Ah, Gabriela and her compelling questions … this week, she asked us to rewind and reflect on how we became writers. Specifically: When did you realize that you wanted to write? What motivated you to get started?Leave us go back about a thousand years to when yours truly was in elementary school. The war with my second grade teacher (over the spelling of ‘lick’ that resulted in my refusing to speak or acknowledge her presence whilst in class — a story for another time) was in the not-too-distant past. For some reason, I had read the electric company newsletter that came with the bill.Full disclosure pause: I learned to read at the age of four from my Nana, who taught me via the King James Version of the Bible (Deuteronomy, the blessings and curses). Needless to say, I ran out of books quickly and would read anything I could get my hands on. However, I can’t tell you why I was reading something like a utility newsletter. That was weird, even for me.However, it was kismet because in said newsletter was a writing contest offer. The electric company had partnered with one of our town banks. Prizes included fortune (savings bonds for first, second, and third place) and fame (a feature in an upcoming newsletter). I was in.My work (something about a space toaster as I remember now) won honorable mention, garnering me some neat bank-related tchotchkes (which made me forget all about the savings bonds), an awards ceremony at the bank with cake, and mention in an upcoming newsletter that included a reprint of my story. I wish I had a copy of it now but alas, another gem that has been lost to the annals of time.So that’s what started it.That, and a love of reading, as Gabriela mentioned.My love of books was fraught with organizing and activism. As mentioned, I could read well above my age. When I was in third grade, I was forced to um, adjust the truth to get a copy of a Scholastic Book Fair book I desired more than air to breathe. We had to walk to another school (Elementary #1 ended at third grade and Elementary #3 included fourth and fifth … I suspected Elementary #2 had fallen into the ocean since it did not exist during my years in the school system. Ah, imagination …) and once there, I proudly handed over my Book Fair form. The Scholastic rep looked at it, glanced at me over the tops of her horn-rimmed glasses, and announced I could not purchase the book because it was above my reading level. An argument ensued. My teacher sided with the rep and I was not permitted to order the book (The Mouse and His Child by Hoban, if you’re interested).I formulated a plan and returned the next day with my form. I handed it, and my hard-earned coins that added to the exact amount required for this almost-sacred text, to the same horn-rimmed nemesis. Sweetly, I announced that I was purchasing it for my cousin, who was in sixth grade, as a gift.The copy of said text sits on my bookshelf today.Such organization and activism was also required at the local library. I loved the library, with its card catalogs, sale table where I bought old crinkled copies of Car & Driver magazine for cheap, albums for lend, and the machine that embossed my library card number on the manila sheet that fit in a pocket stuck to the inside back cover of every book. On a particularly difficult day, the librarian attempted to stop me from borrowing a stack of books. She felt 1) that I was too young to read many of them and 2) if I was able to power through, I had chosen too many and would never finish them by the due date.My arguing did nothing to sway the ghostly woman and so I waited until my dad came. I knew he would vindicate me. I remember that he marched into the library to retrieve me since I was not out at the curb as he had asked. I explained the dilemma and he came to my defense by telling the woman if I picked the books, I could read them and affirming that I knew what I could read over what period of time. My arms were tired as I carried the stack to the car.Back to the topic of writing: I left off from the creative stuff for a few years and then signed up for Longridge Writer’s Group. That didn’t last long and I dropped out, thanks to the intervention of weird and unsavory life events.Fast forward again to maybe four years ago, when I started blogging. The exercise of responding to various posts, reading and liking the posts of others (and having them read and like mine!), got me re-engaged. And here we are.What got you started?
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