Write On Right Now!: May 2005- Writing Prompts & Exercises to Get You Writing Now!

Write On Right Now!

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to write. And that would be me. I've moved my journal about my writing life over to LiveJournal http://susanwrites.livejournal.com This blog will be filled with writing prompts and exercises so we can all write on right now! Please feel free to share your favorites.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

me first, what a concept

I hear a lot of talk about feeding our souls, and I believe it. I know I have to fill the well before I can write but I find that it is a very difficult thing for me to do. Call it whatever you want, feed the soul, fill the well, smell the roses, but it all comes down to one thing: Taking a few hours a week, in one block, to play, to relax, to do something non-writing related so that I can come back to my writing fulfilled. This means time alone, which I don't have a probelm with but it also means time spent and indulged on ME, not my husband or my children, just me. It is hard for us as women to believe that we deserve that time. I wonder, if men ever have trouble taking time for themselves away from family or friends?

Usually when someone reminds me to take time for me, to get to know myself, I rebel.

"Yeah, right, when do I have time to sit around and make a collage of what's important to me? When do I have time to go shopping for a special book to use as a journal and when would I have time to write in it anyway?"

Then I remember years ago being in the middle of a phone call with a friend, discussing an important emotional problem of mine, and there was a knock at the door. I told my friend I had to get the door. She asked why. I said because someone was knocking there. She said, "What's more important - you and the problem you're dealing with or someone at the front door?"

Since it wasn't very likely that it was Publishers Clearing House waiting to give me a big check, I knew she was right. And I recognized how easily I was all too willing to give up something for ME for the unknown. Some habits are hard to unlearn, but this is one I am working on.

Write on, right now.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Inconsistency, intent, and new books

Oh boy, not posting to my blog in a timely manner invites more guilt than missing a diary entry ever did. Yikes. We hit crazy times at the day job and then, when the four-day weekend hit, I pretty much collapsed. I told myself I was only going to listen to my body, sleep when I needed to sleep, take naps when I wanted to, that sort of thing. After three days of that my brain is starting to wake up again. But of course, being me, I have beaten myself up ten different ways for not posting regularly. Cripes, I couldn't even be consistent for a month. It is doings like these that make me feel like any success I get is in spite of myself. Okay, not going to go down that path, really. (But it would be easy to do so.)

I have been thinking like a writer though and that makes me feel good. I go through periods where I just feel like I am masquerading as a writer and someone will find out, point their finger at me, and I will have to hand in my computer. Me, exaggerate? Not hardly. I got my color artwork for my Robert Smalls book this week and the illustrator did a great job. I was a bit worried when I first saw some of the sketches but I sent in my feedback and it looks like she took a lot of what I said to heart. Then on Friday I got my author's copies of my new picture book, Oliver's Must-Do List. There really isn't anything better than opening up that box and holding your baby in your hands for the first time. Even when you see artwork along the way it is different when you see it all put together in book form. Yeah! Oliver (the rhino) is adorable and hope moms and kids all over the place fall in love with Oliver. Now the fun stuff (not) all the publicity work. I actually enjoy a lot of it but as always am hampered by how much time it takes. I did a brainstorming session with my friend marketing whiz Toni Buzzeo and am really going to try and focus on doing a few things well and not trying to "do it all" which I am prone to try and do. First step is ordering postcards.

So I feel writerly again, however briefly. Interesting email from my agent that I hope will lead to an interesting discussion next week. Why can't I hold on to these feelings all the time?

Write on, right now.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Success and stuff

Sometimes I get so caught up in the business of writing and publication and publicity and making money or dreaming up ways to make money with words that I forget that all of that is completely out of my control and that I need to concentrate on writing and let the rest of the story play itself out.

But it's hard. How can I read about great reviews and huge advances and not think about how it might affect me and my work? How can I stay focused on my work, on becoming a better a writer, a more honest writer?

I would pay tremendous sums of money to know how to do that. Truly. I think it is the toughest thing to do, to not think about the publishing and the possibility of awards and fleeting and fame and just write the stories and stay true to the writer inside of me.

I have friends who have had great success with a book or several books and I'm happy for them, really I am, but I have to remind myself that I can't compare any of my experiences with their successes. But I do compare, and that is always the problem. Once we have that first sale, that first acknowledgement publicly of our talent, it is no longer about the writing, but rather about the repeat factor...or trying to play top it with ourselves. I think that with our writing, as in other parts of our life, we go through stages of growth and plateau. Each time we hit that plateau and hunger to push ourselves to the next level of writing and more growth, it becomes like starting over all over again. Makes us once again beginners in our chosen area. I have a hard time with that. And I don't know the secret to staying focused. I seem to pepper my life with so many activities that I have difficulty balancing without crashing. Writing is tough enough. Then there are so many of us that work full or part time on topof it. Plus add in children, spouses, family folk who need our support and so on. Sometimes I wonder how it is we ever get anything done at all.

