|Posted by [email protected] on September 17, 2011 at 12:05 AM|
While most kids spend their junior high years playing with friends or engrossed in sports, I spent mine with either a book or a pencil in hand. I wrote a handful of ridiculous tales in those years, all innocent little romances, of course, but when I was in eighth grade, I wrote a mini novel that was the talk of my class. It’s embarrassing to recall it now; I cringe with the memories. It would have made a nice script for a Disney Channel movie: shy girl likes popular boy, realizes she can sing, tries to get him to sing with her. And this was a good decade before High School Musical! Anyway, I typed the story on an old Apple computer and printed it with one of those printers where the paper had to roll its way through and got jammed every few minutes. And I handed it out to my class! No joke! God knows if anyone kept it, and with the embarrassment factor weighed in, I kind of hope it ended up in the trash aside from my own buried-away copy. But it was my very first attempt at getting people to read my work.
High school was another story. That was after my immersion in the world of real romance novels. What I count as my first novel I wrote at 14. It was still bordering on innocent, but it was a full story carried through beginning to end with characters that grew and had situations to overcome and conquer. It was handwritten in a couple of wide-ruled notebooks, and after it was finished, my group of friends read it. From then on, whenever I finished a new story, practically from the moment the last words were written, I handed it off to my best friend to read and from there, to a handful of other girls. How teachers or the nuns didn’t catch us is beyond me! At the time, that wasn’t even a consideration. I was just excited to have my stories read. Imagine my mom and dad being called into the principal’s office (consequently, another nun!) and told their quiet, straight A student daughter was writing romance novels! To this day, I’m not sure my mother knows what a romance novel really is! It would have been a rude awakening to find out when I was 14!
And what did I write about at high school age?? A medieval time travel story with a tragic ending, so tragic in fact that I had to reincarnate the characters and write a sequel due to public demand! A story about a girl who wanted to be a pirate and hunted for buried treasure against the most ruthless pirates on the seas. A story about a ghost haunting a castle who fell in love with a mortal girl. Vampires, of course! And a handful of stories about tragically scarred men who hid faces behind masks, a la Phantom of the Opera without truly using the real characters.
Every single story had my heart and soul poured into it. I count all of those stories in my tally of novels even if they’re nothing I’d ever consider publishing. They’re my stepping stones. Everyone has to start somewhere, and for as ridiculous as they were, those stories scribbled in wide-ruled notebooks were mine. I still have every one; some graduated to being typed on the computer, some are still only handwritten, but every notebook is packed away. When I’m old, I can’t wait to go back and open the trunk and try to decipher pencil smears and yellowing pages.
If anyone had asked me in high school if I wanted to be a writer, I would have said no. Singing was my forte. I didn’t even take Creative Writing as a class because I never wanted to be told what to write or how to do it. I just wanted to have fun and write what I felt. It was a hobby, and yet it was something I devoted every bit of extra energy to doing. I would get to class early just to have a couple of minutes to write a few of paragraphs before we started. I spent all of Study Hall lost in a scene. I daydreamed what would come next when I should have been paying attention in class! My stories were always in my head!
To this day, I still adore the stories I created. Yes, they were sugarcoated and sappy, and my male characters acted idealized and more like girls if you ask me! But I’m so happy I still have them. They were friends to me more than real people. I sometimes contemplate going back and rewriting some of them, but part of their charm is that they aren’t perfect and are a bit silly. They’re my childhood on paper, and I wouldn’t want to change a thing about them.