In The Beginning
Whenever I need to write a bio or introduction, I always reference a moment from sixth grade. While most people barely remember anything from being eleven years old, I can recall the smallest details of that day, that moment, when I realized I wanted to be a writer.
I was in English class, and our teacher had given us a project – “what do you want to be when you grow up?” It was an assignment that had been given half a dozen times over the years, and as my classmates scribbled at their desks, I thought about the other similar assignments I’d worked on in the past. In fifth grade, I’d wanted to be an ice skater. In third grade, a vet. In kindergarten, a ballerina. And while I had enjoyed writing about all of those things on each occasion, I struggled to come up with something all of a sudden. I usually pounced on writing assignments! Why couldn’t I conjure something now?
That’s when it hit me – I enjoyed writing. Whether it was a personal essay, a summary of a book, or even using a new vocabulary word in a sentence back in elementary school, I realized that I looked forward to doing all of these assignments because I could write.
It was more than the thrill of documenting something from my imagination or sharing a story that was important to me. Whatever I wrote was always praised. For a kid that couldn’t catch a softball or turn a cartwheel, it was redeeming and fulfilling to have a teacher compliment my creativity. And while I was always picked last in gym or embarrassed by yet another failing grade in my remedial math class, my writing assignments were given extra credit and used as examples in front of the class for what teachers were looking for.
That day was the first time I thought about writing and publishing a novel. I thought about hundreds or thousands of people reading my work, and getting a pretty picture of me placed on the back cover. From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
The desire to become a writer did not leave me as I finished middle school and moved into high school. I continued to make excellent grades in English, reading, and writing. My teachers, family, and friends complimented and encouraged me at every turn. I helped classmates with assignments, wrote for the high school newspaper, and confidently submitted short stories and poems to contest held by magazines and libraries. My friends always told me I would be the one most likely to become famous – “When you publish your book,” they’d say enthusiastically, “we’ll say we knew you way back when.”
In ninth grade, I started documenting my experiences with the high school marching band. I was still a freshman when I realized that I was changing, growing up, and experiencing an awesome shift in my consciousness. I learned so much about music, life, friendship, and myself that year that I knew I had to write it down. What started as a glorified journal back in 1999 would eventually grow into the very first novel I ever wrote and self-published.
But before that could happen, I would endure one of the most painful and difficult transitions of my young life.