Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My First Story

I started my first novel when I was in Elementary School. The Adventures of Peanut Butter and Julie was about a Plucky Young Heroine named Julie and her trusty pit bull Peanut Butter. It would be in the mood of my favorite book at the time, Me and Katie (The Pest). I wrote about two pages, where Julie eats breakfast with her mom, but I couldn't finish because I had a concept and a title, but no story.

Also, I was afraid of pit bulls, and changing it to a poodle named Peanut Butter made zero sense.

I do remember how fun it was to sit down at a computer and create something out of nothing. I remember working on it, and feeling like I was playing the best video game ever.

I still feel that way.

I guess then I must have written my first official story for a class. It was about a Plucky Young Heroine who somehow traveled back in time and became a knight and battled a dragon. I don't remember much about it. Just one line of description. When PYH wears her first armor, and she says the chain mail felt stiff like a pair of jeans that hadn't been washed in a month. I remember it, because I thought it was brilliant, and I remember it, because my mom came up with that sentence and let me use it.

But it was an assignment, so maybe it doesn't count as my first story after all.

In Junior High, while I was crushing on boys, pretending I didn't need glasses, and wrapping my stomach with ace bandages to try to make myself skinnier, I carried around a blue wire bound notebook full of my poems. I wrote poems all the time, mostly in math class, and they were kind of awesome. I remember one.

He who laughs the loudest, is trying to hide some pain,
but he who doesn't laugh at all, is probably insane.

Thank you, thank you.

I wish I still had that notebook, because there were some real gems in there, and it's sad to lose something that you've worked on. But in ninth grade, in a deep end of depression, I decided that nothing I wrote would ever be any good, so I lit it on fire. I told myself I destroyed it because writing didn't make me feel any better, and I worried that dwelling on my sadness made me sadder. So I held it in one hand, lit a match, and watched it burn. When the fire got too close to my fingers, I dumped it in a white bucket full of water. I threw the sopping half burnt notebook away in shame for having destroyed it, but mostly in shame for having created it.

That was the day I quit writing.

I started again in High School. I would write these monologues, and my amazing saint of a Drama teacher would let me perform them. I never wrote them down, so it didn't count as writing. I just would stand in my bedroom and make them up, and then perform them in the classroom that felt as much a home to me as anywhere I've ever been. My monologues were always pretty serious, but it didn't matter what I did, the kids in my class wouldn't stop laughing. I remember yelling at the class that this wasn't funny, which made the class laugh until they cried. I guess  they thought my stomping fits about taking this monologue I wrote about a girl who loved her water heater seriously, was part of the skit. So I made it be part of the skit, and I learned how to make people laugh. People laugh when you are honest in a loud way. I fell in love with making people laugh by telling the saddest truth I could find with the goofiest voice I could use.

But I had quit writing. I mean, I wrote songs, and musicals with my friends, monologues for fun, and dreamed about one day maybe writing a play, but I had QUIT writing. That was something the Sad version of Me did, and I wasn't her any more. I was a performer, and a comedian, and an actress.

And then one day I became a mom. That title felt like the only one I could hold in my hands while I carried a baby.

About that time, the Sad Version of Me became who I was again. I was depressed, and I thought that I should have been happy. I met my dream guy and had a beautiful baby, why wasn't I happy?

When my son was eight months old, he was napping in his room, and I had no place I could go. I had made a goal to not watch any television that February. I thought maybe that was what was making me so sad, so I was sitting on my couch, staring at the blank screen, wishing for a book. But I was carless, and I had read every single book in our two bedroom apartment.

My battered and exhausted mind decided to create a book for me.

There was a whole world in that story-- magic, religions, characters, history, cultures, details, snippets of dialogue. I grabbed a bound notebook, and spent the rest of the afternoon writing it all down as fast as the ideas came to me. And then, for about the next year, I would spend every nap time at my computer writing this story out.

It was awful. I called it The End. It was the first book in a series, (The End, The Middle, and the final book, The Beginning). It was a huge story, and I didn't have the skills yet to do it. I mean I didn't even know how to use quotation marks, or verbs, or descriptions, or actions, or any of it. I didn't know how to write. Let alone write a series set in a world where I had to invent all of the details.

I couldn't stop though.

Writing became my title. Writing became my Prozac. It made me sleep better. It made me a better mom. It made me happy. When it made me sad, I could with a few more chapters and a bit of imagination, turn it into a happy ever after.

And when my son was three, I found Hatrack. I found some amazing writer buddies, and this blog, and more stories, and more words. With time, I even figured out how to use quotation marks, and verbs, and descriptions.

So my First Story was called, The End.

It was my beginning.
~Sheena

Sheena Boekweg is the Author of Funny Tragic Crazy Magic , and coauthor of Alchemy. Alchemy's sequel Pyromancy will be out this fall, and Sheena has two several other books forthcoming... when she's finally satisfied with them.

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