Today I leave for my home state of Indiana to launch my debut novel Dark Parties! I’ve got a number of book signings and school events planned, but I’m most excited about speaking to the students at Washington High School. I graduated from good ol’ WHS twenty-five years ago. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to tell them. It will be my first real school visit since Dark Parties was published. Sure, I’ll talk about writing and publishing. But I think my main message will be – dream big anyway.
I’ve created stories since I was a little girl, imagining epic dramas for my Barbie dolls. I wrote my first short story when I was eight years old. It was titled “A Dream I Wish Was True” and it was a complete rip off of a skit from The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. I dedicated the story to Farrah Fawcett Majors (Yeah, I was unduly influenced by television and a huge fan of Charlie’s Angels.). I think I still have the original copy somewhere. I wrote it in pencil and bound it with three pieces of string I found in the family junk drawer.
|WHS - Home of the Hatchets|
I wrote my first original story, titled “Adventure in the Bread Drawer,” when I was ten years old. It was about a girl who shrinks and meets a family called the Germs in a stale Twinkie. The story had a surreal and slightly cannibalistic ending where the girl wakes up and her brother has eaten the Twinkle and he’s picking something -- which may or may not be the Germs’ family photo -- from his teeth.
Growing up my creative writing assignments usually were returned covered in red ink with points deducted for spelling errors. I was convinced I could never be a writer because my spelling was appalling. Thank the writing gods for spell check!
I have a drawer full of rejection letters from editors and agents and a brain full of memories of people telling me I was wasting my time or I wasn’t quite good enough.
But now I also have a book with my name on the spine, sitting on a bookstore shelf under a sign that says ‘Top Teen Picks’.
No one is ever going to beg you to write a book. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy. But if it’s your dream, do it anyway. Never stop reading and writing and revising and learning and failing and dusting yourself off and starting all over again.
|At the Barnes & Noble in Bloomington, Indiana|
I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back to my chubby teenage self and tell her about her future. How she’ll one day – yeah, she’s going to have to wait a long time – live in London, England, and make a living writing books. She won’t believe me. But, hey, I almost can’t believe it myself.
And since I don’t have a time machine, I’ll hope that one day some budding young writer will be sitting in the audience and I can tell her or him to keep the faith!
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What was your first story?