Monday, July 22, 2013

How I became a writer

In what I consider one of my best posts so far, I talk about the important work I want to do this year editing a novel I wrote in 2008.  But it's been a long trip to get here.

I have wanted to be a writer since the third grade.  I know this because I wrote about it on an assignment that I have from that year.  However, back then no one really knew how to teach kids to write.  Everyone just said, "Write a lot."  I did, but because I didn't really know what I was doing, and because it didn't feel right, I didn't write much.

But once I got to college, I did what I did best.  I took a class to teach me how to write.  It was a Creative Writing class and I was awful!  I got a C- in the course, which was the worst grade the teacher could give to a eager student who completed every single assignment.

I didn't know how to tell a story, write dialogue, or describe a scene.  I added way too many digressions to the most basic of stories.  (I still have that problem.)  And since I was a ferocious reader, I knew what good writing was. I was very aware that what I wrote was total crap.

At the end of that semester, I decided that was the end of that.  I obviously wasn't meant to be a writer and I would have to find something else to do with my life.  I loved to read, and I had loved my English classes in high school and gotten good grades, so I figured I would teach.   And so it happened.  Eventually I got a job at an elementary school working with students who spoke other languages at home.

Then a funny thing happened.  Someone somewhere decided that it was important to teach young students how to write.

The way they decided to instruct all of us educators how to teach writing was to pretend we were the students.  We were given writer's notebooks and they made us write "seeds" on different topics.  Memories of our childhoods, noticings from our lives, song lyrics and quotes that meant something to us, lists, poems, responses to literature, jokes, etc.  On subsequent dates over the next months we were challenged to choose one seed and develop it into a longer story.  We revised our work, adding details, changing words, cutting out extraneous threads, and finally we "published" our stories.

And lo and behold, I discovered that I was good at writing.  And I loved it! Thus began my new life as a author.

So if you know me, beware, because every experience I have in life could end up in my writing . . .


  1. I am curious - how would that story (from class) look against the list of your novels in Is it available to the public? Is it a novella, a short story? Could it be a seed for a novel or is it complete in itself?

    Just curious.

  2. Digressions can be wonderful -- as long as they don't bog down your story. Watch out for your a and ans. They can be hard to edit. Good writers write a lot AND get rejected a lot. Keep working hard and enjoying life. Good luck.