Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

To Humble Beginnings on New Year's Day..

^My son's first by-line is in his school newspaper last year!

It's a brand new year, filled with surprises around the corner for each of us.  If you're someone who writes, as I do, you may be thinking of what your writing goals will be for this new year.

My goals are as follows:   finish my manuscript, send queries to agents, and to become a writer with one helluva agent.  One, two, three.. these three things, which I wish for, will not be accomplished as simple as that, but I'm determined to try to achieve these goals.

We all know the query quest is one giant, hair-raising roller coaster ride, but I'm buckled in for the duration, and I won't get off the ride until each goal is accomplished.  I will check each goal off one by one.

So I am going to do as Julie Andrews advised in song to the Von Trapp kids and "start at the very beginning, a very good place to start" this new year, and focus on the goals.  I'll take my manuscript day by day, hammer out the dialogue and the last half of the book with as much style and creativity as I can possibly muster, and then when it is truly ready, I'll send out query numero uno, hopefully in spring of this year.  I'm going to do that, and when I hit a wall, creatively speaking, I will work on my second manuscript, Stagedoor Johnny.  I won't stop.  I'm not going to.

In working on the three goals, I think back to my beginnings as a writer.  Those days in elementary school when my teacher would assign us a book report or ask us to write a paper about what I did during my summer vacation.  Some kids would groan or moan, but I would get a glazy look in my eye, kinda like Ralphie got  in the movie, "A Christmas Story" when his teacher told the class they would be writing a Christmas theme.  He got to write about his favorite stuff!  That darned Red-Ryder B.B. gun, with it's fabulous options such as, a sundial and "this thing which tells time".  Yea, I was like Ralphie, I got to write, and I loved to write.

When we find that spot in our soul, that place where we stuff the magic of our wonder years,   we awaken our child within.  That kid who wrote for the fun of it suddenly returns, if for only a little while.  It's when this happens, I'm truly convinced we create our best work.

Today my inner child was coaxed out to play once more, after finding my son's first by-line ever in a newspaper, his middle-school paper called, "The Golden Times".  You see, last year he served on the school newspaper staff as a sixth grader, and wants to do it again next year in eighth grade, but his schedule didn't allow him to do it this year, in seventh grade.
^My son is M. Sullivan

Over a cup of Blue Mountain coffee, I read through the paper, and suddenly I was transported to my 9th grade year, when I first joined the newspaper staff at my school.  I wanted to write gripping, thought-provoking articles.  I wanted to make people laugh.  And yes, I wanted to write about the sports teams and pep rallies, as I was also a cheerleader.  But I never got started this early.  I got started at fourteen, not at the tender age of eleven, as my son did.
^Ah!  One of his articles.  I love how the basketball is "swoosing" through the hoop..and love each little typo.

I sipped more coffee and read some more, and found myself grinning ear-to-ear.

After refilling my cup again,  I walked into my son's room and found on top of a bookshelf, a page from a paper he had recently written in a class about Mt. Everest.  His seventh grade social sciences teacher assigned this project, and it was to be a fictional account of a climb on the mountain. I read the paragraphs over and over and realize my son is just as I was so many years ago, as he turned this assignment into an gripping adventure.
^The last paragraph in his Mt. Everest adventure!  He is progressing as a writer, and I think it's pretty good.

I remember the grade he got for it, it was a 99.  Almost quite perfect to her, but  more than perfect to me.  Later that week, after he finished the assignment, he sat down at another laptop beside me (as I plugged away on my manuscript) one evening before dinner and announced, "You know what mom?  I want to write a book too.  I want to write a spy novel.  There needs to be a kids' spy novel now."  And you know what?  He began to write for fun!  His first attempt at writing a book.

My son wrote for about an hour until he decided his work wasn't good enough.  He got frustrated and stopped typing.  I looked at him and said, "No honey..wait.  Don't stop for good.  Just keep writing.  Tell the story you want to tell.  You're a good writer, you put heart into your work.  Come back after dinner and try again."

He went back and piddled in it a bit longer, then decided to go outside and play football with his friends until it was too dark.  He is also an amazing football player, by the way.  His work in progress is saved on the computer.  I think he'll return to it when the time is right.  I'll encourage him too.

^Michael with Coach G, at the awards ceremony at the end of football season 2011

By the way, his first choice of a book to buy, at age three, was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  By age three and a half, he was picking out words on his own, and was learning to read.  We spent glorious hours together in the rocking chair in his room, with him sitting in my lap as I read the book to him.  He loved it, every bit of that book, and his little wide eyes would plead with me to keep reading, after I would tell him it was time for bed.  I had so much fun making up the voices for the characters in the book.

Remembering all of this today is bittersweet, as it is on day one of a new year.  Michael will turn fourteen at the end of August, and he will enter eighth grade next fall.  He's no longer the three year old who picked out words sitting in my lap, he's a young man now.  And today, my young man has taught me the greatest lesson of the new year.  We're alike, he and I, and he has shown me that my inner child needs to come out and play more often, and I should often embrace the joy of writing simply because I want to tell a story.

 I think I want to go outside to play now.  The weather is really nice in Atlanta.  Amazingly warm for a January day.

So this leaves us here, on day one of 2012, and I want to ask a few questions of you before I go outside, to try to poke at, tease, and beckon your inner child to come out to play.  What was the first thing you ever wrote or read? When did you feel the urge to write?  How old were you when you began writing? What life events inspired you to pick up a pen or peck away on a typewriter (yes, I am over forty, and when I began writing it was on the typewriter)?
^Michael, my thirteen year old football player who loves to write.  He is getting help opening his present by Wyatt, our mischievous Havanese.

No comments: