The other night, I was talking to a friend and she asked me what made me want to be a writer. I honestly didn’t have a direct answer. I don’t have a memory of a specific moment that I thought, “I want to do that.” It has just always been. I have always wanted to do it. So I have been trying to think back, trying to see if I can remember a book or something that made me want to write. I honestly cannot come up with anything. (It wasn’t easy like the moment I started loving sharks. After I watched Jaws for the first time, I thought, “I want to do that.”) I remember when I started writing though. At least, I think it was when I started.
From kindergarten to 6th grade, I went to Montessori school. For those of you that don’t know much about Montessori, classes are set up a little different. In 1st grade, I was in a class with 2nd and 3rd graders as well as other 1st graders. I had the same teacher for 1st grade, 2nd grade and 3rd grade. Then, when I got to 4th, I moved to a different hall and had a new teacher for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. I loved my teacher for 1st-3rd and I can remember very vividly, not having much appreciation for my teacher for 4th-6th grade. However, one of the things we did in that class that I LOVED was we made our own books. I can’t remember how often we did this assignment but I still have all my books I made and there are quite a few. First, we had to write the story. The teacher would edit it however many times she seemed fit. Once it was past the editing stage, she would give us these booklets (they were just a stack of printer paper folded in half with a piece of construction paper on the outside all stapled together). You got to pick whatever color you wanted your book to be. Once we had our booklets, we had two options. We could hand write our story into the pages or we could type it up, print it out, and cut and paste the words into the pages. Of course, you could only do the latter if you got all your other work done on time and hadn’t gotten into trouble recently. A lot of my books are hand written. When you finished getting the story down onto the pages and you got your check mark, then you got to start the illustrations. Each page needed an illustration to go with the story. As an adult, I am pretty terrible at drawing things that look like things; you can imagine how bad my drawings were in these books. Anyway, once your book was completed and everyone else’s was completed, the whole class would start switching books. Everyone in the class would read everyone else’s books. We would then critic each other. At the end of it all, the teacher would choose what she felt was the best book for each grade then we would vote to choose the best out of those three. The winner would get a gold star on their book. I don’t have much memory of winning these but I do have a lot of books with gold stars on them.
It’s funny; I remember the whole process of making these books. I remember being excited for my friends to read them. I even remember being frustrated with the teacher when she would correct something or try and get me to change part of one of my stories. But what I don’t remember is winning. I obviously did, a lot, but those memories didn’t stay with me. My brain didn’t deem them as important. It just kept the memories of my loving to make these books.
After 6th grade, my mom pulled me out of Montessori and sent me to public school for junior high. She figured it would help the transition into high school. I agree, it very much did. I never stopped writing though. I made a group of friends and I would write for them. I would get these journals and write a book in them and then my friends would pass them around and read them and leave me comments in the back. I did stop illustrating them though. But I loved it. I still have all of those books too. I did that into high school, probably until about sophomore year. High school started getting busier with sports and yearbook staff and AP classes and “having a life.” I still kept journals though and wrote in them every day. I wrote angsty poetry about boys and girls that were mean to me. I wrote the first line of my book while I was in high school. I still remember exactly where I was when it came to me. It wouldn’t be until after college that I actually knew where to go with it.
So, I guess the answer to why I write is because in 4th grade my teacher got me started and I never stopped. Looking back, even though I have mostly bad memories of that teacher (she was always so mean to me) I guess she really is the reason I am a writer. Maybe I should dedicate the book to her and send her a copy when it’s published. She would never expect that.
Do you have a specific memory of why you do what you do now? Something that pushed you in a certain direction?
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