Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why am I here?

I've finished my planned novel revisions . . . for this round anyway. I'm looking over my submission materials to be sure they don't need any revisions, and I'm preparing to begin submitting.

It's kind of frightening.

As I've reached this plateau, I've been thinking about the journey and how I got here. I decided to share.

I've been writing for my own enjoyment (and sometimes by  assignment) since I was in sixth grade. In fact, sixth grade is where it all began.

Here's what happened (as Monk would say):

My sixth grade teacher, Mr. V. gave us an assignment to write a book. I don't remember the details of the assignment, but I vaguely remember the book had to be a certain length and needed to be illustrated.

I don't remember how much time he gave for the assignment, but I do remember I missed the deadline. Mr. V. kept asking me when I was going to turn it in and I kept saying I was working on it . . . which, I was. The book ended up being thirty five, half pages (not thirty five AND a half). I'd say about half of those pages were illustrations so we're looking at about seventeen to eighteen, half pages of text handwritten on those old brown papers with the green lines we used for writing.

The book was titled, "Summer of the Friends" and was a tale of friendship, loss, and more friendship. I can't remember why this particular story was written or what in my life caused it, but I suspect it may have been a friend moving away (I remember a friend moved, but can't remember what grade I was in at the time). The illustrations are even lamer than the text, but to be fair, they are both pretty good for a sixth grader.

Even my teacher thought so. I remember him telling me it was well done and I had some talent when it came to crafting a story. I also remember my grade would have been higher if I had turned it in on time (my first experience with a missed deadline). Now, he may have been being nice, but the spark of the writing flame came to life that day.

I continued to write (but mostly because of assignments) in seventh and eighth grades, including the lame children's story, "Corange the Green Orange," I wrote for the children's book assignment in eighth grade. The story was a "retelling" of the ugly duckling . . . but with oranges, duh. Yeah, did I mention it was lame?

Eighth grade was a pivotal moment in my life. Another assignment was to write and perform a play. My group did a knock off of "A Christmas Carol" but it was about a forgotten homework assignment and what would happen if the main character continued to not do homework. I played the elderly teacher, complete with powdered hair and lines drawn on my face, who had a heart attack when the main character turned in an assignment. My real teacher praised my performance and insisted I enroll in Drama class in high school. I did.

My freshman year of high school prompted me to write my first "novel". It was a pathetic romance and I'm embarrassed to admit I let people read it. The people were my friends and my older sister's friends, and they were terribly kind to me. I never did complete the novel (I still have it around here somewhere) but it was bad, bad, bad. However, writing took a back seat to my new love, acting.

I participated in the high school plays and won many medals and certificates at Speech and Debate tournaments. But don't fear, I didn't give up writing completely, I wrote quite a bit of poetry and entered a poetry and short story contest my junior year of  high school. I placed third for my poem, "Pantomime", and second for my short story, "Shanda". The winning entries along with a few others were printed in a "literary magazine" done by the Graphic Arts department. I'm not sure it counts as being a "published" author, but it felt good to see my work and name in print (though I could have done without the accompanying photograph).

I continued my writing through high school, mostly in poetry--some is good, some is not. My friends went on to college, and I remember attending a writing class with a friend during a visit. The class was instructed to listen to a passage of music and write something inspired from it. The instructor invited me to participate and I wrote a poem entitled, "Rain Dance". After the allotted writing time had passed and everyone was finished writing, the instructor invited us to share our work aloud with the class. My contribution was met with dead silence, as I remember it . . . either that or I blacked out. But the teacher did ask me if I planned to attend the college and suggested I take the class.

I thought I must have been pretty bad and he was offering to help me out, but my friend insists the poem was good and the instructor thought I had talent. I will share the poem with you here and you can judge for yourselves:

Rain Dance

Alone on the stage the dancer stands.

Her dreams are gone, like sand through her hands,

Yet one last dance she will perform,

One last dance before the storm.

The music begins, the first sad strains.

Her dance begins, and now it rains.

Her final dance she knows 'twill be.

A final dance no one shall see.

She dances on, though no one cares.

Her smile of hope she bravely wears.

Her smile fades as on she goes,

And, now, her devastation shows.

At last she realizes all is lost

Her wounded soul now knows the cost.

The music plays on. She leaves the stage,

Struggling to hide her rage.

Just one last look, and then she's gone

But the music still plays on.

 

I can't remember the piece of music played, but that was my result. I'm not much of a poet, but it was an outlet for my teen angst ridden soul.

I took creative writing courses when I finally decided to attend college, but they weren't much help . . . all I got was help with my punctuation (which still needs help) and stroking of my ego (which frustrated me). I wanted someone to tell me what was wrong with my writing; what I could improve (besides the punctuation). I knew how to craft a story and put it on the page, knew how to create a character and scene (thanks to my acting in high school, college, and community theatre).

I decided to write a children's novel when I was pregnant with my fourth (and final) child. This was way back in 2002-2003 . . .

. . . and here I am about six years later, still working on it. I have written things since . . . a few short stories and a completed rough draft of the sequel to this novel  . . .  but mainly I have concentrated on learning about and working on the craft of writing.

I made a few rash submissions before I was anywhere close to being ready. About seven agents and one editor saw my shameful and embarrassing attempts at the art of querying. *sigh* But I've learned so much since then and have been improving (I'd like to think) over the last several years.

And this brings us to today. I've completed several overhauls and some major revisions on this novel and believe it is finally ready to send out. Whether this particular novel ever gets published, remains to be seen, but it will always have a dear place in my heart because at about 50,000 words, I consider it my first completed novel. And it has been a tremendous learning experience.

Now, I look forward to National Novel Writing Month and a new journey with a new novel and new characters (the past three NaNo experiences have all been sequels) and a possible new and exciting series.

I'm curious, and hope my fellow writers will answer me this:

Why are you here; what events, people, etc. inspired you to become a writer?

Please post your answer (if it's short) in the comments section or on your blog (for longer answers) and link here so I'll be sure to read about it.

Write on.

2 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Quite the story Joan!. I think I will take up the challenge and work up a post on how/why I write.

just Joan said...

Good! I can't wait to read it.