How do you stay the course when life threatens to push you off the path?

Well sometimes I just let it. I have to admit to myself that some writing/social situations are negative to me. Sometimes I can't let myself be around other writers because hearing about all their latest sales and great connections and happy publishing experiences works the wrong way on me. While I can be happy for my friends, at the same time I think, "Why not me?" and "What am I doing wrong?". Then it becomes more of a downer than a positive experience. So at times I just remove myself from those situations. I don't begrudge my friends their successes, I just have to protect myself from a tendency to feel sorry for myself and whine. Some people always go to conferences and such things and feel wired up and jazzed and motivated. But if I am in a rough spot with myself and my work, that's the wrong place for me to be. Instead I pull books off my shelf to read. Books that tell the story of other writers suffering the same insecurities and worries and envies. Somehow that helps.

I don't know how to stay focused. I don't even know how I do all that I do. It is sorta like just picking up whichever baby is crying the loudest at the moment and hoping that instinct and the need for survival will pull me through.

Write on, right now.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Not writing is simply not writing

It's been one of those good non-writing days but I still feel guilty because I didn't work on my novel. I only have a few hours each night after work and then the weekends to write but this website overhaul has absolutely consumed me. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think there are only a few pages that still need content and the designer has to finish my database but I am closing in on being able to say DONE! I'm at the point now where I am checking each page for typos and fine tuning and color changes. I spent more time than I could have imagined trying to figure out what bullet to use. I'm up to 143 pages and there will probably be a couple more before I am done. I think I am still on track to launch for June 1st. At least that's the plan.

So I'm busy doing a lot of non-writing things and yet I feel very much like a writer. I'm checking artwork on one book. Working on PR for the two books coming out. Setting up interviews, finishing the website, writing teaching guides - it's all part of the career building plan - but I can't forget that if I don't write, I have no career.

Soon, the words are starting to fight for attention and the voices in my head are getting louder. I think I will go back to the middle grade novel but the YA voice is also clamoring for attention. I can only work on one novel at a time...who will it be...D.C. or Jayde?

Write on, right now.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Artwork and expectations

I still don't have my copy of my new picture book, Oliver's Must-Do List but I do have color art and layout for my spring book, Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom. My editor emailed it to me today. I had seen sketches before (and gone over them in picky picky detail) but this was the first time to see them in color and in book format. The illustrator has done a lovely job with it, capturing the longing for freedom that drove Smalls to steal a Confederate ship and hand it over to the Union Army. I'm pleased with it and hope (since it is a true history story) that the teachers and librarians will like it too. It's set to come out for Black History Month in 2006.

Being a writer and not an artist, it's tough to let go of my ideas of what I think should be in a picture for one of my books and let the illustrator do what they do best. For my first picture book, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open? I wrote about an incident in my own childhood and I pictured myself as the main character. I never saw any sketches for that book along the way, I only saw the art when I received my very first copy of the book. I was surprised when the character looked nothing like the blond-haired blue-eyed girl in my mind but was, instead, an adorable dark curly-haired girl in a multi-cultural family. For Oliver's Must-Do List I had no expectations of the character but I can say that I never thought of Oliver as the wonderfully comical rhino that he is. Now I can't imagine him any other way.

We each bring to our stories an essence of ourselves - we can't help it - but each reader, and illustrator, will perceive that essence through a vision of their own.

Write on, right now.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

new book envy

I'm bummed. My new picture book, Oliver's Must-Do List, is almost out. My illustrator received her first copy of it a week ago and I am still waiting for mine. Wah! I want to see my new baby.

It's always weird, holding a new book in your hand for the first time. I wrote it years ago, sold it years ago, and have moved on to other projects while waiting for this one to come to life. I am a different writer than I was when I wrote Oliver (this is a good thing) but because of that, I find that I am also harsh with myself concerning a critique of the final product. And then the waiting starts for that first review. Please let them be good. Please please please.

It looks like the book will be out on the Boyds Mills Press table at BEA. Of course I didn't think about that so I didn't have the postcards or bookmarks or teaching guide ready. Must get organized, really I must, or if not organized I need to learn to go without sleep so I have enough time to do all that needs doing for my writing career in addition to the full time job.

