I’ve always been a storyteller.
My mom says I began telling stories when I wasn’t much older than E. At that point it was “Tom and Jerry saw a something and they ran away!” From there, I graduated to written stories in early elementary school, complete with sloppy printing, poor spelling and other people’s plots.
One of my favorite moments in elementary school was when we did the “book-making project.”
One day the princess said, “I think I have found the place that all the Unicorns are hidden.” But she was very very wrong. She looked everywhere but never found them because they were on Disappearing Island. Note that “Disappearing Island” in the illustration is written as “Disaperig island” with a handy arrow to tell the reader where it was. –Excerpt from “The Last Unicorn” by Crystal, March 1987 (age 8).
“The bee queen was very upset. She cried ever since the bears found their honey tree. My children are dying. They’ve nothing to eat for weeks. I’m going to go sting those bears good and proper and so will all the bumblebees, hornets, honeybees and yellow jackets.” Not pictured, the climactic ending–“We will teach them a lesson. As soon as Captain Stinger is ready, we’ll take care of those bears. And they did just that!” –Bee Queen, by Crystal, age 8.
Obviously, there was a lot of room to grow.
In middle school, I began a pen pal correspondence with a girl about my age on the West Coast after finding her ad in a ‘zine published about my favorite fantasy series at the time (Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey). (For my younger readers, a ‘zine was a short, dedicated magazine dedicated to a specific topic, like Mercedes Lackey, usually photocopied and mailed to your house–sort of a physical fan website in this instance). We carried on a several year correspondence entirely written as characters in Lackey’s world, complete with her signature talking horses (Companions). I don’t have any of the letters, but I do have several chapters of our joint masterpiece about our characters (we took turn writing chapters). My character was named “Lyria.”
In high school I still wrote the occasional fiction piece, mostly taking my writing style from my new fiction addiction, Christopher Pike’s YA horror novels. Such pieces include a short story called “The curse of the teddy bear necklace” (guess what it was about).
Around that time, I began to write for the school paper. I had a few articles reprinted in a local paper (which I’m pretty sure I still have saved in a photo album somewhere in the US–I remember that one was an article about a Holocaust survivor speaking to us about the “Night of Falling Glass”) which at the time seemed like the epitome of success.
But it was my introduction to personal essays that really helped me start to develop my voice and personal style. If blogging had been around in those years (or, more to the point, if I’d had access to the internet) I probably would have started blogging then.
In college, I had a very writing intensive major and minors (History, Literature, and French specifically) and I stopped writing fiction. I occasionally journaled, but the vast majority of my writing was academic. This culminated in a senior honors thesis in 2001. I spent a semester of my senior year researching my thesis and a semester writing it. At the time, it was the longest piece I’d ever written, and it was my ticket (along with grades, references and a solid GRE score) to a MA/PhD program in Women’s History at NYU (which I dropped out of after a semester, realizing that a History PhD was not actually my dream, after all).
Table of Contents: Introduction, Chapter 1: Changing Women, Changing Times, Chapter 2: Women’s Colleges: Radically New, Chapter 3: First Comes College, Then Comes Marriage, Chapter 4: Cars, Copulating, and Chaperonage: The Three C’s of Dating, Chapter 5: Dress for Success, Conclusion, Appendix A: A Detailed Listing of Curfews, Appendix B: College Pictures, Appendix C: College Songs, Bibliography– “Contradictions of Space and time: 5 Women’s Colleges 1920-1950”-Senior Honors Thesis, 2001. (72 pages, and the longest thing I’d written to date at the time).
Ironically, it was the strain of writing (and editing and revising and re-revising ad nauseum) this thesis that got me to write fiction again. My boyfriend at the time, Eric, introduced me to a website that published pretty much anything submitted to it. As a break from the non-fiction original research, I wrote a short story and posted it. That people read it and gave me feedback was a novel and addictive experience (in the case of positive feedback, at least)–it was the first time anyone other than me and a few select people had ever read anything of mine.
I began to write fiction again, and in my eight months in New York I wrote more than 50 pieces…some relatively decent, others very cringe-worthy. One that I meant to be nothing but an entry in a Halloween contest on the site, but which has always haunted me (pardon the pun) and eventually turned into my current novel in progress.
In 2003, I discovered blogging, and over the past 8 years, I’ve written on several blogging platforms–Livejournal, Typepad, and now WordPress. I’ve written banal everyday blogs, blogs about teaching, about my relationships, about parenting and of course now about life as an Expatriate.
In 2006, I had back surgery and was out of work for several months after the surgery. Mostly out of boredom, I decided to try the NaNoWriMo challenge…to write a 50k word novel between November 1 and November 30. I actually succeeded, and came out with a 100+ page story. Once I returned to work, though, my writing focus returned to curriculum and blogging.
The blog I was writing in 2006 and 2007, ironically, gave me the contacts that led to my first professional writing gig and my current professional goals. After I had Elanor, a friend who was serving as an editor for a website asked me to write about sexuality post baby. The article turned into a regular column. I wrote that column for over a year until the website unfortunately went out of business in October of 2010. The website was sold, but the new publisher has apparently decided not to revive it (it’s been almost a year with no news). My prior experience in sex education, my new passion about parenting, and my desire to help families has evolved into the seeds of a career as a sexuality educator and therapist specializing in pregnancy and post natal sexuality.
About a year ago, I began writing fiction again. Unlike before, though, I wanted to write more professional stories (as opposed to first drafts I just wrote and posted online). Stories that might just get published (after I’d amassed the appropriate number of rejection letters, of course). I also began the journey of turning that Halloween story I referenced earlier into a novel when I had some extra time.
Last fall I screwed up my courage and sent in my first story for submission, fully expecting to get rejected.
Last night I got an email letting me know that my story had been accepted for publication in an anthology coming out in February 2012, complete with contract.
I’ve always been a storyteller.
But now I feel like an author.