Interviewers, whatever the media, have a stock list of questions they ask writers. One I’ve heard several times is some variation on the theme, ‘when did you know you were a writer.’ It’s an easy one for me to answer.
I was five years old, and worshiped the ground my grandpa walked on. He loved stories and riddles, so I wrote one as a gift to him. I’m sure my block print was illegible, mostly symbols I invented, but Grandpa kept that lined sheet of notebook paper from my brother’s ring binder in his pocket for years. He knew every word of that story and repeated it to anyone who would listen. Looking back, I realize he knew what it said because he asked me to read it to him before he folded it and put it in his pocket. The story was about a little girl who had an amazing adventure.
The Magic Girl.
I was proud of that story, but even prouder that my grandpa, the champion riddle solver of the world, couldn’t figure out how Magic Girl did all those wonderful things. He didn’t believe it was possible.
Of course it was possible, because I was Magic Girl and this was my adventure, and my apple tree. A storm blew it over, it fell across the creek, and I played on it until it was added to the pile of fireplace wood.
What a magical experience to explore the roots of a tree and see a hidden, underground world I never imagined before. It whetted my appetite for more. I turned over rocks and wrote about the little creatures living there, creating tunnels and roadways, scurrying away from the light. How dark it must have been under there before I exposed them. I put the rock back just the way I found it, and made up stories about the mysterious denizens of the dark.
Earthworms had a story, imagined as the makers of caves and tunnels for other creatures to live in. Ants were easy. They had a plan to bring in their big relatives, the huge orange striped cow ants, and the big red ants with nasty stings, and take over the territory under the willow tree. I worried about that.
With an imagination like that, I had to write. The alternative was to admit that my world view was so strange, and my version of reality so warped, I might have a problem. So, I’m still writing, making up stories that sound totally outlandish to many people. With so many mysteries, so many things beyond our mortal understanding, it’s my way of explaining the universe to myself. It might be true, or it might not. I live by the law of the storyteller.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.