10 Days Till 25
March 15, 2011 § 2 Comments
“Once upon a time, there lived two rabbits. They were happy and they loved gardening. One day, they wanted to grow the biggest carrot ever. So they planted a carrot and it grew really big and juicy. Then one day, they decided to eat it. And so they did. The End.”
The above is a reproduction of the first story I ever typed on a computer, as best as my memory can recall. The original manuscript is lost and the Word file buried with the old Gateway computer, residing somewhere in the stratosphere of corrupted data afterlife, or wherever forgotten files go when they die. While my finite memory cannot reproduce the precise wording of that first printed masterpiece, it can recall that giddy feeling of seeing words I had written in print. A giddiness that was promptly replaced with horror at a dire copyediting oversight: My ending was redundant. Unacceptable.
I distinctly remember whisking the freshly printed page out of the printer tray, grabbing the nearest pencil, and scribbling all over the offending “and so they did” atrocity as if the lead could eradicate it from existence forever. There. That was better. And this was a step up from the handcrafted paperbacks I’d toiled over before computers changed the 90s forever.
I had publishing credits long before that first computer changed everything. I was the most popular kid at recess in first grade on days when it was too cold or rainy to play outside. I’d take sheets of drawing paper and staple them together (with help from Mrs. Allen, my publisher’s assistant), crafting pages into illustrated fairytales of self-assured princesses who were too cool for charming princes and fables of bears who had picnics with cats on the arches of talking, emoting rainbows. I worked furiously, words and images pouring out of my brain faster than my tiny hands could scribble them down. If I finished before recess ended, Mrs. Allen would let me read my stories to the class.
Some of my trend-following peers thought they had the chops to compete in the market I cornered. But I was the only first grader who got invited to read my stories to Mrs. Trulin’s second grade class during their afternoon snacks. After a few weeks, the kids were lining up in the hallway to hear my latest release.
I learned early on that putting words on a page made me cool. Putting words on a page gave me power. I didn’t get along with people sometimes. I was the awkward kid in hand-me-downs from my cousin who grew out of them in the early 80s. I was the social stereotype of “you’re adopted” jokes, and in my case it was actually true. But I always got along with words.
I have my mom to thank for the start of my getting along with the English language and literature. She read to me from the earliest days I can remember. We read everything together at every time of day and night. Picture books, A Little Princess, Charles Dickens, Bible stories, E.B. White. I ate words for bedtime snacks. Our most ambitious undertaking was David Copperfield when I was about 12 years old, which we read through about 75% of the way until we realized we had both lost track of the plot somewhere around the 200th page.
I was raised on my fair share of Disney princess movies, but it was the heroines in books who really inspired me. The Laura Ingallses and Jo Marches and Sara Crewes and Anne Shirleys and Caddie Woodlawns and Ramona Quimbys and other independent thinkers and dreamers who didn’t quite fit in with popular convention like I didn’t quite fit in with my grade school peers. They rarely felt inferior and even when they did, they imagined or wrote or survived their way out of it in a way that made me feel that I could be courageous like that, too. After all, I had my words, and words gave me power. I could say whatever I wanted when I arranged them the right way on a page. I found my voice through print.
And so I’ve continued to write and use words and learn words and live words and find courage in words. It may not be lucrative yet, but the benefits reach far beyond financial wealth. Through words, I understand myself and interact with the world around me. Words in any form give me the courage to be and believe.