Write on, right now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Writing what we read

I don't read adult fiction. There, I've said it and there's no taking it back. I try, and once in a while make it through a whole book but it is no more than one or two novels a year, compared to 50-100 or more children's books a year.

I write YA and middle grade and picture books. When I read, I devour YA and middle grade and picture books. I go in spurts where I want to read a lot of books along the same lines of what I am working on. When I am working on the book in letter format, I read tons of those. I have a huge stack of ghost books to read when I want to get in the mood to work on the ghost book.

I don't know if I can separate out that I read books for kids because I write books for kids or I write books for kids because I read them. I mean, adult books just don't interest me. Correction, most adult fiction doesn't interest me. Adult books will often (and I am aware I am making huge generalizations here) often tell me who and what but kid's books tell me why. I read books for kids because, inside, I am not a grownup. I don't wanna be one. Inside I am still a 12-year-old girl who is always asking why and never getting any answers. So I write books for kids to answer those questions and I read books for kids because they give me hope that I'm not weird, that someone else really does feel the same I do, has the same fears and hopes. To me there is much distance when I read adult fiction and less distance in a good children's book. Though I miss out on things in a lot of children's books that others call good because if I can't relate or care about the character, nothing else in the story matters to me.

I also think I read kid's books because the character is often hurting in some way, and my inner child is still hurting in a lot of ways, so there is instant identification. Since I don't feel like a grownup I can't relate to the grownup stories the same way.

I also read for what my mind cannot provide. That's where I read a lot of adult non-fiction. I adore adult non-fiction, but adult fiction, well, it is very easy for me to put the book down and walk away from it.

Like all rules for writing, I think you have to take what works for you and discard the rest. However, if you have a niggling feeling that you should try something new, play with it, but don't hold yourself hostage to it. Above all, writing to me is an exploration of not always what I know, but what I want to know more about.

Write on, right now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Delving deep

I think we are all a different writer than we imagined and I think that's a good thing. Sometimes the barriers come from empty wells, and yes, restoration of one's self and creative soul will revive one's writer self and help drop those barriers. But sometimes I don't want to look at things in a more balanced way. I want to give myself permission to go balls out and meet the deep, dark, heebie geebies head-on and quit stopping myself because I wuss out at what I might find when I get there.

But giving myself permission to dive deep into my personal pit of emotion is a lot easier than standing on the edge and jumping in.

And what scares me or makes it difficult for me to write past my personal barriers is not the same as the next writer. We are all unique, evem (or perhaps especially) when it comes to our inner demons.) My sense of humor doesn't come out much in my writing. Heck, it doesn't come out much in my life. I could ignore the issues that compel me to write but when I do, I'm not happy and my writing isn't honest. I write to heal myself. If I can heal a reader or two in the process, all the better.

Some writers have said that entirely too much time is wasted by writers trying to force themselves to go deep when they should have been dancing instead. I can't dance (you can't make me) but I do think we don't necessarily go looking for something deep - I think some of us just finally open our eyes enough to admit we see what's always been there. (You'd be amazed at how much writing I've done over the years with my eyes shut.) And that's when some of us make a major leap in our craft. Your mileage may vary.

I think the reality is that inside all writers is the ability to do both, dive into the black pit and write about your demons and at other times, wander into a garden, soak up some sun, and string words like petals of a flower for necklace.

Sometimes we need to just sit down and write without the editors and publishers and booksellers and agents and critique members sitting on our shoulder and come face to face with our own truths in the process.

Write on, right now.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Telling the same story over and over

I think it was Marion Dane Bauer who said that she writes the same story over and over again, always about a distance between a parent and a child. And Isaac Bashevis Singer who said we all write the story of our life over and over again.

Jane Yolen says, "I really believe that to be the best writer you can be, you have to keep growing."

Therein lies the problem for so many people, writers and non writers alike. Growth is scary. Growth is stepping off the platform dive into the unknown. Growth is recognizing that while we have already exposed one facet of ourselves we are now going to expose another and another and people will be able to see who we really are. To be the best anything, you have to be willing to stretch and grow, and that is a very difficult thing for most people to do. Because it means risking failure. If you have had success, it feels good. People expect a certain quality from you. You try to grow and try something new and what if you fail? What will people think of you then? So in not taking the chance to grow, you limit yourself the chance to fail and be judged unworthy of your previous success.

Success means different things to all of us. Literary awards, financial security, the respect of our peers, being able to write full time, being able to pay the bills, being happy.

