My History as a Writer

July 28, 2005 at 10:19 am (Uncategorized)

I haven’t always been a writer. For the first 11 years of my life, I didn’t write much more than what I was supposed to. I don’t remember writing creatively or anything special about my writing during that time. I suppose I can credit the British for sparking my writing career. The first poem I ever wrote was about the Falkland Islands’ War. So, I can narrow my first creative writing effort to sometime in the Spring of 1982.

I also wrote a poem called “Night Light.” It would be the first of many of my poems dealing with darkness, the night, and security issues. I stuck to poems and school assigned writing until 7th grade. Our assignment in 7th grade English was to do a creative writing assignment, a couple of pages perhaps, including all the parts of a story or some junk like that. I asked the teacher (a prolonged substitute) if I could expand and she told me of course. (Yeah, I was a teacher’s dream.)

I wrote a short story in the fantasy genre named after an obscure Duran Duran song called, “Secret Oktober.” I even illustrated the covers with the symbols from “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.” (That would be the album from whence “The Reflex” and “Union of the Snake” came.) Perhaps the events from 7th grade are so clear because of my obsession with Duran Duran and the fact the teacher called me to her desk and praised me on my story and told me how impressed she was.

I was no longer limited to poetry, having proven myself in the short story realm. The summer between my 7th and 8th grade years I spent an inordinate amount of time at my grandparent’s house, writing. And writing and writing and writing. What was I so busy writing? What is known today, which I did not know then, as fan fiction. At the prompting of my two best buds at the time, equal Duran Duran nuts, I began a saga as only a 13 year old can. I probably wrote, all told, over 200 pages (longhand on college ruled notebook paper) on that story.

As our fickle teenage taste swung from Simon to Nick to John to Andy to Roger and back again, and as we squabbled over who WE were going to date, heh, so did the storyline change. I also met Beanie that year, who had just entered 7th grade, and she fit in just perfect. I’m not sure if I included her in the story or not but I think when I started hair band fan fiction she may have been a character. I know I did a bit of hair band fan fiction but not as much as I did the Duranie fiction.

In December of 1984, an event occurred which would further spur my writings and that was the death of my band director, Louie. We left from school on Friday, and he stood at the band room door and in his booming voice said, “I’ll see you next week.” He didn’t. He died either that night or the following night of a massive heart attack. Our small community was devastated. He had been the band director when my mom was in the band in 1964. He’s buried within in a mile of my current home.

I had never faced death before. I doubt many of us had at that time. The memories have faded a bit over time, but there are many things that still stand out. Crying on the lapels of my other band director and our choir director. Huddling with other members of the band, the announcement that school was canceled the day of the funeral, how the well meaning funeral director tried to pull me closer to the casket and ended up freaking me out.

As I entered 9th grade, my reputation preceded me which allowed me a coveted spot in a creative writing class, usually reserved for Seniors. (That’s a trial by fire I STILL have difficulty writing about.) I don’t recall what our first assignment was but I do recall what I wrote about and it was Louie’s death and the affect of his death on those around me, especially Mark, the associate band director, and someone that I was particularly close to (to the extent we didn’t pull a Mary Kay and we actually waited until I was OUT of high school to…. ummm… you get the picture.)

Even as I wrote it, I didn’t realize the impact of my words. I didn’t realize the emotion my words would provoke until I read it aloud to my class. I did what I’m doing now, and that is choking up. I didn’t realize that all of the things I felt and saw happening around me, others had too, and when I wrote it down, I captured it, as a time capsule that we would, collectively, always understand.

Writing stopped being just a creative outlet. It became an emotional release. My writing began to take on other facets as my world continued to evolve. I carried over my creativity to the yearbook and became copy editor before I was ever in high school. That was between the 8th and 9th grades. (That’s how I got into the creative writing class – the teacher was the yearbook staff advisor.) My Sophomore year I was copy/assistant editor and at the end of my Sophomore year was named editor.

My Junior year also propelled my writing. In addition to still writing most of the copy for the yearbook and learning a lot about layouts and editing, I still spent a lot of time writing poetry and journal entries to help me deal with my growing restlessness. I used to pick a song or lyric for everyday of the week. Another coup was our year end World History project. I love history but it can be bland. How about I spice it up a bit?

Instead of writing another boring dissertation about the French Revolution, I made up my own characters and inserted them into the events, just like a historical fiction novel (except no sex). I had to fight my history teacher for it back. I’m not sure who won. I know at some point I had seen parts of it floating around but I’m not sure what ever happened to it. Again, a confirmation I needed to keep writing.

I was further buoyed by my success at the yearbook conference, in which I beat out 200 other students to win an all expense paid trip to a seminar at the Journalism School at Columbia University in New York City. I did what I had been doing for three years, writing copy.

At the end of my junior year, I defected to Germany and barely had time to finish the yearbook for the previous year before I left. Did I mention my yearbook advisor/creative writing teacher was also my German teacher? Did I mention she’s the one responsible for putting that crazy idea in my head? I still love her.

I bought two diaries when I arrived in Germany and spent a great deal of time writing letters and in my journal. I mean monster letters, twenty to thirty pages handwritten. My fan fiction continued in a way except I did a Purple Rain type thing where I wrote the storyline around the music and then turned the whole thing into a huge music video production. Hey, I loved that shit. How else could I be Tom Keifer’s sister and kiss Sebastian Bach??? Shut up.

College is a writing blur. I know I wrote a lot of angsty (I made that word up) poetry and a lot of letters to AZ and Jeff and I wrote in my diary. I hated my college writing classes and that must be how I ended up in Criminal Justice instead of Journalism. Feh. Bah. *Scowl*

I moved away from home and got pregnant with Nate. I stopped writing, not even a grocery list… for a very long time.

As this is already pretty long… I’ll continue it tomorrow.

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