes the idea to be a writer naturally evolves over the years.

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  11. Wow, you started early. :-) What a great journey!

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  12. wow. what a journey. nice to meet another fantasy writer.

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  13. This is great. I started writing early, too. rewrote Romeo and Juliet because I thought the ending sucked (what did I know about literature). I mostly just wrote for myself and it wasn't until after college that I thought about actually getting published.

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  14. hello fellow gleek,
    what a fun, funny, and generally awesome post! I don't know why we writers never want to admit that this is really what we'd like to do for the rest lives. :PThis reminds me of my own writing journey. gosh. takes me back. and i love that you love fantasy as well. I just finished my middle grade fantasy novel. :P
    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  15. fun read :)
    Great history and yay for fantasy writers

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  16. Love the quote! So true. I was busy freaking out teachers with my horror stories in middle school and high school, as well. Fantasy came about a decade later.

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  17. Great post! Sounds a lot like my journey except for the completed anything part; that I have yet to do! :)

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