How I Became a Writer Part I
Updated: Feb 28, 2020
How I became a writer, part I
I can finally tell this story.
Maybe I should have told it sooner, but I’m still a bit too much of a pessimist and it felt like jumping the gun to write about a road to success that hadn’t happened yet.
Anyway, I still get to tell it now.
Here is the long, twisty, frustrating, and faith-filled story of how I went from dyslexic child whom teachers dismissed to becoming a signed author on her way to holding her first book in her hands!
Buckle up, kids!
If I had to sum up my life, my whole entire 27 1/2 years of life, it would be to say that life should never be about making yourself what you want to become; rather, it ought to be a transformation into everything God intended you to be, no matter your situation or how hard you fight him.
That being said, I was born to make up stories. I had something of an “imagination” or I was just a pathological liar as a child. You can form your own opinion. I dressed up as the Blue Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger (you know, Billy), and would insist on being called by that name, even by my preschool teachers. (I swear, I tried so hard to find a photos, but I think I burned them all.) If I had a thought of “what if?” I would try it out on my friends, presenting it as fact to gauge reactions, what was plausible and believable and what was not (give me a break, I was a younger sibling. Attention was my drug of choice!).
Over time, I stopped outwardly lying and started going by my given name, but I had gotten good at invention, and I spent the majority of my time in other dimensions of my own making, whether it be on tour with N’SYNC or battling Huns with Mulan. However, it took way too long for me to realize that this imagination and creativity was given to me with any kind of purpose for writing. Way. Too. Long.
See, when I had stated kindergarten, all the other kids started to read. I couldn’t. Still, I somehow made it to 1st grade, but I would have spelling and handwriting workbooks covered with red marks and a blank spot in my brain where the words should have been. When it became my turn to read out loud, I would clench my jaw and make an educated guess, but I couldn’t read.
Eventually, my mom, not wanting me to fall further behind, enlisted her friend’s 13-or-so-year-old-daughter to teach me what letters meant what sounds. If only she knew then what we learned three years later, she never would have heaped such a task on the poor girl.
I learned enough and managed okay through second and third grade. Then, in Mrs Nations’ third grade class on Tuesdays at 10:30, I discovered “Writing Hour.”
We had what I now know are “writing prompts” and they are great and glorious things. We would select a subject (say, an invisible person), a setting (on a boat), and a situation (trapped in a strong wind). I LOVED writing hour. And even better, only the teacher ever read our work and we never had to read anyone else’s.
The ONLY time when I had to read out loud during writing hour was when it was my turn to share my story with the class. And I wasn’t even shy like the other kids. I would edit as I went, making the words better and the story fuller, and I understood my own spelling, so it didn’t even matter! It could have been obvious to me where this was going, but I hadn’t connected the dots, and then I lost the dots entirely.
In fourth grade, I was tested for dyslexia. And Everything finally made sense. For anyone who may not know, Dyslexia (a word with spelling designed as a test for those who may have it) is a learning disability, mostly associated with trouble reading, bad handwriting, and deplorable spelling. Essentially, the speech portions of the brain may be less enthusiastic than other parts. The part of the brain responsible for how information travels between the left (logic and reason) side and the right (creative and emotional) side may be sleeping on the job. And, as I’ve read in my favorite description, the right hemisphere may be “over-eager.” The result. My brain sees a word and gets way more excited about how the letters look than what they represent. Because that’s what’s important when you’re 6 and trying to decide if it’s spass spase or space.
I finally knew what was wrong with me, and I was even fortunate enough to travel from San Diego to San Francisco to a fancy Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good (reference, anyone? No? Okay) which helped a lot, but God made me to tell stories, and there was another force trying really hard to make that not happen.
I could read well enough. I had answers. My mom bought me a nifty, spell-checking calculator that my teacher let me keep in my desk so I wouldn’t be so embarrassed. But I WAS embarrassed. Even so far as to write badly spelled poems about how stupid and incapable I was at 10 years old.
In Fifth grade, we got a new science teacher. I LOVED science. I was GOOD at science. Plants, animals, anatomy of the human eye, bring it! Solids, liquids, gasses, I could identify the heck out of them. I even knew that fire was a plasma because I asked said science teacher what it was, and she seemed impressed by my enthusiasm.
Until it came time to turn in my notebook. All the work was correct, but I didn’t have my nifty word calculator in her class, and my science notebook was returned covered line upon line with blood-red ink over every misspelled word and a question on the first page, “How will you communicate?”
I cried. And I stayed silent in her class from then on. I didn’t bother putting anymore effort into my science “nots.” I didn’t like science anymore.
