I’m in fifth grade. I’m in the classroom after recess. I had just had an argument with a friend about something trivial. It’s silent reading time, and before the teacher can tell the class to take out their books I’m already reading.
It started with:
The Phantom Tollbooth
A Series of Unfortunate Events
By time I’m a junior and senior in high school, I’m choosing Moby Dick and Les Miserables to read for class projects. By time I graduate, I’ve read one hundred book in four years. By my senior year of college that list is over two hundred.
Nerds. There are different kinds of nerds. Video game nerds, computer nerds, movie nerds, sports nerds, theatre nerds, music nerds, etc. I am a book nerd. Many people may think it’s because I’m an English major, but there are English majors that don’t like to read. There are non-English majors that love to read. Being a nerd doesn’t have to do with what you do for a living, but it could.
I’m a sophomore in high school. “I’ve decided I want to be an English teacher,” I tell my guidance counselor. She tells me she thinks it’s a great idea. My English teacher asks me to read two books: The Alchemist and Pictures of Hollis Woods. They aren’t class assigned. It’s more of a test to see if they would be good books to assign later. And I’m the guinea pig. But it’s okay. She’s the reason I want to be an English teacher.
Reading so much also helped with my writing skills. Ever since I knew how to write, I always loved making up small stories. I remember being at my babysitters house and her encouraging me to write out any story I could think of. By the time I was in fifth grade I had created a complete story about ten super heroes who weren’t that super. Of course, it wasn’t that original. The general idea came from the movie “Mystery Men” and the villains were Mario and Luigi from Super Mario Bros. But as a first attempt, it was pretty decent. There have been several times where I tried to go and rewrite it, but I never got farther than the first few chapters before giving up.
Junior year. Along with a few assigned readings, our teacher assigns two reading projects where we can choose any book we want. First book has to be an author from America. I choose Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. The second book can be by any author. I choose Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. My teacher’s response, “You’re crazy.”
In high school my writing had flourished. I had left behind the super heroes and began to focus more on mythical creatures. My stories (or more like beginning chapters) starred half elves and fairies. Plots had also begun to be more distinct in my head. I would start writing a story knowing where I wanted to beginning to go, and how I wanted to end. The only part that was hard to figure out was the middle section.
The upside was that I had started creating a fan base. There were two guys I went to school with that liked reading what I had in my story notebook. Almost every day they would ask to look through, and I didn’t really mind but I did warn them that it wasn’t quite done. I also started writing Harry Potter fanfiction. Fanfiction is when you take the characters from a book you like and put them in a plot you created. I started by writing short stories, but eventually I wrote a 36 chapter story. I didn’t get a lot of reviews on it, so I didn’t think many people were reading it until I looked at my statistics to find I had over one thousand hits. Even today I still get e-mails from people marking my story as one of their favorites.
By the time I was finishing high school, I started to branch away from fantasy and go toward writing Teen fiction.
Senior year. I’m in my first AP English class. We’re assigned a similar project as the year before, except we have to choose books from the college preferred list. I choose Moby Dick by Herman Melville because it sounded like fun. I still want to be a teacher.
Half way through my freshman year of college I no longer want to be a teacher. I felt more mature than the rest of my class and couldn’t figure out why they were still acting like they were freshmen in high school. I changed my focus to writing. They saying goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.” I was determined to show that I could “do.”
Even with my focus changed, I still had literature classes. My friends changed from those that accompanied me through high school and I now hung around William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, Franz Kafka, and several others.
After several writing classes my craft has been honed, but, like every novice writer, it still needs work. My focus is Young Adult fiction, and my stories can still be categorized as either Teen Fiction or Fantasy. I’ve improved at the short story, and am getting better at the novel.
I still make space on my bookshelf for my old friends, and even though I do enjoy the classics now, I’m still a sucker for a good Teen or Fantasy novel every now and then. Those are still the books that influence my writing.