Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fostering Words

I gawked at the box of my newly opened present. It was two shades of blue, and it was what I always wanted. I quickly carried the box upstairs to my bedroom, tore open the box, and set the present on my youth-sized desk. My new typewriter sat there, the center of perfection, amongst the scribbled papers, the scattered pencils and broken crayons, and the stacks of children’s poetry books piled along the edges of the desk.

I immediately began to practice typing. My mother had an old school typing book that she lent to me, and I click-clacked each day after school. I began typing up my homework pages and, eventually, I got around to typing up my favorite poems from all my piles of books. I’d decorate the poetry pages with crayon images, making my own personal books to tuck away for a rainy day.

It was my mother who suggested that I make a typewritten book using my own poetry. I began writing poems about my cat, my favorite animals, and the hurt bird I had found and tried to save. After I thought I had written a poem about everything possible, my mother showed me books of artwork. There was M. C. Escher, Monet, and Rembrandt. “How does each painting make you feel?” my mother asked. More poetry flowed out of my child brain. I imagined the chaos of black and white birds flying in all directions, running through fields of flowers, and what it’s like to have my mother read stories to me at night.

My school librarian soon learned that I was writing poetry. She began teaching me how the writers market works and how to submit poems to magazines. She also began handing me books to read. “These are my favorite stories,” she said as she handed the stack to me. There were books of short stories, mysteries, historical novels, and folk tales. I read them all and returned to the library eager for more inspiration.

Soon my poetry began to take the form of short stories. I wrote stories through the eyes of my pet dog and I wrote scary stories about my mother’s parrot that liked to attack my head whenever he was let out of his cage. “There’s a story around every corner,” my mother told me. “Keep your eyes and your ears open.” I began writing stories about the kids I knew at school. I listened to other children talk at the playground and created fantastical dramas around they chatted about.

By the time I was sixteen and living on an old farm built in the 1800s, my mother began steering my writing in a new direction. “Write about what you know,” she sagely told me. But what did I know? I looked around me but could not figure out what I could possibly write about that other people did not know. Being a teenager, I took my life on the farm for granted. I canned fruits and vegetables, baked fresh bread and desserts, weeded, pruned apple trees, and made my own no-cost craft projects from all the things around me.

One day I fiddled around with the pruned branches from the apple trees. I twisted the thin twigs into wreaths, I tied five sticks into a star, and I clipped hand drilled some of the thin branches into beads. My mother walked over to where I was working and asked me how I made each item. “Write it all down,” she said. I did as I was told, writing down each step for making each item. When I was finished writing out the craft instructions, I realized I found a new love: writing to teach people how to make nature crafts.

When my seventeenth birthday arrived, my mother handed me a large, wrapped box. I tore the paper from the box and looked down on the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on. I ran upstairs, carefully removed my present from the box, and set it on my childhood desk. The word processor was a vision of perfection amongst the stacks of schoolbooks and homework papers. I plugged it and listened to its electric hum. I was in love all over again.

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