The Ignition of My Passion for Storytelling

I can pluck it from one event in my life. Certain memories of mine stand solidly in my mind while in other cases, I can’t remember much from a span of years. In one of those gaps, third grade, one of the hardest years of my academic and personal life, my grades slipped. Not drastically, I still had A’s and B’s, but for one solid year I got consistent, heavy C’s in English.

I can’t remember if English was my favorite subject or not at that point, it was probably art, but I do remember one specific project. We were tasked with recounting a time in our life and retelling it as a short story. We used odd yellow paper that was larger than the usual size and had an uncomfortable texture to it without being flat. The lead hardly showed up on it unless the tip was ready to carve through the page.

I wrote about the most recent Thanksgiving and considering it was the first after my parents divorced, it was just my mom and me. She was making the turkey and getting the table ready when our dogs, allured by the scent of savory meat, were crowding her feet. I can’t remember if our one dog, Buddy, an old Yorkshire Terrier, had passed away at the time, as I remember he passed away in third grade as well. Either way, she fed the dogs as I likely stood uselessly waiting for food. Maybe I was good and set the table, something that was a simple task for me to do just for two.

After dinner when she was cleaning up, she happened to come across a miscellaneous dripping of sauce on the counter. She wiped it up with her finger and popped it in her mouth. What she thought had been turkey juice or gravy was actually juice from the dog food. Her face twisted in bitter disgust and I remember us both laughing at the grievous error. Check that off the “never have I ever” list.

The moment, although brief and enough to gain a small laugh and carry on, meant everything to me in a time where it was hard to smile. Besides the divorce, my best friend had moved away that year as well, and I my little world had shaken so hard it knocked me down for a bit. Although most people at first glance likely wouldn’t suspect that sort of depth from a third grader who still can’t use proper grammar and spell common words correctly. (I still suck with grammar; I wish I could remember the years we actively studied it.)

My teacher didn’t find the story entertaining either, and wrote something to the effect of “this isn’t funny” or “this isn’t interesting.” To her defense, it was likely neither to an adult, especially a teacher reading about thirty of those papers. However, as a child, I took great offense. I believed it to be funny, and if she couldn’t see that— well, I’d just have to write more and get better to prove I could write a good story.

In third grade, I was still playing pretend at recess with the friends I had left, and when that friend group disintegrated around fifth grade, I started writing my ideas of worlds and villains instead of acting them out. Although I moved them onto a backup drive to save space, I wrote a little more than a hundred stories. I hardly finished any of them, but I had so many ideas I wanted to write I just had to get them down somewhere. It wasn’t until sixth grade when I finally wrote a “book” (about 30 pages in size 18 font) that had a narrative arc to it. The rewritten version of this book was the first I ever finished at about 260 pages. I planned four books for the series but only ever had three of the books on a “first draft” basis (all less than 30 pages, if I’m honest).

I’ll never forget what it felt like to finish writing that book. I realized that I actually could. The first hurdle I needed to jump through to become a writer I had vaulted over: I could complete a manuscript. Of course, it took years and shows the clear progression of improvement as it goes on and thus needs many more drafts, but I had done it.

I still have that paper. The decaying pages from almost a decade ago. It sits in a bin at my mom’s house, I think inside of a plastic bag for some form of preservation. (When I return to my Mom’s house I’ll take a picture of it and attach it to this post.) It taught me how to take feedback. While I wasn’t pleased with it, I took it into consideration, and I went to work. It was one of the hardest lessons to learn, but an absolutely necessary one, and I’m glad I learned it early on. I am forever thankful to this teacher in particular, among many others that I couldn’t have grown without the aide of. She was the one that ignited the flame to my passion that’s glowing brighter with time.

Fear as a Choice

We all have something we’re afraid of. Whether it’s something abstract like loneliness or more concrete like clusters or patterns of holes, there’s going to be something. When I was little, I was afraid of most things. Darkness, bees, scary movies, and aliens. Especially the latter two. I broke those fears on my own through a series of exposures. Sure, I’m still a little spooked by darkness, bees, scary movies, and aliens, but I no longer scream and cry in pure terror. Now the only things that scare me are when I’m sleeping.

In my child mind, I had classified Jurassic Park as a horror movie. I was scared of the dinosaurs hurting people and didn’t want to see them die. When I watched the movie, it was like taking a first dose of a life-altering drug. I was thirteen and I was hooked on horror movies. I started with the classics and branched out through other genres. In about a year’s span of time I remember watching Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Ring, Poltergeist, even Night of the Living Dead in its black and white glory. I speedily destroyed that fear and it became an addiction.

The intense fear of any and all aliens was one of my irrational fears I held the longest. It probably stemmed from the scene in E.T. when he was sick and even more gross looking than he usually was. In the end I thought he tried to steal the dog with him on the ship and that also had upset me. Some time after that, my parents and I went to Planet Hollywood in Disney and we were seated underneath the most horrific alien-like statue that lurched over the table. It was much taller than I was and ever will be, and we had to move our table because I couldn’t stop crying.

I’m certain it was this one. What idiot puts a little girl underneath this thing, anyways?

I still had that fear at age 16, apparently. By then, I was a seasoned horror movie connoisseur and could take just about any type of horror movie. My dad, stepmom, couple-months-old baby sister and I were watching Dark Skies. My dad had been under the impression that it was more of a paranormal movie instead of an alien one like I had said. I was right. The one scene that caused me to scream to the top of my lungs and spontaneously start crying was one in the third act of the movie where the camera casually panned across the living room where four tall grey aliens stood. They weren’t even doing anything threatening; they were just standing there. Lurking.

In that moment I decided enough was enough; I needed to combat the irrational fear. So you know what I did? I rewatched the movie. Again and again. And when it began to feel too familiar I switched to The Fourth Kind. And then I repeatedly watched that movie too until the ideas stopped scaring me. Those two movies are the only ones that have ever affected my sleeping habits.

I realize that December, the month of happily enjoying major holidays, is usually not the one to be posting about fears. I’m about two months late on that train. However, for the first time in about four years, I had a nightmare the other night. One that sat with me wrong, that made me launch myself awake and gave me trouble falling back asleep. It’s when I remembered that oh: lots of my dreams would probably constitute as nightmares for most people. As a writer, I use my dreams as fuel for stories I work on. I use the vivid images in my dreams to inspire the heartwarming or heart-wrenching imagery in my books.

Most people would call a dream at a mansion party where your guests are getting murdered one by one so you and the others try to escape only to get shot in front of a GameStop to drop to the ground and sing a creepy song while you lay dying to be a nightmare. Most people would probably call a dream where you stand alone on the bleachers of a field and watch a plane release a yellow substance over everyone on the field to cause their skin to become pustules and pop as they disintegrate into nothing a nightmare. To me, those are a typical Tuesday night. And story ideas.