Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Flashback: Tales of a 4th Grade Writer

I can tell you exactly when I knew I would be a writer. Fourth grade, I was nine. I had just finished reading a book from my 4th grade teacher's classroom bookshelf, and I loved it so much that when I was finished I turned it straight back to the beginning and began again.

I had never loved a book that much before.

When I was a six-year-old first grader I was in the slow readers group. I can remember the first day of first grade SO clearly, when the kids around me read the words on the bulletin board at the front of the classroom and my face burned because I had absolutely no idea how to read anything. I remember crying when the other slow readers got promoted to the faster groups but I stayed behind.

But I didn't let it discourage me because I wanted to READ. I pulled out my reading folder every night and worked hard at it and by second grade, I was devouring books. I ate them for breakfast. My grandma used to take me to the library on Monday and I'd check out twenty books at a time and have them all finished by the weekend.

But it wasn't until that mystery I borrowed from my 4th grade teacher's shelf that I discovered I want to be a writer. I want to tell stories that people read, flip the cover over and start again from the very beginning.

So I began to write.

And write and write.

In fifth grade, I spent so much time in the family office, hacking away at the black and green screened computer or scribbling on millions of sheets of binder paper, that my mom gave me a file cabinet. Just for me. One wouldn't think a file cabinet would be the appropriate gift for a ten year old, but WOW that was the best gift ever. I had it in my room all through middle school and into high school, the folders stuffed to the brim with my stories.

Years later, I don't have the file cabinet anymore. But I still have those stories.

And the notes, maps and character sketches to go with them.

I was in high school when I went on a search for that influential book from my fourth grade days. I didn't remember what it was called or who it was by, only that it was a mystery about a girl called Meg, who lived in Williamsburg in the seventies (remember when I posted that I was a colonial girl for Halloween in 4th grade? And when I posted that I wanted to be a colonial farmer when I grew up? Yeah... thanks to me geeking out over that 4th grade book).

My teacher had retired years before so his bookshelf was gone. In the mid-nineties, the world wide web was still a fairly newish thing and you didn't find things quite as easily as you can today... but I eventually found it. It took me about three years to find it, but one day I did! Some lady in Canada with a used book store had it and I snapped it straight up. When I got it in the mail and I opened it up, still remembering everything inside it... well, there might have been tears. Just sayin'

Amazing how something seemingly simple like a book on a classroom bookshelf can change a little 9-year-old's life.


Have a flashback of your own to share? Hop on over to Tia's blog and join us for Flashback Friday!



yobokitty said...

hahahaha, omigoodness, i've READ that book! :D

love your little sketches.

ElegantSnobbery said...

Oh man, YOBS!! I can not believe it! That is so funny/crazy/awesome!

Laura Pauling said...

That's great you saved them all! If I did write stories, I don't have them anymore. I think I read more than I wrote. Thanks for sharing.

Nen said...

what a great post! i'm so glad you found a copy of that book!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's so cool that you still have all your stories from all those years! And I knew that you did a bit of writing on the side, and that you've done children's art {clearly} but I had no idea how serious you were about writing. That's so awesome!!

The Momma said...

I think I was older before a book influenced me quite that much. Toni Morrison's Beloved. I do have that in my little collection of classics. I haven't read it in a LONG time though.

Just think, some day some little girl will say the same thing about your book!!!

w said...

man. this was such a sappy post. good. but sappy. i didn't cry though. whew.

AlyGatr said...

I wrote my very first fiction in the 1st grade. My mom still has it. It was supposed to be a little story about what I loved about my mom. OK, the part about loving my mom was real, but everything written after it was 100% unadulterated fiction. I said something about her always baking cookies for me. Forget that I was one of three, so I don't recollect anything ever being just "for me" and HAD the cookies that she baked on rare occasions (so much for all the time) been just for me, they would have been chocolate chip and not peanut butter criss crosses that SHE loved. I'm guessing she cooked them for HER not for me...or us.

I love that you kept all of it. Maybe it's because I came from a place that was rich in a culture of oral story telling (Hawaii, obviously) but I used to sit around telling made up stories all the time, but it wasn't until high school that I started writing any of it down. I miss the days where I'd write pages and have no cares about whether it "meshed well" or had any real plot you could follow!

Great memories!!

Christopher And Tia said...

I love your little sketches of your characters :) I can't wait until you get published, and I can be like "I know her, I know her!".

Tina Laurel Lee said...

This is awesome. I love that you had a file cabinet!!!! I can so imagine it. You are an awesome character.

Like Laura, I def read more than I wrote. I always feel so jealous of writers who actually wrote as a kid.

(I did write a novel in 4th grade but through it away when I reread it in 7th. What does that say about me? And where I am at now??)

Lulu Grey said...

Just came over from the EBT and was so excited to see that you blogged about the Meg in Williamsburg books. I FLOVED those as a little girl. There were one of my favorite series!

I love your writing, btw, you have a fresh and witty voice.

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