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A History of My Writing Life, Part 1

As a young child, there was always a constant book in my life.

click for illustrations

click for illustrations

The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature. Since it was, obviously, illustrated, I enjoyed this book long before I could read. I learned fairy tales here, I met Jack Spratt and his wife, I was introduced to Simple Simon and Alice. I truly believe this book was one of the cornerstones for my love of reading. And somewhere along the way, (maybe it’s because I was such a notorious liar as a child) I learned I liked to tell stories.

In second grade, using my older brother’s toy box as a desk, I wrote my first short story: Super Car. Imagine Superman, but as a convertible. Super Car, whose headlights were eyes (of course) and grille was his mouth (of course), flew around town, fighting crime. And for some reason he wore a cape (……..of course).

I drew a line across the middle of a sheet of paper, drew a picture in the top half, and used the bottom half to tell the story. Once I finished the story, I stapled all the pages together, becoming an author and bookbinder in one. To this day, 30 years later, I remember what Super Car looked like. And I remember how proud and happy I was to have created something out of my own head (sure, it was a ripoff, but we’ll call it an homage to Superman). Up to that point I had never made something from nothing. Maybe it’s that amazing feeling that got me interested in art. Painting, writing, crocheting. With art, you take supplies and make Something. At 7 years old, creating my first Something was a rush. AND I got to tell a story.

I was hooked.

In third grade, we did creative writing in class and our assignment was to write a short story that we were then going to actually make into a book, with a cover and everything.

I wrote three.

One I don’t remember, one was a simple autobiography, and one was a mystery called The Big Bang. In it, a man is on the phone with his wife when he hears a loud bang and scream on her end and then the phone goes dead. Afraid she has been shot, he jumps into his car and fights terrible traffic to get home to her. Once there, he finds out she merely dropped a pan on her foot while cooking. She yelled and yanked the phone cord out of the headset.

Step aside Agatha Christie. Get behind me, Raymond Chandler.

In fourth grade, I changed schools and the curriculum had us do creative writing and make it into a book! Be still, my beating heart! It was like the Universe wanted me to be a writer. But fourth grade was a difficult time for me and I could only manage to write two books that week. Cursed deadlines.

In seventh grade, we had to keep a creative writing journal. I started (and brought to an abrupt ending when I realized I still couldn’t do mysteries) a story about a boy who visits Blarney Castle and is befriended by a ghost. I also wrote a dystopian piece about a hockey league in the future where the players also had weapons and played to the death.

For a while in high school, I typed my stories on an old electric typewriter whose letter T didn’t work, so I would have to use the space bar and come back after with a pen to add the T’s. It was a bit tedious. Then our family got a Smith Corona word processor and I went crazy with stories and poetry. I could make all the changes I wanted and save them to a disk. It was a breath of fresh air for someone who had mainly handwritten and shown people my first drafts.

It would be a few more years before my writing saw a bigger audience (Part 2 soon to follow), but even so, for the first 17 years of my life, when people asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my answer was almost always the same: a writer. It wasn’t about selling anything or the audience at all, it was about creating Something from Nothing.

Ok, sometimes I said I wanted to be a scientist, but usually it was Writer.

In the comments, tell us about what books were meaningful to you as a kid, or what item from childhood inspired the path you ended up taking.


Photo from Amazon

3 Comments

  1. My brother just reminded me that one of the pieces I wrote on that typewriter was the poem “T Top,” which, on the surface level was about cars with T top roofs (like Firebirds).

    That’s right: on a typewriter whose letter T didn’t work, I chose to write a poem where each line started with the phase “T top.” I worry about myself.

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