In third grade I was a writer. I was busily working on my first novel–a murder mystery loosely based on episodes of Murder She Wrote that I’d watched with my grandfather. In my loopy, third-grader script, I carefully outlined my characters, my setting, the back stories that would convolute the plot. I was shades away from being the next Agatha Christie. Or whoever it was that wrote the Nancy Drew books. The second is more likely since I’d never read any Agatha Christie in the third grade.
In the fourth grade a started a new school and for some strange reason I was placed in the “smart” class. I should serve as a dire waring to the rest of the world as to why not everyone needs to be in the “smart” class. I’m hopelessly scatter-brained–a million time moreso in the fourth grade–and spent a lot of time hating myself for leaving this paper or that at home or forgetting to bring home my text book altogether. There’s very little room for that kind of nonsense in a smart class and it’s hard not to start thinking of yourself as that girl in a class full of over-achievers like the one I was in. My grades were good–I could hang academically–but there’s something about my personality makes me an ill-fit in room full of people who really care whether they get the A- or the A+.
I wasn’t immediately intimidated by the class full of bookish, studious kids–they were fun and nice and I’d never labored under the impression that I was the smartest girl in the world, so it didn’t bother me that they were reading War and Peace (in the fourth grade, y’all) and I was thinking really hard about whether a skirt looked better with two ruffles or three (yes, it was the eighties).
But then the teacher asked me what I liked to do and I said, “write,” of course, because I was in the early stages of writing my Great American Novel. And then the teacher gushed that I should meet Rachel. Rachel was tall and thin and she loved to write too. In fact, she had been writing this summer and wanted to share her piece with the class.
As Rachel began to read I realized that there was only going to be room for one writer in that class and that the title was most-certainly taken. Her style was the opposite of mine. A lot like today, I don’t write more than I need to. I’m more Hemmingway than Faulkner (although obviously a helluva lot less edited than either). I get to the point and don’t waste time on words just to astound the reader with my vocabulary. Rachel was a flowery writer. She spoke with a confidence and aura of composure that I literally did not possess. Even now, I think I’m a fine public speaker, but I’m more “entertaining” than “composed.” I once taught an entire class holding my pants together with an alligator clip if that gives you any idea. The teacher obviously adored Rachel and her serene style and I had a pit in my stomach knowing that I was the opposite in every way.
I was out. A writer no more.
Right after Christmas (this Christmas–not the one in fourth grade), I started cutting back on my Facebook time and in its place I started writing. On the Wednesday before Blissdom I finished writing my first book. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s a children’s book. A mere 18 lines of rhyming verse, but its mine and its finished and I am so incredibly proud of it. I have two more dancing in my head.
There are a million obstacles between this book and publication. Right now it rests in the hands of a friend who will be returning it to me for notes. Another friend is doing a few sketches to accompany it when I send it to a local publisher.
Whether it goes anywhere or not isn’t really the point. The point is that it’s mine. I am a writer.
Next person that tries to take that away from me will have to have to fight me for it.