My Evolution as a Writer

I’ve always had a book in my hands. My earliest memories are of walking across the street to my grandmother’s house with a stack of books. “Reada, reada, reada,” I’d say, and she’d pour me a glass of Vess cola and we would sit at her red and white chrome kitchen table and she would read to me. My mom still loves to tell me how if my grandmother skipped a word, I’d make her go back and start over. She fostered and encouraged my early love of books and reading.

 I was reading on my own by the time I was five years old. I remember going to the library and seeing the Wizard of Oz books. They were shelved in the adult section and I wanted to check them out. However, the head librarian didn’t believe me when I told her I knew how to read. She made me sit down and read the books out loud to her. I read every one the library had.

 As I grew older, my tastes expanded. I checked out biographies of women sports figures like Shirley Muldowney (I wanted to drive funny cars when I grew up, and still do), Alfred Hitchcock and horror novels. I cut my teeth on horror novels. My early love of horror fiction influenced and continues to influence my writing. My current work in progress is a horror novel.

 I was the only reader in my family. I read constantly. When we would go to southern Missouri to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in the summer, I would take three brown grocery sacks full of books with me. My dad would always stop on the way out of town and buy us comic books. I always wanted horror comics. My first “novel” was my version of the “Exorcist.”

 When I exhausted my book supply, I would read the collection of miniature books my aunt kept in a bookcase behind glass. I was probably the only one that read them. To this day, I wonder what happened to them. I would have loved to have had them.

 Reading and writing went hand in hand. I absorbed the flavors of my favorite writers, mimicing their writing styles. I didn’t have a shortage of books to choose from. On our weekly Saturday outings to town, my dad would let me buy one book at our local Ben Franklin five and dime store. He would buy me Harlequin romance novels at IGA when he went grocery shopping. I still have the very first romance novel he bought me. One year, IGA offered a collection of children’s literature as a premium. My dad was so proud when he brought the first book home to me. I still have every book.

 One of my most prized collections is my Hardy Boy books. I am probably the only girl who has never read Nancy Drew. When my grandmother would visit her daughter in Bloomington Normal, she would always bring me back a Hardy Boys book.

 I don’t know when I had my defining aha moment when I said to myself, “I can write better than (fill in the blank).” I do know I’ve only wanted to write horror fiction. Not to be smug about it, but I think my current book is way better than anything Stephen King ever wrote. Luckily for me, I didn’t confine my reading tastes to horror. Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned how to write dialogue, how to plot, how to create characters, how to tell a story.

 Did I learn this innately through reading, or by practicing the craft of writing? Why am I a writer? I don’t know. Writing for me is like breathing. I just do it.


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