How can we not tell the same story over and over again, at least until we discover whatever truths we were trying to learn in the telling? Not to the public, but to ourselves.

Write on, right now.

Special thanks to Cyn at Cynsations for mentioning my blog in hers, and to visits from The Complimenting Complimenter, and iTripped who gave me the kick in the can'ts to get going again

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Hearing voices vs seeing pictures

This seems to be a conversation that comes up whenever writers gather; do you hear voices or see pictures when you write?

People who see pictures describe it as watching a silent film unfold in front of them on a big screen and they write down what they see.

Me, I hear voices, sometimes several at once, but a story always starts with someone's voice in my head whispering or shouting or demanding that I tell their story. I like the voices. They keep me company. They keep me awake at night. They say things I would never dream of saying. But they never tell me what they look like.

And that's the trouble with hearing voices, not being able to adequately transcribe their uniqueness onto the paper. Characters have popped in and out of my head for so many years that I feel lonesome when no one is talking to me. They don't speak in order...they don't even stay within the current book project. Of late there have been up to 5 ongoing conversations and only one of them has to do with the project at hand. The others, well, I just write down what they say and add it to their folder, hoping their story will come to me in time.

Sometimes I envy those writers who can look up on their "big screen" and see their characters painted in flesh and blood so real they'd recognize them if they passed them on the street.

But then someone whispers in my ear about the terrible thing their mother did and then asks me if I want to know more and I just close my eyes and listen.

Write on, right now.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A matter of trust

Isn't that what writing is, a matter of trust? Isn't this really what writing is all about? Don't we all go on trust and gut feelings when we write our stories? Even with non-fiction, yes, one must adhere to facts, but isn't there a certain amount of pure gut feelings that guide you in to how to tell the story?

When I choose a story to tell (or it chooses me) I need to trust my gut that because my story matters to me, it will connect with other readers. When I try to force the form or plot or character, everything falls flat. When I allow myself the freedom to think about telling the truest possible story I can tell, I write a better story.

But it is hard to trust ourselves sometimes, isn't it?

In any given writing session I can sit down with a conversation in my head, ready to come out on the page and after a few sentences I start thinking about how an editor might interpret it or I remember something a critique member said about a similar situation in a different story and then, all of a sudden, I am second-guessing myself right out of writing.

Some of my friends have chosen to cut themselves off from much contact with other writers and the writing world while they create in order to allow themselves to focus better on being true to their own vision quest. Others seem to fill themselves up with reading and connecting with as many other writers as they can. Myself, I seem to find 1001 other things to do instead of write until I am in an almost physical pain because the story is still left untold.

This seems to be an issue I struggle with a lot, how to let go and just write. I guess I figure if I chew on it long enough, eventually I'll spit out an answer that makes sense. I know what I am supposed to do, dig deep and let it spill out on the page, but it ain't easy. You can trust me on that.

Write on, right now.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Am I doing it right?

Can we ever really be sure that we are writing what we are supposed to be writing?

How would I, could I, know that I am doing it right? That I have actually found my writing spot in the world? Would I even recognize my spot if I found it? Or does it have to find me? For all I know I could have passed my spot and not even known it...but maybe I wasn't ready yet.

I feel that I am circling my spot sometimes like a wild dog, sniffing it out, trying to decide who has been there before, how long ago, and if I have it in me to defend a territory that I am not even sure is mine. I flit from spot to spot which is both bad and good. I want roots to grow but then I run away and am not sure if it is fear of the growth or fear of the possibility of no growth.

Does selling something in a particular genre mean that is your talent? If that's the case then why do so many bad books get published and so many great stories get left unsold? I know it is nuts for me to expect some little green light to go on over my head when I hit my "spot", a light that says "this is it - this what you're supposed to be doing" . So instead I wait for that gut feeling that says "yeah, this is it. This is what I wanted to say and I said it in a way that makes me proud." But there is the great equalizer in this business that when I have that great gut feeling, the industry says "no thank you". In light of that, I find it tough to keep searching for my spot.

But I suppose I have a serious stubborn streak because in spite of all the lack of answers I can't imagine not writing. Correction, I can imagine it, and the thought of not writing terrifies me more than the thought of writing without knowing if I am doing it right.

Write on, right now.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Paper habits

All my fiction and poetry starts with a pen and a piece of paper. All of it. I can't compose first draft fiction on the computer. After I have something to play with, something to type into the computer, then I can sometimes compose on it. But in the beginning it is just me, one of my favorite pens (cheap, medium point black ink) and usually a green steno pad. There is something about writing by hand that helps me bring fiction to life. As I listen to the character's voice in my head, my hand guides the pen across the page.

