Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stages of Writerhood: I want to DO this!

Fresh from Spring Break in the SF Bay Area where time with family and friends helped recharge my battery, I figure now is as good a time as any to start a new weekly blog theme I've been thinking about for some time. Welcome to Stages of Writerhood, in which I'll talk about some of the typical (and maybe not-so-typical) stages folks go through during that process of becoming a Writer with a capital 'W.'

So, I can't pinpoint the exact moment I knew I wanted to be a writer. I do remember my Squash poem ("I used to squish my squash/Now I squash my squash") and Whale Love Story from elementary school earning praise from my teachers, and I do remember proudly showing stories to my parents (who always looked appropriately astonished - even when the stories were undoubtedly less-than-astonishing).

I'm pretty sure, though, that it may have been reading great books that made me want to be a writer - even more so than early praise for my own creations. I was a fairly voracious reader right from the start - ever since I read The Little Engine that Could independently. Horse stories were (natch) always favorites, as were most animal-related stories (Charlotte's Web, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Rain-Cloud Pony, The Yearling, etc.). I read Jim Kjelgaard's Big Red in the third or fourth grade, and I was pretty psyched when I discovered that it was published by Holiday House (the oldest children's book publisher in the country, which will be publishing MY book - BRIANNA ON THE BRINK - next year)!

Here's the thing about reading that had such an influence on me: good books tell the truth in a way that the people and television and societal expectations surrounding us as we grow up don't always do. This was just as true when I was a kid as it is today. It's always been true. It's why the classics are classics, even if they were written hundreds or thousands of years ago. Truth is timeless, and books are a way to capture that truth and present it in a way that is relatable for people of all different eras and walks of life.

Reading what I knew to be the truth was a powerful experience for a girl growing up in 1970's and 80's America, where the sexual revolution was still fairly young and accepted female roles were still fairly set in stone. Just as there is for girls today, there was a LOT of pressure to think, look and act a certain way. And while I was lucky to be raised in a solidly middle-class family and with nature's gorgeousness all around, those things didn't protect me from all the pressure and confusion and doubt that are so often a part of adolescence. What did protect me was books - especially books featuring young girls who thought outside the box and lived their lives in ways I hadn't ever considered possible. Amelia Bedelia was an early favorite, as was Emily from the Clifford books.

Of course, it wasn't long before I moved on to Judy Blume's Blubber and Thomas Rockwell's How to Eat Fried Worms among so many other wonderful books for pre-adolescents in that very rich era of children's literature. More than anything, it was those books that planted the seeds, that made me realize those worlds had been created by actual human beings like myself. The books I read as a girl growing up in 1970's and 80's America made me think to myself (quietly at first, and then louder and louder until I was speaking it), "I want to DO this!"

I'd be interested to know from other writers what it was that made you realize you wanted to write, too!

Look for a new "Stages of Writerhood" post every Monday right here! Thanks for stopping by.

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