Thursday, November 01, 2007

On becoming a writer, part one

I might not have wanted to become a writer if my childhood friend Pat's mother had been a stay-at-home mom. Maybe. But maybe not.

See, Pat's mother was a single mom with three children. So she worked. After school, Pat was supposed to walk the few blocks straight down the street from school to the public library, and stay there until it was time to go home. I went to the library with Pat plenty of times. My mother, who alternately stayed at home and worked part-time, didn't mind that I was at the library.

It seems incredible to me now, but Pat did this from the time she was in first grade until she was old enough to take care of herself at home -- maybe around 10 years old. But this was pblpbldk years ago, and it was a small town. Think one street light, which happened to be right at the intersection where the library was. From that intersection, you could see the school up the street, where the road ended. The township hall was next to the library, and the fire department was across the street. There was a sweet shop that sold ice cream, candy and snacks where the kids liked to go to after school. All of this was at that intersection -- our little downtown, if you will. My house was about six blocks south on the main drag, and Pat lived off a side street. Sidewalks took us straight home. I can't imagine a first-grader walking to and from school in my town today, even though I live in a relatively safe neighborhood -- and yet when I think about walking to school and the library in my home town, I never think of it as a big deal or a time to be cautious.

I grew up outside of Chicago (a suburb of a suburb of a suburb, I like to say), where shortly after school started, the weather turned cool and windy and stayed mostly dreary until about a month before school let out for the summer. So holing up at the library after school seemed like a better choice than playing outside, most days. Pat and I would play checkers (OK, Pat would play checkers, and I would just move the game pieces around on the board) and read books. We were good readers, even in first grade.

One day in first grade, sitting at that little corner library, I picked up a Beatrix Potter book. It seemed just my size. There were cute pictures -- and really, what good was a book without pictures? I don't remember which book I read, but I loved it. Loved. It. I loved books. I held them in my hands and squeezed them. I liked to open them up and inhale their scent. (Library books had a pungent-with-age scent, a little dusty and almost like cheese. New books had a chemical smell, like fresh ink and maybe just a little bit like Lysol spray.) Teachers, who were just a little lower than celebrities to me, seemed to think books were really important.

So it seemed natural when Pat, sitting across from me at a munchkin-sized table at the library, asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up.

"I want to make books!" I said, holding onto Beatrix Potter, with visions of drawing cute characters and making up stories. The idea of putting ideas onto paper seemed to make the ideas real and not just the fancy imaginings of a little girl.

Pat said she wanted to be a mountain climber.

Pat did go on to climb mountains, metaphorical ones: dealing with her mother's death from breast cancer, marrying and then divorcing a know-it-all sourpuss and watching her dreams die as she tried to keep her brother and sister together after her mother was gone.

And I did write a book. I'm a little disappointed it wasn't a picture book that children can sniff and squeeze and carry around with them -- it's just a nonfiction book that I have chosen to stay mum about because I am not ready to come out to the blogosphere -- but I might still have a chance someday to turn thoughts into words and pictures that children will love.

Even if Fly is the only child who reads it.

- - - - -

This month, along with hoards of other writers, I'm taking part in National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. It's a takeoff on National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I did NaNoWriMo a few years ago and got my required 50,000 words down in one month, having written a young adult novel that I then discovered had basically just been written and appeared on bookstore shelves about a month after my own writing. Yay. So, expect a daily posting from me.... If you are a creative person, I encourage you to take a month (whether it's this month or not) and commit to doing your craft every single day. It's scary, it's hard work, and yet it's also freeing. It will transform you. Try it!

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Anonymous Melissa Garrett said...

I absolutely cherish my Beatrix Potter books!

PS - I really wish you would share your book; I'm dying of curiosity!!

2:47 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

I'm definitely tempted to join this writing thing. But Saturday and Sunday too? Oy. I work on the weekends. And my brain would have to work in order to write words anyone would want to read.

Looking forward to reading yours though!

6:35 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I used to love going to the library when I was a kid.

Still love it.

(Although I'm terrible with due dates.)

I'm trying NaBloPoMo too. Yikes.

12:01 AM  
Anonymous jenn said...

I loved the library growing up and still love it to this day, although I don't get to go very often.

I'm looking forward to your posts!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

You're so mysterious! It's going to be a huge event when you finally decide to "go public" about your book. :)

10:33 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

By the way, have seen "Miss Potter" (the movie about Beatrix Potter's life)? I enjoyed it very much.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Bloggy Mama said...

Good for you for doing NaBloPoMo. I enjoyed it last year. Great story and I vouch for stephanie. I was going to ask if you had seen "Miss Potter"? Renee Zellweger and Ewan MacGregor (I probably totally mis-spelled their names, oops). It's a good one!

11:54 AM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

I saw Miss Potter just a couple weeks ago.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

I would love to hear more about your book.

Last year I posted everyday for a month, you are right it was great to getting my creative juices flowing.

1:17 AM  

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