Non-fiction is something different. I don't know how to start non-fiction by hand. It is always composed on the computer from start to finish.

I'm not sure how these habits developed. Perhaps because I have written fiction and poetry the longest it is habit developed from childhood,a time that predates computers. Back then I used college ruled spiral notebooks, the 8-1/2 x 11 size, for anything. Now I'm picky about my notebooks, wanting them to be simple and the sort of thing that you wouldn't expect to write anything important in. I buy pretty ones with hard covers that stay blank because I'm afraid I have to write only pretty words to match the cover. I want a notebook that offers no pressure. I can put enough of that on myself without any help. Most of the time that means a steno pad but a few years ago I found the best notebook, so good that I still think about taking it down to the copy shop that made it and asking them to make me 100 more just like it. It was thin, maybe 40 pages at the most, a bit smaller than 5x7, spiral bound and soft cover. It was a throw-away sort of thing that the copying place made for advertising. It was perfect. It felt just right. I wrote a lot of poems for my last book in it and started a new book in the last few pages. There are a few blanks spots left in the center and I'm tempted to go back and write there but I know I'll get frustrated when I run out of room. I wish I knew what it was about it that seemed to bring the words out in me.

On my honeymoon I took, of course, a notebook with me "just in case" inspiration struck. It was the wrong tablet from the beginning because it was a fat steno pad, about 3 times as thick as the ones I usually used. I left it on the floor in the backseat of our rental car as we toodled around Hawaii. I had written a bit, a few pages. when a bottle of water spilled and soaked the bottom part of the pad. The top pages, the ones I had written on were fine. Actually all of the pad was fine once it dried but it didn't dry flat and the pages had that wavy, weird feel to them that paper does once it has been wet and then dried out. For reasons I don't understand I cried buckets over that stupid tablet that I knew I wouldn't use because the paper felt funny. It was my poor new husband's first introduction to the many adventures of living with a writer.

At work, in meetings, I find that the agenda pages are great for brainstorming my WIP. At my desk it is Post-it notes. In the car, when I forget a notebook,it might be the back of an envelope, napkins, and even once (to my husband's horror) the palm of my hand because I was afraid I would forget a great title. Every Friday night I have to dump out my bag that I carry back and forth to work and dig out all the scraps of paper that have words on them, then go find a notebook to put them in.

For years I thought I was doing "it" all wrong. "It" meaning writing. I was sure that a real writer was wonderfully organized, always wrote in a beautiful leather bound notebook or at the computer, and never had to worry about losing a gem of a phrase because they couldn't find the scrap of paper they wrote it on. But now I finally get it. I understand that this is all part of my personal process, the way that I gather words and ideas, play with them, compost them, and eventually, turn them into stories.

And I understand there is no right or wrong way to be a writer. There is only writing and not writing.

Write on, right now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Writing scares me

When I do it right - when I dismiss the editor on my shoulder and silence the critical voices in my head, when I shut my eyes, open my heart and let myself feel EVERYTHING, when I peel back the skin of the story and write with emotional honesty -writing scares the hell out of me. Everything I think and feel is right out there in the open for the world to see and that's a terrifying and often paralyzing thought.

But that's what good writing does, splits you wide open and spills you into the world covered in nothing but guts and raw emotion.

I have to remind myself of this all the time, that my voice comes from writing with emotional honesty. But it's hard. Excruciatingly hard. Because once the words are out there for the world to see people will make judgements about the person behind the words. They can't help it and that fact intimidates a lot of writers (like me) to the point that much of what they write comes out sounding unbelievable.

When I teach, I encourage my students to tap into their own emotional experiences and then channel that emotion into their stories. I try to do the same with my own work. My middle grade novel, The Truth About Fathers, didn't really come to life until I let myself feel the true depth of negative emotions I still carry about growing up without a father. The novel isn't about that, it's about a girl who stays with her father after a divorce and how the two of them build a new relationship together. But I allowed the pain of not having a father during those growing-up years to surface and then poured that emotion into the main character's feelings about her mother during the divorce. I relived the longing for a father and the uncertainty of what having a father meant and used those emotions to fuel my character as she worked through her own new relationship with her father.

The result? A character you can care about. A story that makes people cry because of the honest emotion. A book that people tell me rings true.

