What I've Written About

Monday, April 26, 2010

And on the First Day...a Writer was Born


Today, I've been trying to remember when my love for writing started. Then I realized, that it was not one set moment in time or place, but a series of events that propelled me to get my work out there.
When I was little, I remember my mom reading me the book Where the Red Fern Grows. I was pretty young, but I distinctly recall sobbing my eyes out when the dogs died at the end of the book (sorry, if that's a spoiler for you.). I have never read that book since. I'm worried about ruining something that was truly magical to me. That book taught me that written words have power. Power to make someone laugh, cry, or cuss depending on their mood. Once I understood that--the love of words in general could not be contained.
A couple of years later, two things happened that increased that love exponentially. One, I was the winner in a contest throughout the whole third grade to read the most amount of pages. I can proudly state that I read 20,000 pages that year. I think I won some money--I don't really remember--but what I do remember is that part of the prize package included the book A Wrinkle in Time. I read it cover to cover and understood not one word of it. At first, I was disappointed, until I realized...if they would give me a book this weird and hard to understand, they must think I'm really smart. However, I shelved the book (that is until sixth grade when I read it again, three times, and loved it.)
The second thing that happened, is that I won third place in a writing contest. It was a letter to Santa asking him to quit smoking. The section I was most proud of went something like this. 'If you don't quit smoking, you'll get really sick, and Mrs. Claus will have to take care of you. Pretty soon, she'll get sick of it and start to hate you. The next thing you know, she'll be suing you for ruining her life. So you see, Santa, smoking isn't worth it.' Don't ask me where that logic came from, but I remember adults laughing about it. I thought it was pretty cool I could make adults laugh with stuff that I wrote. From then on, I strove to be funny in my writing.
In ninth grade, in my English class, I wrote a story called 'A Day in the Life of a Flea'. The main characters were all fleas living on one dog. It was a love story, and the main character--Fleadrick I think his name was--steals a girl from the school bully. The bully breaks his leg, but it isn't so bad because he has so many others. In the end, Fleadrick learns that all is fair in love and war. I wrote it in one night, and the English teacher ended up reading it to all of his classes. (At least, that is what he told me.) In my own class, I was both extremely proud and extremely embarrassed. When the other kids in my class period laughed about it too, however, it was all worth it.
The next step on my road to becoming a writer came my Sophmore year of high school. Mrs. Bridges, my English teacher, assigned us a persuasive paper about the Gulf War. I, of course, procrastinated it and ended up writing it during an assembly we luckily had that morning. My paper was 'for' going to war and the benefits to humanity when we help those less fortunate than us. I didn't have a good feeling about it. Mrs. Bridges was one of the hardest teachers I ever had. When the paper came back, however, a huge A+ graced the top of it, with a little note. 'See me after class'. I sat through the rest of the period with a huge stomach ache, worried that she would tell me she knew I had written it in an hour, and the good grade was a joke. After everyone had cleared out, I trudged up to her desk, ready to hear the worst, but it wasn't bad news. Mrs. Bridges told me I was an amazing writer and asked if I would give her the paper to submit to a magazine. I never knew if she actually did, or if the article was ever published, but I gained confidence that maybe I really could BE a writer.
Fast forward to college and a professor I will never forget the name of--Dr. Diana Major Spencer. My first paper in her class scored only a C, the lowest grade I had ever gotten in an English class. She told us we were welcome to revise as many times as we wanted to bring our grades up one full grade. I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into that paper, and after seven (yes, seven) revisions I pulled the grade up to a B. What a lesson that was...writing is hard work? What? There must surely be something wrong. Writing isn't supposed to be hard. Yet here I was, up into the wee hours of morning, revising and changing and editing. It just didn't seem fair. After graduation, my writing career pretty much ended. I got my diploma in Elementary Education and became a teacher, the only job I ever unequivacully loved. My favorite subject to teach, by far, was writing. I attempted stories and novels, but could never get my characters jump out of the page and join me in writing about them. Each story seemed to be missing that internal spark that made it come to life. Finally, one day, I decided to sit down and write a novel, a romance novel. I made myself the main character, and my high school boyfriend the love interest. Suddenly, using real people for the characters, I could see them as something more than just a name on a page. Characters were people with feelings and back stories and skeletons in their closet. It was a turning point in my writing.
I scrapped that novel, but the lessons I learned from it have changed me as a writer. Now, with one novel completed and under my belt, I feel like my characters actually exist outside the book, like if I went to this town they live in, I might run into them. Characters and voice have become my strengths.
In all, this writing life has been an adventure. Now I'm taking it to the next level--trying to publish. This, I realize, is where the work begins, but I'm willing to go the distance. I've won, I've lost, and I've learned. Now I'm ready to share my work with the world.
So now you know me, the writer. Get ready to share your stories with me...

8 comments:

Jennifer Jenkins said...

Ahh, cute little Margie. I love that you won't read "Where the Red Fern Grows". There's something special about the stories we hear in childhood. It's a time when we believe anything is possible, so the places we visit through words are all the more real. You're brilliant. Hope the rewrite isn't killing you like it's killing me.

Jojomama said...

I was born with a pen in my mouth. (=

Melanee said...

Who did you have in 3rd Grade and 9th Grade? I am curious. We have a lot more in common that I thought (even though we lived on the same block and had a lot of the same friends). I won a writing contest in the 3rd Grade (but it was for 3 wishes on St Patricks Day). I got a tour of McDonalds (do you remember how big it was that we finally got one?), a couple of gift certificates, lunch there and some books. I wrote a short story in HS, where the teacher decimated the story after I submitted it to the New Era story contest (I won Honorable Mention)and put down my pen for a long time. I have yet to pick it up again and hope to some day. I have some ideas floating around in my head. Maybe you can inspire me to get going again. You already are an inspiration in itself!!

Mommy Tuckett said...

You were right, this blog is cute! I can't believe the stuff you remember from childhood. I do totally remember "The life of a flea" story. LOL! That is so great! I'm glad you didn't give up on your writing, because you have always been good at it. You do need to put the "right round" song on here though. Good Luck!!! I'm on the front row cheering you on...

arlee bird said...

This is an appropriate way to start your blog. Now we will want to see where you go from here and what you will write about. Good luck with your blog. I will become follower number 5. Hope you will check out my blog as well. Maybe you will want to join us in an upcoming Blog event on May 17th that you can read about here: May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

Lee

Strawberry Shortcake said...

Long ago and in a galaxy far, far away, I was once a pretty good writer as well. I had a paper or two read (anonymously) in front of a few of my English classes (and received a 110/100 on my junior research paper). However, my ability to write went out the window with my figure years ago. I have always dreamed about writing a children's book and may still do it. You are an inspiration to me and I am so happy for you! I have always admired you ladies, so this is nothing new :)

Write Chick said...

Don't worry Jen. The re-write is definitely killing me! My book is going to be a totally different entity by the time slash, add, rearrange, and reconfigure. It is grueling work...I just hope it pays off.

Kristina P. said...

I am so glad you are blogging again, and doing something you are passionate about.