Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What are your writing roots?

I had a really fascinating conversation yesterday with Mark about how long we've been writing. My writing roots sprouted in Mrs. Biseli's first grade class. Each week, we were given a small black and white picture at random, which we were to paste into our notebooks and then write a story based upon it. I absolutely loved it. I always had the longest stories out of everyone in my class, and my teacher would always compliment me on my name choices.

Although I started out writing short stories, pretty soon I had switched to poetry. Poetry got me through my difficult pre-teen and teen years. In my eighth grade reading class, we were encouraged to do creative projects like writing poems based on the books we were reading. I always went way over the top, using posterboard, colored paper and glitter as backgrounds for my work.

My love of poetry continued until I placed 2nd in a local poetry contest held in affiliation with the Blair County Arts Festival. That was the first time I ever had to read my poetry in front of people, and I was absolutely terrified. Around that time, I also had my first experience with I didn't realize it then, but the poem I entered probably wasn't publication worthy, yet they "accepted" it and also nominated it for some prize. Once I realized that the company thrived on taking unsuspecting poets' money, I could never look at that poem the same way again. But the mere fact that I had won a poetry contest was enough to propel me into high school.

In college, I majored in English and took my very first poetry workshop. Despite some not-so-great teachers, I excelled in poetry. I felt as if I had found my niche. I had some awesome teachers there, too, who introduced me to poets like Nikki Giovanni and Ted Kooser. I also literally got to meet some well-known poets too. My poetry improved so much in those four years.

I applied to the MFA program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh toward the end of my senior year in college, and was blown away when I was accepted. I started there in August 2006. Chatham was my dream school. I enrolled in the poetry track. Although I have mixed feelings about the program now, I credit Chatham for helping me decide what I don't want to do with my life and what I do want to do with it. I took my very first class in writing for children during my first semester, and that's when my writing really started to come alive.

Almost three years later, I have my MFA in Creative Writing with a dual emphasis in Poetry and Writing for Children, have had my first picture book, and numerous poems, published. I can't believe how far I've come with my writing. I never considered writing for children before going to grad school. I also feel as if I have gone full circle- from a child writing short stories to an adult writing short stories for children. I am so passionate about writing for children and feel as if I can be myself through my stories and books for kids.

I have already written my first YA novel and I'm currently almost finished with my second. Writing for children has given me the opportunity to explore many diverse genres.

Now, my question to you: When did your writing roots begin?


Dawn Embers said...

This is a great topic. I don't remember exactly when I started writing. We have a video of me making up a song as a little kid and I can tell it's made up cause the book I'm reading from is upside down. Me and my sister used to make up our games with storylines included. The only story I remember first writing is in junior high. I also attempted very bad poetry back then in a phase where I thought poetry had to rhyme.

Things got better in high school and that is when I started thinking about possible novel ideas. Haven't gotten far on most of them but those ideas are still around. Maybe I'll get some of them done one of these days.

Janet said...

My story is not near as worthy as yours. I don't remember writing when I was younger, but I have always dabbled in poetry, the rhyming kind. What got me started in writing was when I decided I wanted to write about my family, I wanted to put our history down in words, not just have dates and facts, but actually weave a story around them. It took off from there, when I arrived at a local writing group meeting with my child's picture book story in hand about growing up and picking berries with grandma. I found out quickly that I didn't know anything about writing, but have grown tremendously (which may not be saying a lot)in my writing ability in the last 2 yrs. I will keep writing, I love it.