Was it easy? No way. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

All creating, writing or music or art, all creative work demands courage from the creator. In order to write believable fiction we often have to be willing to bleed on paper.Go ahead and let yourself be scared. Let yourself feel every emotion - the pain, the anger, the longing, the laughter, the love. Let it bubble up until it boils over and then pour it into your writing.

Rollo May, in his book Courage to Create, says, "If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also, you will have betrayed your community in failing to make your contribution."

Because of who you are and what you have experience, there are stories only you can tell. Feel the fear, dig deep and start writing.

Write on, right now. Susan

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I wasn't supposed to be a writer.

Through-out my childhood I read a lot and wrote a lot as a teen but I was never supposed to grow up to be a writer. It was too artsy, too unpredictable, too much the opposite of what my mother wanted for her life, thereby dictating what I should want for mine. Writing was something you did "on the side" but your main job was something like being a secretary or a teacher or an interpreter at the United Nations (a job I considered briefly in High School.) The message I got was that writing was a hobby, not a career.

I grew up in a single parent household and my mom worked hard for a company that didn't really reward her efforts. No pension at a time when pensions were popular, no gold watch when she left, nothing. So the messages sent to me, sometimes subliminal and sometimes outright spoken words, were that security mattered more than anything else. You needed a regular job with a regular paycheck and benefits. Gotta have those all important benefits. I don't recall anyone ever sending the message to do what makes you happy. I don't remember anyone ever ASKING what made me happy. And perhaps, as a child, I didn't know myself.

I'm sure my mom would have a different memory and that's okay. I think of the quote by Anne Sexton that says, "It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was." That's the way it is with memories.

When I read autobiographies of writers who grew up in creative homes with parents who were writers or musicians or artists I feel pangs of jealously. I wanted to grow up in a home where creativity was celebrated and encouraged. Here's what I remember of creativity growing up:

- My mom bought me a lot of craft kits, the old string art things and the little colored bits of gravel that you glued down to make a picture.
- Embroidery, which felt a lot like mending to me.
- Making doll clothes.
- Making mud rivers and floating boats made from walnut shells
- Hammering things from leftover wood my grandfather gave me.

I remember making cards for my mom on all occasions and writing poems (bad ones) to go in lots of them. She saved them, I know this because they are in the scrapbooks she gave me but I don't remember much literary encouragement. But I don't remember being encouraged to do those things and explore. I think my mom and my grandmother were just worried about me being bored. I'm sure their memories of those days are different too.

There really wasn't a lot of reading material in our house. I remember we had a lot of Reader's Digest Condensed books and not a lot of any other books except the Bible. I can picture my mom or my grandmother reading the newspaper but that was about it. I can't bring to mind any image of them reading.

I had books, a lot, in part, to my Uncle Fred who used to bring them as gifts, and later, thanks to my mom who let me order as many from the Scholastic book clubs as I wanted.

But I never felt like I had that cheerleader in my corner saying, "You love words. I know you love words. So write and see where it takes you."

I can understand wanting a better life for your child. I'm a parent and I want my children to have good lives, secure in the ways that tell them they have a place to live and food on the table. But I also want them to follow their dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem.

In Junior High (Glenbrook Intermediate, Concord California) I had two English teachers who unlocked the door for me. Vicki Hackett and Mrs. England (can'tremember her first name.) They read my words and told me I had talent. They encouraged me to keep writing. I became the editor of the school paper. I wrote plays for the class to perform. I stayed after school just to sit in that old school desk in an environment that celebrated words, my words, and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was there, I am sure, that my writer self was born.

In high school (Mt. Diablo and Ygnacio Valley, also in Concord, California for anyone keeping track) I had more great teachers, Chuck Foster and Robert Sillonis, who pushed me to explore my world in words. From them I first heard the words to dig deep and write the truth but it would be years before I was a brave enough writer to actually do so.

I took a lot of different paths trying hard to NOT be a writer and to do something to make my mom proud of me. I got married (too young), had kids (also too young), did a variety of home-based business to prove I could earn some money (I couldn't) and finally gave up and came pretty close to having a nervous breakdown before I finally admitted how much I wanted to write and threw myself into it heart and soul.

My mom is proud of me in her own way. I've just finally figured out that she doesn't show it in the ways I always wanted see. And most of the time, that's okay with me. I've become my own cheerleader, my own encourager of dreams. I try something, I fall down, I get up and try again. I write and erase and submit and get rejected and start all over again. Because that's what a writer does. And because that's what I am.

I've finally become the writer I was supposed to be.

Write on, right now.