When did I know I wanted to be a writer?
I think I might want to be a writer, but I do not know how to start…
A person recently posed a question like this to me, and it made my mind wander back to when I began writing. I mean writing with the intention that I absolutely knew this is what I wanted to do – to become a writer. I don’t mean dabbling in writing…
For example, as a young kid, I totally enjoyed writing stories. My mom can testify to my magic princess stories and my nonfiction cat stories…and my year of coloured pens where I lovingly rendered comics of Frankenstein’s children and King Tut’s siblings before I moved on to making paper dolls with wardrobes for my little sister…
In grade five I entered a school-wide writing contest and came first (I’m not sure how many people actually entered, but I’m sure my arch rival had.) I remember the prize was a hairband and barrettes, which came in pretty handy because my hair was long (and it made me think the teachers bought the prize after they knew who the winner was because, hey, what if my hair had been short…or I was a boy!)
I still dabbled in story making in high school where I took creative writing and had a teacher say my writing was good. He had also said a whole bunch of people in my class were good writers, which I could see for myself. I found out later some of them had gone on to publish right out of high school, so maybe I should have taken his compliment more to heart. No matter –my time hadn’t arrived yet.
Instead I drifted away from writing. After so much essay writing in university, even lifting a pen seemed like a burden. Then one day I bought a science fiction magazine to read on a long bus trip. After finishing a time travel story, I thought to myself, okay it was neat, but I bet I could write a better one.
So…I had an idea I wanted to write a time travel story. That gave me the genre but what now…
Tune in for part two —
Do you think Sookie looks a little spooky?
What’s in a name?
Well, think about your own name. Does your name have a meaning? Who named you? Are you named after someone? Do you like your name? Have you adopted a nickname?
Get the picture – names are complicated and interesting…That doesn’t change if you are a fictional character.
So when an editor asks me to rewrite the ending, or fix a chapter, or start in a different place, I say, “Sure, no problem.” (um, after a long walk.) But when an editor asks me to consider renaming a character, I might dig in my heels and say, “What? – I’m not so sure about that…” Suddenly (and uncharacteristically) I’m a little stubborn.
That’s because I’ve already gone through the process listed above. What I haven’t done is pulled a name out of thin air. Sometimes I have favourite names I am waiting to bestow on just the right character (as I’m doing now with my new manuscript.) Other times, I’ve made word associations with my character and my character’s name. To unravel those associations is a challenging task.
In one instance a long time ago, a publication changed my character’s name without consulting me. To this day, I wince thinking how that didn’t work. If they had consulted me about the name they chose, I’d have gone back and unravelled and rewoven some of the supporting details.
What’s in choosing the right name? For me, quite a lot…
Are cats and writers supposed to go together? Most writers I know have pets, a few have dogs but the majority have cats. For me, we’ve always had family pets, but it’s been the kids who devoted themselves to our animals.
Until my son brought home a lost kitten…
The furry little guy had been trapped under a cement porch for several days until my son and friend coaxed him out. Then my son phoned and said, “I don’t want to take him to the shelter. He’s really cute, can I bring him back?” Only for a few days until you find a nice place for him, I’d answered.
The kitten had lost most of his tail, and he was dehydrated and starved. How had he even survived in this coyote and racoon ridden neighbourhood? I’ll admit I wasn’t looking forward to even a few days with a wild and terrified cat.
So what did the kitten do when my son brought him home? He leaped out of his arms, padded across the floor and jumped into my arms where he snuggled and wrapped his little paws around my neck, thereby wrapping me around his… er…cat finger…He actually sighed in relief.
So he’s stayed with us happily ever after? Well, sort of. You see, he is a little wild – and random – and he bites and scratches. I thought as he got older he’d settle in. Not so much.
Then my sciencey friend set to work trying to unravel the enigma of my cat – -how he was totally devoted to me one minute, and biting or scratching me the next.
Apparently he’s a hunter – and he has to dominate his jungle. But like I said, we live in a neighbourhood where cat posters are a weekly appearance – so he has to be an indoor cat.
So my friend advised me to set out tasks for this furry friend – he needed fake birds to chase (I found a cool wand with feathers that looks like a fluttery bird) and a tunnel to hide in and watch his prey, and hidden cat treats that he has to hunt for…
This has helped somewhat, but I shake my head even thinking about my slow descent into cat madness.
On the upside, he’s been a little calmer now the weather’s improving, and he sits outside on the deck with me while I try to read or write. Try is the operative word, because lately he waits until I’m not paying attention and then he jumps over the rail and sneaks into the yard. Then I go chase him – yeah, great fun.
Maybe writers and pets go together. It’s nice to be tapping away at the keyboard while a furry creature cuddles at your feet.
However, my furry friend has sharp teeth and claws.
Children’s author Julia Anne Grasso wrote a fun review of The Secret of Grim Hill and it is up on the blog: When I Grow Up, I Wanna Write a Kid’s Book: http://www.whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.ca/
Drop by if you like and check it out.
The 99 cent promotion for the EBook Secret of Grim Hill was a good success.
Riding on that, I’ve now started a month long promotion for Grim Hill: The Secret Deepens at the same price!!
This week I was asked in an interview which writers influenced me. Usually when I receive this type of question I shake my head, and I want to blurt, “Seriously, I have no idea. I think it’s one author, and the next day I think it’s someone else.”
Not this time — have I really reached a point in my writing where the fog has lifted, and I can clearly see the path both forward and backward?
During this interview, when asked who were my writing influences, I didn’t hesitate. “Ray Bradbury and Madeleine L’Engle,” I answered. Several days later I haven’t swayed.
I was around eleven when I was introduced to their books, and I still recall that warm, glowing magical spell their books cast over me. In fact, last summer when I read an essay by Ray Bradbury, I still found his writing every bit as enchanting.
And that’s what I strive for — magic!
One more week and the .99 cent promotion of The Secret of Grim Hill Ebook will be over. It’s been a grand success. For one lovely weekend, Grim Hill, was a bestseller on Amazon Kindle in kids’ books, so there will be another promotion for the second book in the series beginning the following week starting May 11th.
It’s now been seven years since The Secret of Grim Hill debuted. I find that hard to believe because it’s still vivid in my mind that thrill going from a small plot idea and rolling it around in my head until I made the Celtic connection to my soccer Halloween story.
Who would have thought those times I spent visiting NewGrange, a famous Celtic burial mound in Ireland, or the time when my sister-in-law paid an Irish farmer five pounds to drop a ladder in his field where we climbed down and explored a Celtic burial site, would percolate in my mind until unfolding in the Grim Hill stories.
It seems when you’re a writer you are really a collector of life experiences that spark and grow in your imagination.