Thursday, June 30, 2005

A life in pages . . .

You know, I think I've been destined to live my life in pages. As a kid, I loved to read--not to write, but to read books that carried me away. No one ever told me what NOT to read, so I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on.

Growing up, I always enjoyed English because of the reading thing, and I do vaguely recall trying to write a mystery novel in the seventh grade--I think I still have the few pages somewhere. But it was highly derivative of Nancy Drew, though the main character's name was Jade. Funny how those things stick in your mind. (Maybe I should use a "Jade" soon for old times' sake.)

Anyway, in high school I did enjoy English and I took advanced classes, but I was definitely not the head of the class. Never thought of writing as a career, and in my "Career English" class, we learned more about how to correctly fill out a job application than how to write for a living. Ditto for college--when I changed my major from Vocal Performance to English, I was studying literature, and high-brow lit at that: Shakespeare and Chaucer and 1 7th Century British poets (love John Donne!).

And then one day I decided to become a writer . . . and had to learn the ends and outs from scratch. Ran to books for the instruction. Didn't go to a writers' conference for years, never had a critique group--and maybe those were good things. :-) By the time I went to my first conference as a student I'd written (i.e. published) eleven books.

I learned all I need to know from books--the format, the guidelines, the standards of proper behavior. How to submit, how to write a query letter, how many pages should be in a picture book. That's why I'm a little baffled today when people think I can tell them how to get started in two minutes or less--it's all in the books.

Whenever I had a question, I ran to the library for the answer and found it in books. You can, too.

And now, whenever I grapple with a problem, it ends up in the books. There's a certain symmetry to that.


Paul Nichols said...

Back in the 70s when I was in college, I paid sumpty-sumpin dollars a semester hour for what you posted here. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Can you give us a list of these books that you'd recommend? There are sooooooooo many books on writing out there!!

Thanks for "taking us away" with your wonderful novels!!