I switched science teachers the next year, and all the other teachers, and schools, and states. I believe every kid who moves out of state tends to think it’s either going to be horrible or amazing. I thought it was going to be the greatest adventure and best new start on the planet.
I was bullied, I became a bully, I was lonely, and I was still “stupid.”
My Colorado teacher realized that, having come from California, my English program had been very different. The first time the class stood up to diagram sentences in unison like they were reciting the pledge of allegiance, I was impressed. When I asked when I was going to learn how to do that, I was disappointed. He told me to do my best “to keep up.” Well, I had never been told what more than half of those terms meant. “What the heck is the difference between a direct object and an indirect object?” I would think--silently--to myself.
The next year, we had individual class periods with individual teachers. The English teacher looked like an iguana (that’s mean, yes, I know, but true you guys, trust me). She continued our unified sentence structure routine, and I thought, stupidly, “Oh, she might teach me what this is.” I explained that I hadn’t learned via my previous teacher and asked if she would explain. Her response? “I’m sorry he didn’t take the time to teach you the program.” That was it.
I eventually caught on and stopped getting so much red ink on my tests. Also, the spelling portion was less intense, and the lessons focused mainly on vocabulary, so I did okay. But then creative writing time came around and, just like the science teacher, she didn’t seem to care that my work was good. Just big ugly lines through every superfluous letter or just crossing it out and rewriting the word altogether. I mean, when a kid draws a cat on the back of their paper with a speech bubble that says “meeow,” is it REALLY necessary to cross it out and write “Meaow” instead? It’s a freaking onomatopoeia! And YES, I did have to google how to spell that!
I know, they were doing their jobs and didn’t have time to pick up my slack, but I think they could have at least cared that I was passionate about learning and that I wanted to understand. They could have had some kind of recognition for the way I went out of the box with my story telling and wrote 11 pages when they had asked for 2. They could have recommended a book that could explain their program if they didn’t have the time. They could have told my parents I was behind and recommended a tutor. But they kept giving me Ds and Fs until I figured it out myself. They gave me Ds and Fs until I thought English was the one thing I’d never be good at.
A year later, I was transferred to being homeschooled, because associating with humans was impossible, and I concluded that the best way for me to learn how to exist in society was to remove myself from it entirely.
I should also mention that, by this time, I had lost any kind of faith that my parents, Sunday School, and teachers could have cultivated in me after spending all of these miserable years in “Christian” schools.
I consider myself as having a 7th grade education and then a college degree (sorry, mom, I know you tried. It’s not your fault that I was so unmotivated and that I figured out your “Switched on Schoolhouse” password so I could cheat). But falling abysmally behind in math, history, and science (the ones I was good at) had a perk.
My mom didn’t care how I spelled things.
And many of my projects were creative. I could write a sarcastic, biting “how to” on carving pumpkins—how murderous it is to pluck a pumpkin from its patch and butcher it. I could have fun with writing and not have to worry about replacing the big words I knew the meaning of with smaller ones that I could spell. I also had no friends which meant a LOT of time. I spent a lot of time in those alternative dimensions I mentioned earlier.
I even wrote some down. I wrote about starting at a new school and leaning that two of my classmates were from a fairy realm and only I would believe them so only I could help them. I started writing a screen play about a teenage girl who finds a key in her backyard that uncovers the mystery of a church where a whole town was murdered by arson.
Around this time, I noticed I was good at making up stories staring myself. The best thing to do about that was to become…an ACTRESS. It was the next logical step, right? I made scenes for myself to practice my ACTING. I wrote parts and invented monologues that I could ACT in. I wrote songs that I could record and sell once I was an ACTOR. Conveniently, we moved back to California, and I started writing a BOOK that I was sure could one day be a movie that I could ACT in. Hey, I'd been a great "Scotty the Dog" in 101 Dalmations back in '96.
*Insert facepalm here*
I was, at that time, obsessed with Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl. I was determined to star in the next pirate blockbuster; I just has to write it first.
When I was editing that book, my teenage POTC fan-fiction, I taught myself how to type, which had been too confusing before for me to really learn. I reviewed the basics of grammar that I had never paid attention to before because it was too closely related to spelling. When all 200 pages of that one, and 150 pages of its sequel, were done, I had an epiphany. I didn’t like acting. I was just good at it. What I LOVED was writing, and I could practice and get better and make even better characters than I already had.
Also during that time, I had joined a Bible study which, unlike the schools, and the church, and even most of my family, showed me who Jesus was and what his followers looked like. I’ll tell more of that story later, though.
I called my agent and manager in Hollywood and told them I was taking a break. I started my senior year of high school, back at the school where I had experienced “Creative Writing Hour” at 10:30 on Tuesdays and that Spelling-Nazi science teacher, ready to prep for a career as an author!