Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where do I begin?

Welcome to my blog.

I am a woman who wears many hats, but the hat I wear here is that of a writer.

I have traversed a long and winding road to be able to call myself that--a road with plenty of rough patches and delays.

I wonder, sometimes, whether anyone cares about the path one travels to becoming a writer, but I'm going to give it to you anyway.

I was a child with much imagination and plenty of time alone in which to let it wander. Stories followed me everywhere. Of course in my stories the hero was always perfect and always had all the answers to every trouble in the story. In writing lingo, we call that kind of hero a Harry Stu--or in the feminine vernacular, a Mary Sue--or in the JK Rowling vernacular, a Hermione Granger.

But despite the presence of so many stories and so many characters who peopled them, I rarely thought of writing those stories down. Why? I don't know. Perhaps because I despised school and all it stood for--including writing, and reading. In high school I had a friend who wrote stories. Stephanie. I wonder what happened to her. I haven't spoken to her in a very many years. She peopled her stories with...US! She talked to us about her stories and let us read them. She read voraciously and talked about what she read. Her enthusiasm for the written word infected me, but that infection would take a long time to show its symptoms. At the very least, under Stephanie's influence, I read more. And as I found and read books that affected me deeply I wished, somewhere deep within my mind and heart, that I could do that, that I could write like that, that I could affect people like that, make people FEEL!

In junior high a teacher also contributed to that one-day fever. He did what every junior high school English teacher did--he gave his class a writing assignment. You know the kind of thing. The University literature influenced tripe in which one must make as lengthy and detailed a description as possible of some uninteresting piece of their life or surroundings. And, with my usual lack of applied effort, I completed the assignment (I didn't complete many assignments in those days) and turned it in, and to my utter surprise, and in a moment that I will never forget, he told me that my writing was very good, excellent, that I should write more. He gave more such assignments and continued to heap praise upon me, even though I didn't do as well as I might have in other elements of the class. He treated me with respect. Thanks, Mr. Gill.

It was at that point that I discovered that I had a talent.

To any young persons reading this blog, take this to heart: I will forever regret NOT having made a concerted effort to develop my writing talent to a greater extent while yet young. I see myself aging, I see myself wanting to be a published writer, I see many other gifted young writers who are fifteen years ahead of me in the writing game because they applied themselves while young. I am now old enough that I can justifiably wonder whether I will have a book published before I am dead or too feeble of mind and body to manipulate a computer keyboard.


But I digress.

It was not until High School that I really began to enjoy books. I remember being exposed to Ray Bradbury, who is still my favorite author. I remember feeling as if I were reaching into the minds and hearts of people I could relate to. I remember language teachers seeing something in me that I had never seen in myself--a bright young woman with a mind waiting to be filled with something meaningful. And they filled it. They encouraged me. They complimented me. They inspired me. Thank you to Mrs. Thompson, my Latin teacher, who I T.A.ed for. She treated me as an equal. She showed me that literature was something to be adored. Thanks to Mrs. Spackman--now a Utah State Legislator--who pointed out to the whole class that I had deeper understandings of what I was reading in literature than even I suspected. Thanks to Mrs. (oh, gosh, I forget her name!) who exposed me to Ray Bradbury in 10th grade. Thanks to Mrs. (oh, I forget her name, too!) who served as adviser during my year working on our school's literary magazine. She let a bunch of gawky, geeky, intrapersonal kids create freely. Thanks to Mr. Felt, my journalism adviser, who gave me the confidence to believe in my writing and helped me--a very shy and inclosed personality--to make myself known in a larger world than I thought I wanted to be, and for helping me find out that it's pretty cool to be noticed for something positive that I had done.

But then I left high school and much of what it had been for me--including that circle of friends. I took a year off, and without being assigned to, I rarely wrote anything. Then college. But, as I said at the beginning of the post, I wear many hats, and I chose a different hat than the writer's hat for college. I pursued a degree in the visual arts. But something in me kept me connected to the writerly part of me. I filled my elective hours with literature classes, a history of English class (which was fascinating, and I can still remember how the professor pronounced the name of the author of the textbook, with a long lazy round-mouthed "AW", preceded by a pouty lipped "B" and just the slighest hint of pronunciation to the 'gh' at the end. (A History of the English Language by Albert C. Baugh and Thomas Cable--a fascinating book) I even took a creative writing class in which I did very well. I also always scored well on essay tests and report assignments.

But my college experience was marred by a couple of faults on my part.

Firstly, I am not an interpersonal person. I have a very hard time feeling as if a) people really want to spend time sharing their brains with me and b) I want to spend time with other people. I'm largely a solitary person, and have to force myself to do things like say 'hello.' I don't need other people around to feel secure or happy. I don't need to be entertained. I don't need to have company. When I want company, I'll seek it. So when a professor invited everyone to drop by his office for a visit, I never applied that to myself. I always just assumed he meant it merely as a politeness. I have since learned that the opposite is most often true of other people, particularly those who choose to teach for a living. I probably missed out on some valuable conversations and insights.

Secondly, I possess a certain brain function that often keeps me from connecting. It is this: My mind tends to compartmentalize information. That's a pretty good filing system, I suppose, and I tend to be an obsessive organizer, even though I'm not a very efficient one--ie. the paper clips that I use to mark places in my music books are ordered in rainbow color order, but my house is often cluttered. The problem with my compartmental brain is that I put things away so thoroughly, that I often don't retrieve well. I can write something on Friday and not recognize it as my own writing three days later. I almost got myself in hot water in a college lit. class when the professor used my essay test as a particularly excellent example of analysis of the material. I not only did not remember having written what he quoted, I could not have even summarized what the essay said. I wrote it. It went into the file. I would not have been able to remember it without reading it, in its entirety, again.

I seem not to be quite so afflicted with my fiction writing, but still I will come across a paragraph or a story beginning that I don't remember having written.

Anyway, I completed college, married, had children, let life give me many new hats and focuses, none of which involved writing much of anything.

Then something quite odd happened.

For all of her shortcomings as a writer, I have to give JK Rowling her due. It was Harry Potter that got me writing again. This is how:

I had become a fan of the HP books. I had read them all--up to that point (book 4, if I recall)--and enjoyed them with my two older children. We even read them all aloud as a family.

One day I was sitting in a parent meeting at my children's school. One woman who was frankly dismayed at all the HP hubbub, had heard of 'some guy' who had written a HP sequel in his impatience waiting for Rowling to get her butt in gear producing HP5. She said you could find it on the internet.

I went home that night and found not just one, but thousands of HP stories. It was my first introduction to fan fiction. I read a few and found them abysmal. I had matured far beyond the level of the Mary Sue's of my childhood, and these stories were almost all Mary Sue's, poorly structured, plotless, teen sex-fantasy laden works. Among them were a few--very few--that held my interest. I decided that I could do better than that--so I did. I started to write a short story. Four months later I had completed a 69,000 word fan fiction novel that wasn't half bad, and had discovered that, dammit, I could still WRITE!!!

And so it began.

That was 2003.

Since then my progress as a writer has been slow--mainly because of my many hats and the attention they require. But I now have two stories published. I have many more seeking publication, and have been privileged to attend Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp.

You can find my most recent publication here:

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