Wednesday, February 14, 2007


My earliest literary effort was self published with cardboard and masking tape.
THICKAMORE was well received by my immediate family but suffered from a lack of distribution and marketing. My prose was derivative yet showed some promise of what would become my future voice.
There is only one known copy.

8:30 pm and 77 degrees.
So when did you know?
I knew I wanted to write ever since I was 8 1/2 years old. My fiction was heavily influenced by Dr. Seuss, but I struggled to find my true genre. The one I felt most comfortable with.
My first inkling that words could profoundly affect other people was when I wrote a report on our bantam chickens in third grade. I had a mission to inform my classmates about these amazing creatures. I talked about what a sidewalk might look like if there were chickens running around loose. The words I used described our chickens' loyalty, our chickens' unique qualities, and specifically what happened to them when the neighbor's cats got involved. It was my first foray into the use of sensationalism and the use of cliche. "You can't count your chickens before they hatch." I talked about "fortification," something necessary to produce baby chickens. It was at that point my teacher sent me to the principal's office where I read my entire piece to Mr. Dunn. He sank lower and lower in his chair and soon his face was covered with his hands. I was annoyed. This was serious non-fiction. My talent was not being recognized.
I eventually found out my piece was a part of the educational cocktail party circuit for years.
As I moved from elementary to High school I was entranced with journalism, creative writing, and drama.
And then something happened.
The powers that be spouted conventional wisdom and suggested I pursue a "normal" career. I dutifully obeyed.
Yet I remained a writer deep down inside.
And I couldn't keep it hidden forever.
So how was it for you?
What made you decide to be a writer?
Do you have a Thickamore hidden in your past?


Bernita said...

We had bantham hens too.
I seriously enjoyed this post.

Kimber An said...

I'm looking forward to having my own hens once we move out to the boonies.

I was four when I wrote my first book and 11 when I wrote my first novel. I saved nothing. It wasn't until my teachers noticed me in high school that I realized some people might enjoy reading my stories. I remember being a 10th grader winning the creative writing award for the year over a bunch of 12th graders. Loved that. Lost the little award pen at a football game.

KRStagliano said...

Actually, no! I had no writerly aspirations. I went into advertising and had no thought of copy writing, I wanted to be an account exec. I was a voracious READER however. Since my youngest childhood. My folks signed me up for Scholastics Book of the Month Club in 2nd grade and I never looked back. Reading made me love words. Latin training made me understand words. My three girls with autism made me need to write. Interesting post!

Holly Kennedy said...

I knew at ten, and admitted it out loud at twelve -- ONCE. I got laughed at. Hard, stomach holding laughter from two friends. It hurt, so much that I never talked about it again. And because I came from a very poor background, the idea of chasing my dream stayed buried inside while I worked my butt off at various jobs over the years, paying my bills and getting by. But... the entire time, I was waiting for my chance!

I loved English class and could've taken it twice a day, but they wouldn't let me. My teacher, however, loved my "novels" (I never kept any, though).
Loved this post. Chickens. Only you, Pat!! :)

bookworm said...

My first effort was a children's book for my sister about a monster who was afraid of the dark...I'm afraid aspirations of Dr. Seuss would have been a step up for me. I was more interested in the tin foil I used for the night-windows, and the green glitter for the monster's wings. Which is to say, I was all about the packaging--not so much the actual content. Sigh.

I hope that has changed...

Heidi the Hick said...

I was 9.

Many of my teachers commented on my writing, especially after my decision in Grade 4 to only write language arts homework about ponies. Every exercise included ponies. I think I even answered a few math questions using ponies as an example.

My parents didn't discourage me but they also didn't encourage. They are intelligent hardworking people with Grade 8 educations. Being a writer just didn't seem like a real job. It still doesn't but at least now they seem to quietly think I might be able to do something with this.

Also, Pat, two things: I LOVE that first paragraph!!

And I'd love to read that report on the Bantam chickens.

Therese said...

Teachers always told me I had good ways with words, and my first-ever pub credit (first and only, until SOUVENIR'S release in July!) was an essay in the local newspaper.

"What Memorial Day Means to Me," as I saw it then, at age 11. Surely the essay was profound, and since I don't have a copy I can safely keep my delusion!

As for fiction: the notion began when I was in my twenties, but like you, I pursued more practical paths.

How nice that they led us here!

Torrey Meeks said...

My writing aspirations were a much more gradual sort of thing. It wasn't until my early teens that I finally looked up from a book, eyes gleaming, thinking to myself, Yes. I can do better than this.

So I tried writing one story with my best friend. I was thirteen. Once we realized how much the story sucked, and how hard it was to write well, we got bored and killed off the main character, then went outside and blew stuff up.

The interim years were filled with horrible poetry.

Zany Mom said...

I wrote a cool story of twin girls, May and Kay Betson, for school when I was in second grade. When my teacher accused me of plagiarism, I was crushed. Didn't think about writing until maybe six years ago, when a story possessed my brain.

ORION said...

Zany - isn't it sad teachers say things like that? I really watched what I told students when I gave them feedback.
KRS - I LOVED scholastics books and would order any that I could.
I don't think there is any time line on deciding to be a writer but I do agree many feel it is easier than it is.

Anne said...

