I’ve been asked quite a few times how I became a writer. I’ve always laughed and said something flippant like “I’d go crazy if I didn’t write” and while that is true, there’s more to it. Much more.
At six, I decided I wanted to be a writer. My mother bemoaned this fact for two reasons: one, it meant the piano stool was never next to the piano but rather being used as a writing desk in front of my funky little chair my grandfather had made me. And two, the dining tablecloth was always a mess after dinner because I would hurry through my meal so quickly so I could go and “write my book” that food pretty much ended up everywhere.
A little backstory to understand why my first ever piece of literary mastery was the twisted, tormented tale of pet abduction it was.
I grew up with two older brothers who loved Doctor Who. Loved it so much that they insisted their little sister watched it too. Apparently by the age of four I was well and truly a Whovian much to my poor suffering mother’s chagrin (it was her that had to deal with a petrified child suffering from nightmares after watching an episode where faceless machine men captured people and turned them into faceless machine men after all, not my brothers who slept through all my tears like the sleep of the innocent). By six, I had moved on from watching Doctor Who to wanting to write about Doctor Who. My father, who abhorred the idea of his little girl writing something so unoriginal as a Doctor Who story, insisted I write my own story. That story was a quaint little two page tome called Sandy the Dragon.
Sandy was a little girl’s pet dragon from “out of space”. Some faceless men came and took Sandy away from the little girl. The little girl went and took Sandy back. As the little girl rode away on Sandy’s back, she instructed her beloved pet to “insinerat” the faceless bad men (I know I spelt it this way because my dad still has the story. The thing that cracks me up the most is all the i’s in “insinerat” have tiny flowers above them). So Sandy the dragon insinerats the faceless bad men and the little girl and her dragon fly away happy. So happy, Sandy the dragon from “out of space” laughs and insinerats a whole forest on the way home and then says “oobs” (I’m assuming I was trying to write oops, but Mum tells me I was most put out when she attempted to correct my spelling).
It took me a week to write Sandy the Dragon. Seven evenings of dedication, lip-chewing and pencil gnawing after my hastily consumed dinner to put together the words needed to tell my tale. Suffice to say, I was in heaven. I loved it. Writing that story is, for me, one of the strongest memories of my childhood. I can still feel the hard wooden stool under my butt. I can smell the cedar polish of the piano stool-cum desk. I had never produced something of such importance and worth. I took it to school after a week of my heart being poured onto the pages (after adding an illustration of the pivotal faceless men execution scene over the weekend, of course), handed it to my teacher and was promptly told, “Oh, you shouldn’t be writing things like this!”
I never handed any story I wrote to that teacher again. But I didn’t stop writing. I couldn’t. The stories in my head wouldn’t let me. My brothers wouldn’t let me. And, regardless of the state of her dining table after dinner, my mother wouldn’t let me.
At six, I decided to be a writer. It just took a few more years for me to figure out what kind of writer I was going to be.
(Next Week: Stephen King’s involvement in my writing career. Seriously *grin*)