How I Got Started

>> Monday, November 25, 2013

In the last post, I noted that short stories were a large portion of my writing history, how I got to where I am (though most of you probably don't really know where I am - I'm hoping to change that).

In reality, the short stories were phase 2 of my self-imposed writing tutelage. I have a huge backlog of poetry from high school and college, but I'm not sure I'll ever publish those. They're early and I was so very very young.

During the course of putting those short stories together, though, I remembered when I first started writing, or, perhaps more importantly, started keeping the writing I was doing rather than just writing it then tossing the poems and haiku I'd written to that point.

Although I've been writing since I was ten or eleven, most of the poetry (what I wrote first) I read over, thought, "Hey, not bad," and threw away. It wasn't until I wrote "A Cold Wind on the Hill" (at thirteen or thereabouts) and showed my father that the situation changed. Although not a fiction lover himself, my father made me promise never to throw any of my writing away again. Even the stuff I should have thrown away (which I didn't include in the book).

It is, at least in part, due to him that I began to document my imaginings and learned to appreciate sharing the stories with an audience. Perhaps because of that, I continued to pursue writing even after I became an engineer and a mother and had days packed with too many other things to do. I still had to tell stories, had to write, had to write down and save what I did write (even when it stunk).   

This was that poem.

                 A Cold Wind on the Hill

            One August morning as nighttime had paled,
            Fighting broke out as the peacetalkers failed
            And the War had begun that no one would win.
            Grieved for His children, He looked on His kin
            And sent down an angel to quiet the din.

            But no one would listen for he had no right
            To sue them for peace when they wanted to fight,
            Till, fin'ly, repuls├ęd, he fled in disgrace,
            Quite sick to the heart for the Master he'd face
            To tell of the end of the earth's human race.

            Yet, though it seemed futile, God, too, had to try
            To keep all those missiles from wounding the sky,
            But man just ignored Him and forced His retreat,
            Weeping with grief for His mankind's defeat,
            And for their blind bloodlust he couldn't unseat.

            So, man set his guns up, his missiles, his bombs
            And sent them all out on one hot August dawn.
            Then cities exploded in huge clouds of dust,
            While millions were killed in this "political must,"
            Whole nations reduced to just heat-blackened crust.

            Now, on a small hill does a lone Figure stand,
            With tears in His eyes and blood on His hands.
            The land all is barren; the grey air is still,
            Which tortures that gentle Soul there on the hill,
            As, for once in His life, God, Himself, feels a chill.

Thanks, Dad. I love you, though you're gone now.

But I didn't yet appreciate that I wanted to write or what I wanted to write. It was later in high school that I realized, what I wanted to do was not just write, but to write fiction, write stories, created entirely from my own mind, rather than just report on what had already happened, or writing about "stuff." I remember fondly when I first realized that what I wanted to do—what I would always want to do—was tell stories. I had an assignment in high school to write an essay about an ordinary object one could find at home. But I couldn't just describe something; I had to tell a story. Even my poetry tended toward long and epic stories. 

The "bones" of that "essay" became my first short story: Charley (and I also wrote a poem version of this). Though prose, it was only a short step from the poetry I'd written up to that point, the use of the sound of language, the emotional manipulation. Of everything I've written, it is still my eldest daughter's favorite.

I love you, Stephanie (yes, that's my eldest daughter's name).

Charley is the story that will kick off my anthology, Creating Dreams.


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