Started writing soon after I discoverd colored pens. Kept a notebook. Never needed to show it to anyone. Just wrote for me. For fun.

In 6th grade, Sister Mary Lasarian had us write metaphors. For a river. As many as we could produce in a few minutes. Then she read to the class my full dozen, with a dramatic pause between each of them. Wow. Easy-peasy. Maybe I've got something here.

In 8th grade, I was the Speed Queen of Diagraming Complicated Sentences on the Blackboard. I was Sister Anastasia's favorite child.

In high school creative writing classes,I asked Sister Patricia Dillon if she would read my work out loud less often. She agreed if I promised to think about writing as a career.

Journalism was an easy chioce of major in college. Following that, more years than I will admit in professional work as a marketing public relations executive, corporate speech writer, newspaper columnist, and freelance writer.

Though I've succeeded in every writerly thing I've done so far, as I near the completion of this novel ms, I ask myself: do I have the guts?

Demon Hunter said...

Pat, I started writing in elementary school. I wrote the music review for my high school news paper, and a had a few poems published in high school. I knew I liked writing but did not think of it as a career at the time.

I did not decide to take writing seriously until I was in my junior year of college. It just hit me. I wanted to be a writer more than I wanted to become a clinical psychologist. Well, now, I realize, that I can do both! :*)

ChumleyK said...

When I was five I tried to reinvent the written English language by writing a story with only the first letters of each word. (WIwfIttrtElbwaswotfloew). All you chicken lovers will be pleased to know it was about chicks we hatched in our class. It didn't go over well with the general population.

When I was six, I wrote a story about my cat. It won a writing award and was published (and as of today, it remains my only real publication). I didn't know what was going on at the time, but when I saw my words in print I decided I wanted to be an author.

When I was a kid I wrote novels all the time, and it was heavily influenced by what I was reading. Little House on the Prairie and Lord of the Rings were two of my longest lasting themes. By middle school, it was no longer "cute" when I read my stories out loud to the family at dinner, and their boredom and lack of encouragement ruined writing for me for a long time.

All through high school and college I got all kinds of praise for my essays, but I don't think that really counts because my degree is in engineering and math nerds have a very poor grasp of the English language in general.

I didn't even think about writing again until I found Miss Snark and Kristin Nelson's sites on a random google about a year ago. I only started a serious attempt at a complete novel a couple of months ago. We'll see if I have the confidence to finish this one!

adrienne said...

I don't think I ever actually chose to become a writer. I had always written, always loved writing, had taken tons of creative writing courses in school and outside of it, but I had always been so fixated on acting that writing was just a hobby, something I enjoyed and was good at, but not something to pursue with that same passion.

Then in my last year of University I took a playwrighting course with the brilliant Djanet Sears. And in a one on one tutorial she told me that while she knew I wanted to focus on acting, that some day I must return to writing. That was my real light bulb moment when I realised that maybe I could write as well.

Still I never intended on being a novelist, just wanted to write plays that I could produce and direct. But I had reached a serious stumbling block with one play and decided to just write something else for fun.

My MG was the product of that random decision.

So happy I made it!

Kanani said...

Immediately, put this into your archives, earmark it to go along with your other papers into a university collection!

If you fail to do this, your cat will sell it on eBay once you are famous. And then you'll never see your cat again. She will move to Paris and ignore you. Believe me. This will happen. And you will be devastated. I am stlll mad at both my ex-cat and ex-dog for doing this. They live in Villa in Tuscany, and I live here.

A few years ago, I answered a bunch of questions in an interview. I've posted my answers here: On Writing.

ORION said...

Kanani I LOVED that interview!
Yanno about the cats...I wondered where they were getting their spending money.

Anonymous said...

What a nice post!!
When I was five, I wrote a nonfiction book called 'the Annimal Ensikelopeedea'. It started with 'The Rabit. Nibel Nibel gos he.' I wanted to be a scientist, not a writer when I grew up.
Kids are so creative - my daughter fills drawing pads and notebooks with drawings and stories. My favorite of hers is about a girl who goes to live beneath the sea. She's been making up stories since she was 2 - her first effort was about our dog and a ghost. She made me write the words to go with her drawings, lol.
She wants to be a vet when she grows up!

writtenwyrdd said...

Wow. And I thought my cat was bad. She just pees on my bed for inscrutible cat reasons.

I wrote horse prose, very bad horse prose. This was due to reading my favorite for several years, "Crazy Kill Range," a book about a wild horse. Then I wrote a really bad book about a dragon for a class project as a sophomore in high school. It was bad, but I did a good job with the illustrations, lol. If I ever find it, I'll post parts of it.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Didn't I see that copy of Thickamore on display beside the Ellesmere Manuscript?

becky said...

Our neighbor had chickens. I'm not sure what kind they were, but they were cute. Kinda smelly, but cute.

The first thing I recall writing was in seventh grade. Inspired by a story my class had just read, I wrote 'The Hound of the Beckervilles'. I showed it to all my friends. They knew it was cheesy, but they didn't say so. Then I wrote a novelette in early high school, followed by lots of angst-ridden adolescent poetry. I stopped writing in college and didn't think much about it until a couple of years ago.

I don't have my little 'Beckervilles' booklet that I made. I'm not sure what happened to it. Too bad. It'll be worth a lot some day, cheese and all.