Sunday, October 08, 2006

When Did You Know?

It’s always interesting to hear when writers knew they were...shall we say...different.

Some say they’ve always written. Others say the desire was there, but left untapped for years. While others claim they came to writing from a more pragmatic head, through journaling or for a possible career change.

No rights or wrongs. Just good stories.

I am one of those “born that way” writers. I’ve always written, I imagine I always will. I don’t have to make time for writing--the need is so strong that I basically steal from other areas of my life (housework, cooking, sleep, etc.).

When I look back at my childhood, I can zero in on countless attempts at short stories and books. My Barbie imaginings went on for days with backstories and spin-offs. And I believed that the library--not Disneyland--was The Happiest Place on Earth.

But what shines brightest is an episode from 7th grade. It was lunch hour, and someone mentioned our book reports due next period. I’d totally spaced, hadn’t done mine. But I read 3 or 4 books a week, so no real crisis, right? I grabbed some looseleaf and started writing. I’m not sure why (and where I got the nerve because I was totally a good girl rule follower) but I started making the whole thing up. The title, the author, the plot, the conflicts, the black moment. Then the bell rang, we went to class, and I handed mine in.

I thought I was very funny. Daring. Smart. Until that night. When I started to sweat. WHAT would I do if the teacher caught on and demanded to see the book? Would I end up with detention? Suspension? Expulsion?

How could I explain something I didn’t even yet understand myself? That regurgitating someone else’s words had become too frustrating when I had all these stories of my own to tell? And while I wasn’t yet capable of writing a publishable book, I had an intuitive grasp on what a book was supposed to sound like. And I just had to try...

A day or so later, the teacher passed the papers back. I not only pulled it off, I got an A. (Wow!) And believe me, I never tried a stunt like that again.

So how about you, writer-friends? Can you point back to a moment or event from your childhood that foreshadows where you are today?

Top Ten Uses for An Unworn Prom Dress, Feb. 2007
How to Hook a Hottie, Spring 2008


Anonymous said...

OK, Tina, I just have to know. What was that story about?

TinaFerraro said...

Hey Janie!

All I remember is that I titled it with a girl's name, like JENNIFER, and gave the author a very common name like Jones or Brown. For all I know it was about an unworn prom dress. LOL. No, the plot was probably similar to the Beverly Clearly books I loved so much then.

Thanks for dropping by!

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

When I started writing Romance after having my first child, this is when I decided I wanted to be writer and I used to always reference this time as my starting point...until one day as I was moving I went through my old school box piled with yearbooks, report cards and stuff. My younger days had always been filled with a love for drawing and art but when I pulled out a trophy for outstanding award for language arts in 6th grade another love came rushing back--my advanced reading levels in grade school, my AP english classes in high school and my lonely "A" in creative writing in junior college. I'd forgotten I had a writing talent most of my life too, but it was just sort of clouded by my strong interest in art. =)

Great post, Tina!

stephhale said...

Love the Barbie picture. Even though I always got really good grades in English with very little effort I wasn't one of those kids under a tree writing in my journal. I've always loved reading, but didn't even think that I could attempt to write a book until about four years ago. I really wish I'd tried sooner! :)

GeminiWisdom said...

Talking to myself. No one ever answered back, but I always had long,drawn-out conversations. I've always kept a diary, but I didn't offically become a writer until the 7th grade. Recess. Me and a friend were bored and decided to write short stories and exchange them.

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I finished that short story. And had more to say.

Simone Elkeles said...

I was on a cruise when I was 16 and met a guy who was on his "senior trip". I had my eye on him the entire time, and one day on deck we started talking. We on/off long-distance dated/were friends until after college. After the cruise, I remember writing by hand the entire cruise romance, from the time I first saw him until we got back home. I wonder what he's doing today...

Simone Elkeles
How to Ruin a Summer Vacation available now!
Leaving Paradise 4/07
How to Ruin my Teenage Life 6/07

Marley Gibson said...

I used to read First Love by Silhouette books and I remember when I was 15, I sat down and started writing one. I have no idea if it was good or interesting, but to me, it didn't was fun.

I'm one of those "always written" people, too.

Marley = )

TinaFerraro said...

Kelly, thanks for sharing about your Language Arts trophy! The things we learn about our own critique partners here on the Buzz Girls Blog! :)

Your younger years couldn't have been more prophetic--art and writing--given your first YA is about a frustrated teenaged artist. (For those who don't know, Kelly's book, GRAFFITI GIRL is coming out from MTV books in May.)

Thanks, Kel!

TinaFerraro said...

GeminiWisdom--omigod, you talk to yourself, too???

When I'm alone--and especially when driving--I'll sometimes have rolling dialogues with myself, recounting imaginary and real life scenes, feeling their words and cadences, revamping them for punched-up endings.

And yeah, no one responds, but then if they did, I'd be mortally embarrassed!

And like you, I also wrote and exchanged short stories with friends. And could never figure out why they'd get bored and want to do something else.

TinaFerraro said...

Steph, so you were one of those people who came to writing later in life? I'll bet you've got lots of stories in there, waiting to get out (and lucky us, we'll get to read them).

Kim, writing and music take the sting out of everything, don't they?

Simone, what a great story. And how fitting that a romance set you off on your writer's journey.

Marley, I read FIRST LOVES, too! In fact, I actually finished and submitted one. (My mother was a literary agent and did me the favor.) Of course, it got rejected, but hey, gotta start somewhere.

Thanks, all!

Anonymous said...

I don't have a really cool story to explain why I write, but there is a person who definitely influenced my career. I wanted to be a news anchor, and the dean of my college said, "You can be anything you set your mind to, but if you don't write, you'll be doing the world a great injustice."

I guess that's pretty cool, eh? ha

Wendy Toliver, who's not a news anchor

TinaFerraro said...

Totally cool, Wendy! Thanks for sharing that!

Young Adult Authors said...

My fourth grade teacher let me direct a play I had written about chickens on strike before Easter. True story!

After that successful debut, I spent time writing plays for my friends (usually we practiced them at recess, but never performed them). I knew that I was hooked on entertaining people, I just didn't know that writing was going to be the way I did that. So glad I found writing! :)