where the writers are
The Write Stuff

It's not like I ever aspired to "be" a writer. It's not like I had a plan. I never even had an epiphany.

I've just always written. Who knows for how long? Do you remenber when you first started breathing?

I loved writing assignments in grade school. I loved to read, and when I got really swept up in a book—like the Anne of Green Gables series so beloved by my mom—I'd continue the euphoria by basically re-writing my favorite scenes using characters and situations I made up. That should have given me a clue.

When I read I Capture the Castle at about age 11, I had to start a journal. At 12, I was corresponding with two European pen pals because I loved to write letters. At  16, I somehow qualified for a Press pass from Teen Set Magazine as a contributing reporter (but I was too shy to ever use it).

But here's the thing: I also loved to draw. When I was a little kid, I kept an oversize, hardcover picture book, The Big Book of Dogs, Cats, and Horses, under the sofa, with a bunch of blank sheets of typing paper and a pencil tucked inside. Whenever I was sitting there at night, watching TV with the family, I'd pull out the book and paper and start drawing.

If I had any plan it all, it was probably to "be" an artist, preferably an illustrator of books, like my favorites, the Alice in Wonderland books, the Oz books, Mary Poppins. But it's funny, I don't remember that I ever aspired to illustrate somebody else's stories; I always envisoned writing and drawing my own.

To this day, I have to draw all my characters—endlessly—before I can even begin to describe them in a book. Worse, I have sketchbooks full of characters whose stories have not yet been written. If graphic novels had been invented back in my misspent youth, maybe I would have started there, although my early attempts to map out a scene in comic book-style panels, while entertaining, always took way too much time away from writing the story.

For me, art was all about illustrating the story. Actually telling the story takes words—glorious, aggravating, addictive words. And that's the part I still love most.