My freshman year in college, I had this English professor. His first name was Byron, and he was obsessed with Lord Byron (I remember wondering which had come first). He liked to assign research papers; I was not a fan. I enjoyed the writing, sure. But the researching? The figuring it all out and putting it back together again? All the while freaking out over whether or not I was plagiarizing? Ungh. So not my thing. (This is probably something I don't have in common with other writers, and that's okay, right?)
Anywho, after giving back papers one day, Lord Byron took me aside.
"Have you declared a major?" he asked.
I told him I was a theatre kid.
"Well, do you have a minor?"
I did, I told him.
"Well, I think you would do really well in English. You write a strong paragraph. The way the paragraphs fit together doesn't always make sense..."
I laughed. I knew it was true. I told him thanks and I would think about it.
It took me a long time to realize how cool this was. The next semester, when my minor fell through, I didn't have to look far for a new one. It seems sort of duh, Julie, especially after blogging about my sparks all week, but it really hadn't occurred to me that I was ALLOWED to write. To study writing, even! That was the last major step for me: just letting it happen.
|This is the interior cover.|
My hardback has big
embossed lettering on the side
that says, "hold me," so
sometimes I just call this book
By the end of my college career, I was burnt out on everything. It happens, you know. One day, at a local bookshop in Louisville, I found this weird little gem:
I learned a lot from Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things... I learned that short stories are truly awesome, and that's there's actually a corner in publishing for quirky--who knew?
But the most important thing I gained from this odd book was my introduction to Kelly Link. Her contribution, "Monster" (also found in her book, Pretty Monsters), is one of my favorite things EVER. It's deliciously bizarre and brave and funny, not to mention horrifying. And it was written in a way that made perfect sense to me. With every word, I saw that I could write in whatever voice came to me--something I had not done in class, out of fear.
Overcome with joy, I emailed my creative writing professor about the contest in the back of the book. Good gracious, I was a little motorboat about it. I'll never forget his response: "See, now this is the kind of voice I want to hear from you." I finally understood what that meant!
I never did enter that contest, though. Truth be told, it would still be several years before I'd start writing seriously. However! It was the summer after I read Noisy Outlaws that I first got The Idea. Major spark points.
All right. One last thing. You want to know the spark that finally got me to put fingers to keyboard?
Reading writers' blogs. When I discovered this, it was like a whole new education opened up for me. I didn't know one thing or the other about publishing, which was my own fault for not being more dedicated to my classes in college (plays take a lot of time and I was LAZY). I let myself think it was over for a long time. I told myself I could just write for me and it wouldn't ever have to be perfect (lies!). But then, slowly, I realized, I can do this. I can do this without going back to school! And I won't be alone, and I won't be judged, and I won't feel guilty for trying.
So, this is for the friends who told me I should blog (and followed me from the very beginning), the friends I've made--and continue to make--on the blog (yeah, I'm talking to you. :B), and the writers, published and unpublished, who've taught me more than I ever realized I would need to learn.
Thank you thank you thank you.
Sparks to all!
( See? I'm still a worried mess when it comes to plagiarizing.)