All right, writer.
January 9, 2011 § 5 Comments
When I was six, I wrote a book. When I say “write,” I mean “picked up a crayon, scribbled some drawings, and wrote some words by the drawings.” My kindergarten teacher, Ms. Bowden (who has since been married and has changed her name…I have no idea what her married name is now or how to get in touch with her), created this fantastic lesson plan for her very first kindergarten class ever. Over the course of the class year, we were supposed to come up with a story that we wanted to enter into a writing competition (anyone remember MOSAIC Creative Writing Competition?). Our book would be a picture book, like so many of the ones we read together at story time. Even at that early age, I would claim that I “always” wanted to be a writer. (Because six years is enough time to have an “always.”) As our school year progressed, it became increasingly obvious which kids would actually enter the competition and which ones wouldn’t. I was one of the ones who did–and I don’t remember who else from my kindergarten class did as well.
Ms. Bowden let me stay up during nap time (a time I rarely napped anyway…it was probably easier for her this way), and she would sit down at a little table with me, helping me make sure my letters were written legibly and my words spelled correctly. She even gave me ideas when I was stuck by asking leading questions. After a couple of months working on this massive project, I had completed a book several pages long with pictures on every page and a clear plot. I also had developed a deep and abiding appreciation for my very first teacher. She entered my book in the kindergarten-wide competition, which it won. Then, all the best books of each grade were presented to the school and were also submitted to the county-wide competition. I was so proud that I could say my book won the kindergarten category in the whole county.
The title of my county-wide winning book?
“My Trip to Disney World.”
In my book, I made some pretty outlandish claims. Not only did my whole family go down to Disney World, but we were also lucky enough to meet all our favorite characters (for my sister, Donald Duck), and even our little cat Muffin was there. And at the end of our trip, we won a contest and got a van with a big red bow on it. (If anyone had paid any attention whatsoever, they might have seen that the van that got us down to Orlando was the same van that we supposedly won in the contest.)
Basically my book was one big fat lie. I truly hope that nobody believed any of that was even partially true. I mean, yeah, we went to Disney World the summer before kindergarten. But we met the characters like everyone else did. And our little cat stayed at the vet. We didn’t win a contest, and we didn’t win a van with a big red bow on it. But my book was my book. It’s considered “published.” Plus it’s spiral bound and laminated. My parents have kept it somewhere among all my other school accomplishments…which I will inherit when Robert and I move to a larger house.
Several years later, I entered the MOSAIC writing contest again. This time with an essay that I wrote entirely on my own…and which centered on much sadder subject matter. I did not get as far in this competition as I had when I was in kindergarten, but I did win the nonfiction essay category for my grade. After the MOSAIC contest had finished, all the finalists were invited to the county civic center for a presentation and to meet the author of Agatha’s Feather Bed, Carmen Deedy. She read the story with the assistance of her very large goose puppet, who sat upon her lap and chimed in every once in a while. After her reading, I stood in line and waited for Carmen Deedy to sign my book. It would be the first author-signed book I ever owned. I still own it, and one day I’ll probably read it to my children and tell them the story of how I came to own it.
These were the beginnings of this writer’s writing habit. When I got older and developed a sort of a wit, I used to tell people that I loved to lie as a little girl. It wasn’t until I learned that lying could be employed as story-telling that I really became a writer (kindergarten, folks. Kindergarten…remember the Disney World tall tale). And when I learned to write with a crayon, I wrote my lies down and they became “stories.”
Ever since that moment, I have written. Written in journals, written on scraps of paper, written in word processing programs, written on the Internet. But despite the 23-year history I have with fairly consistent writing, writing is still something I have to work on, something I am always aware of. But I’m not going to let this post turn negative. I accomplished something today. I wrote over the 2 page minimum that I set for myself. Not only did I meet my commitment and surpass my goal, but I kept a promise to myself and returned to work. (And I even had a few minutes this evening to keep my blogging commitment, as well.)
If you are a writer or were once or want to be one, please allow me a moment to offer some unsolicited advice:
The only way you can claim to be a writer is to write. Don’t stop. Write in journals, on blogs. Write e-mails. Write fiction on napkins or poetry in word processing programs. Just write and don’t stop.