I started writing late. Didn’t put pencil to paper until the sixth grade and even then it was for a poetry assignment. I went to Media Providence Friends School and the assignment was given to me by one of my favorite teachers of all time. Our class was supposed to make a collection of poems, each with an assigned theme. Of course, I was more interested in the art side of the project, creating a booklet for my collection of poems rather then writing them. I wrote sad little poems, one about my favorite stuffed animal, Ziggy, and the daring surgery he went through. I still remember holding his little plush hoof as my mother sowed the back of his neck together again. It was a very harrowing experience for the both of us and we needed plenty of cuddles and ice cream afterwards.
I wrote a poem about my favorite color, yellow but then changed it to blue. There were other poems, each title created with the help of word art (I’m surprised how many assignments I turned in with word art titles and never got points deducted from them). Then, the class had a pre-reading stage, the teacher taking each of our poems and giving them an editorial glance before telling us what worked and what needed work. When she discussed my poems, the comment that stood out the most was they were long, chopped up stories rather than lyrical poems that sounded pleasant to the ear. I panicked, in middle school I was an overachiever so not getting the assignment right on the first try was like being tossed into a black hole while my parents went to a tropical island without me. I kept trying, reworking my poems so they would be shorter. Trying my best to make them rhyme, sound lyrical, be spoken word, have any kind of consistency. I think i received an A for effort though most of my grade for the project probably reflected how much time I spent making the binding for that terrible collection of poems.
In ninth grade, I tried my hand at poetry again, this time writing a narrative poem entitled Diary of a Slave Girl. My teacher was thoroughly impressed but suggested I just write it as a work of fiction instead of trying to bend the words to fit the format of a poem. Something else happened while I sat at my computer, staring into the screen as words appeared in my word open word document. I found that I was having fun. I enjoyed creating a character living in a separate time, going through her own issues and having nothing to do with what I was experiencing. Sure she was a slave, but she was my slave….wait….she was my character who was a slave…..it was a period piece.
Now how odd is it that the first piece of fiction I really ever enjoyed writing would be considered historical fiction? Though diary of a Slave Girl has been lost, it was the first spark of creativity where the words just poured out of me and splattered onto the page and with a lot of editing they formed an interesting narrative. Throughout high school I continued writing. I dipped into non-fiction, writing an emotional piece about my grandmother who passed away a few days before graduation. In college I tried screenwriting only to hear the too familiar comment that my descriptions were too long. I did enjoy screenwriting but the limitations and formatting are daunting to me so I applaud and am jealous of all screenwriters and admire them for what they do.
After undergrad and some disappointments about applying and failing to get into several colleges, I found myself at West Chester University. I was excited to be continuing my education but not so much to be returning to Pennsylvania after falling in love with Virginia. Also, after living on your own, it felt like I was backtracking, moving back in with my parents. I did settle down, honing my writing skills, exploring science fiction, literary fiction and finally settling into historical fiction once again. Also, the things you can describe with color! Why say brown when you can say russet? Black when you can say ebony or charcoal. I think the most recent color description I’ve used was “corn silk curtains hanging from a silver rod.”
I then went to the Philadelphia Writers conference, submitting two of my pieces to be critiqued by two visiting authors. One piece I used for my thesis at West Chester University. When I sat with the visiting author, she asked me “are you a playwright?” Once again, I panicked. Should I be writing plays? Do my stories sound like plays? Did I send her a play I found on the internet and try to claim it as my own? It was the first time anyone has ever told me that my descriptions, especially in the beginning, echo that of a play. I like to start my stories out in scene, setting up the location where my character is so I not only ground the reader but myself as well. Sometimes I forget to delete these long passages that help me get started. Some people enjoy them, others want to meet the character right away. I never thought though, that my descriptions would echo that of a play. I was excited, think of the money! My stories easily being transferred to the stage! Me walking out at the end of opening night and bowing, my parents in the front row applauding! Now before anyone jumps on me, I do write because I enjoy it but I also would love to make a living off it hence the excitement over the possibility of being able to transform my work into plays. Did I mention I was a theater kid in high school?
Then, I received my first packet from my mentor with audio clipping about my work (I should mention I’m working on getting my MFA now and am in a low-residency program). While going over his notes and making suggestions on the improvements that can be made in my writing, he mentioned that the beginning of each story sounded like he was getting ready to watch a play. Apparently, this is a common theme that is appearing in my work. I’ve never tried to write a play and wonder how the process differs from screenwriting. As I write this post it is also amazing to see my journey as a creative writer on the screen, from little liar to panic stricken middle-schooler. Emo theater kid in high school to finally pulling everything I’ve learned to create stories some people enjoy reading. I also like the idea of disguising myself as a Fiction writer, a shy playwright hiding underneath. Who knows, maybe someday one of my stories will be transcribed into a play and I’ll be in the audience watching actors bring my characters to life. When the curtains closes, the actors taking their bow, they’ll invite me onstage too, applauding my hard work and maybe then, I’ll reveal who is really hidden underneath my disguise.