And in the beginning, there was...
During my last visit to my parents' house, I found some old boxes in the garage that had been buried for quite some time. Among the pile was one labeled “writing memorabilia.”
When I opened it and started sorting through the notebooks and papers—some of them dating to elementary school—I was brought back to the days when I first started writing. Back then, reading was my favorite thing to do (it still is, actually), and I revered libraries. So when my 2nd grade teacher asked us all to write a story in class, it felt like a whole new world of possibilities had just opened up.
The old box that my parents found, full of stories like this one, made me think about the years and years of preparatory writing and reading that go into a novel: all the words that come before.
In that vein, here are some of the stages of my own writing—stages that have been hidden away under the lids of cardboard containers for quite a while. Take, for example, my journal entries from elementary school. (In the blue-ink entry below, I write about how my family had just moved to a new state, which apparently wasn't "going too well.")
Because of those frequent family moves, there were also a lot of letters to friends (yes, pre-email days!).
And despite my dad's insistence that I read non-fiction, I gravitated toward books like these around that time (not pictured: Choose Your Own Adventure novels, Nancy Drew, and R.L. Stine's Goosebump series):
Fast forward to high school, when I started writing poetry for the writing club... (Recognize the title of our collection? If you want to fall down an internet rabbit hole, check out The Taman Shud case, aka the Mystery of the Somerton Man some time.)
Back then I was also reading books like On the Beach by Nevil Shute and a lot of Stephen King and Anne Rice (as well as classics like Anna Karenina and A Clockwork Orange). My favorite movie was M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, and I couldn't get enough of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and shows like Unsolved Mysteries.
My obsession with the strange, mysterious, and supernatural continued into college, where I wrote stories like this one in my dorm room and read books like Beloved by Toni Morrison, Patrick McCabe's Breakfast on Pluto, and Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead.
When I was a senior, I put together a chapbook---a mini collection of short stories---for my Honors project. (Okay, so the cover could have used some designer love.)
Grad school meant taking creative writing classes, teaching composition to undergrads, and writing novels and scripts (or, rather, a single novel and a single script). Some of my favorite reads included The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño and Lydia Millet's My Happy Life, and around that time I also came across Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.
And then, after moving to Australia and writing more stories and essays, my dream of publishing a "real" novel finally came true with The Breathless:
Which brings us to today, where I'm working on a new novel (the research notebook pictured below will probably end up in a box labeled "writing memorabilia" once I'm finished with it).
Right now I'm also in the middle of listening to podcasts like Rabbits and The Black Tapes, and reading A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (a book I bought a long time ago and recently "rediscovered" on my Kindle), and Kelly Loy Gilbert's Picture Us In the Light. Next on my list is Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone.
What's on your TBR list these days? (Or in your writing notebook?!)