I have a distinct memory of my grandmother asking me, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Brittany?”
“A writer,” I promptly stated, at 5 years old. “I love stories.”
(My grandmother then told me that it is very hard to make a living as a writer so I should consider being an English teacher. Wise woman, that one, as I have yet to make any money from my writing).
As a little girl, I always had a story (or three) stirring up inside of me, pushing against my brain, making my fingers itch for a pencil (my writing utensil of choice).
|(Apparently my favorite word was “little” as I used it 14 times in this story)
I even wrote stories before I knew how to write. The picture above is from my very first story, “Bunny is Mine.” I dictated the story to my mother and then illustrated my masterpiece.
My mom utilized my love of writing in our homeschool and had me write short stories with my spelling words every week. The moment I saw those spelling words, my mind starting forming a story. Words were magical. I could make them do things, say things, create worlds.
I wrote my first “book” when I was 11: Snow Children. I didn’t have very nice handwriting so my older sister Amberley copied the story in her pretty penmanship for my parents. I gave them Snow Children for Christmas in 1995.
I couldn’t wait to start my next novel. I was extremely disciplined. I wrote every day for 4 months, spending hours crafting my historical-fiction-time-travel novel about four best friends. I called it True Friends. It was awesome. Here is page 105, complete with misspellings. I was (still am) a horrible speller. So much for those spelling word stories, huh?
|See the date in the picture? In 1997 I was 12 years old.
I was determined to make my dreams come true. I needed to know more, do more. I found out about local writing workshops. I tucked my favorite purple notebook under my arm, put a pencil and Chapstick in my purse and rode my bike to workshop after workshop.
Looking back, what I did was horribly embarrassing. The workshops weren’t for kids. They were held over the lunch hour so budding writers could attend during their work day, but as a homeschool student I could attend during regular school hours. No one said anything to me but I got some funny looks.
I didn’t care. I was serious, completely dedicated.
In high school I dabbled in writing radio drama as I was a huge fan of “Adventures in Odyssey” (a Christian radio drama series.) I wrote a melodrama called “What’s Brewing in Percolator?” for me and my friends to perform. Yep. That happened. It was hilarious…. and horrible.
I also taught acting classes at the local community theater and wrote a fairy tale spoof for my 5-6th grade students to perform. The picture above is from my first draft, complete with (more) misspelled words and scribbled editing. When the kids performed it, everyone laughed (like “Percolator” it was hilarious and horrible as well). I was so proud.
I have notebooks and binders filled with stories, plans for stories, character sketches. I would frequently lie awake at night with my latest story playing behind my closed eyes like a movie. There was way too much imagination going on to sleep.
| I think my illustrations for “Bunny is Mine” were probably better than the ones in “Libby’s Wish.”
I participated in the “Written and Illustrated by” program as an early teen and wrote “Libby’s Wish.” The plot line of “Libby’s Wish” was pretty lame but at the time, I was so proud!
My creative writing slowed down in my later teen years. My dream of becoming a writer seemed kind of like all my stories: childish. I needed to be more practical. I threw myself into my school work, first my undergraduate and then my masters degree. I became an English teacher.
In the middle of all that I got married and had three kids.
But that little childhood dream kept tickling a tiny place in my heart. So I tried again.
I started my blog.
I wrote articles.
I entered writing contests.
I wrote short stories for kids.
I went to more writing workshops (this time I wasn’t 30 years younger than everyone else)
I studied how to write query letters.
I sent out story after story, article after article to publishers.
And my writing was rejected.
Again. And again. And again.
I would still lay awake at night, but now I would dream about the day I would get the letter or the phone call. The person on the other end would say “We are pleased to inform you…” and I would scream with joy! My joy would be so big that I wouldn’t be able to hold it all inside. I would shout it to the world, “I AM A WRITER!”
That moment has yet to happen.
I’ve been blogging for almost 6 years. I’ve had 3 or 4 articles and/or short stories published. I was intensely happy when I finally saw my work in print (or online) (you can read about these amazing experiences here, here, and here) but there was no screaming-into-the-phone or sudden epiphany that I had suddenly “arrived.”
I realized that, as cliche as it sounds, becoming a writer, for me, has been a journey not a destination. It was about writing lots (and lots and lots) of crappy stories, articles, and blog posts. It’s been about reading, reading, reading, and more reading. And becoming a writer, for me, has been about time and growing up.
I recently finished writing a play that I started 8 months + 7 years ago. I actually started writing the play in college and never finished it. Last August I got an email from a guy at Liberty. He said that he was a part of a radio drama group and found my old version of my play in a file from one of my old professors and asked if I would be interested in finishing it. I said, yes!
Then I looked at the old play and was like “Uh…this is horrible.” So, I started from scratch.
Writing this play was a huge accomplishment for me as it brought me back to a place of intense dedication to creative writing that I hadn’t experienced since I was a little girl. If all goes well, hopefully, sometime in the next year, my play will be produced on the radio!
I wanted to be a writer as a little girl because I loved stories and more importantly, I had stories inside of me. I had tiny voice inside that wanted to be a big voice, a voice that would speak to others in beauty and humor, truth and love. And now that I am almost 30 years old, my voice is just starting to speak to others. It’s quiet; it’s small. But it’s there.
|My two act play I finished in June
I still have yet to make one dollar as a writer–my grandmother gave me good advice when I was five years old. But as all writers know, what we really want, more than money, fame, recognition, is readers. And in my writing journey I’ve gathered a few readers along the way, just a handful. But they’re enough to keep me going.
Because do you know what I want to be when I grow up?