Thursday, January 15, 2015

Giddy Up!

When did you stop playing with toys?

    My sister Rebecca remembers a specific day in her childhood when she was playing with a toy and the thought suddenly occurred to her, "What am I doing?" She looked at the inanimate object in her hand as if for the first time and then dropped it on the floor before going in search of new purpose in her life. She'd recognized that the object of her fantasy wasn't real and her imagination could no longer sweep her away into believing it to be any different than a plastic mold. She later found a new channel of creativity and told stories in the forms of dance and drawing. To see her on the stage is to be swept away in the world she creates through graceful turns and elegant leaps. Her drawings have so much life to them that one half expects them to move or laugh or cry.
     I can't say that I remember a specific moment when fairy tales stepped down from the forefront of my mind to make way for more life-like stories. It might have begun with my reading of the American Girl Dolls books, or my sister Reana telling me the story of Anne Frank. Perhaps the seed of it was planted when my sister Rachel told me that princesses were real and that they really did live in castles with princes a long time ago. But, she said, it wasn't all rosy back then like I imagined it. The castles were dark and had tiny windows. There were no fairies or Merlins to make things bright and comfortable. But that didn't matter to me. To become lost in and fall in love with a world and then find out that it was real--!  I began wondering what it had really been like back then.  What had those princesses gone through?  I started devouring historical fiction wherever I could find it. 

 It's hard to describe the thrill that shoots through me when I follow a character through true historic events and then later find out that the parts I thought must have been fiction were actually real-- ah! 

                                                                         It's the best.

     So when I was about 13 or 14, my imagination found itself among the signers of the Declaration of Independence, huddled in foxholes during WWII, climbing the rolling hills of 17th century Ireland, tapping my foot to the big band music at a USO dance, or running away on a cattle drive in the Old West. 

     Throughout high school I wrote several historical novels. It sounds more impressive than it was. I took a lot of artistic liberties for the sake of my plots and at the end of the day, let's be honest, they were little more than a teenage girl's airy romantic fantasies displayed on a manipulated historical background. As hard as I worked on them, and as fun as they were to write, I knew even back then that they weren't anything great.

Except for, maybe, one....

      All of my stories were posted on a self-publishing website called Fictionpress, where a community of aspiring authors would read and review one another's works. Shout out to the greatest thing I gained from that website, my dear friend and pen pal of 10 years, Renee Borage! You're the best! 
     The second greatest thing to come out of fictionpress for me were the many offers to buy one of my stories from me. I thought it was pretty cool when I was a teenager, but now, so many years later, the fact that I'm still getting these offers and that this one story is still getting so much attention has caused me to take my own work a little more seriously. Several times I considered publishing it for real, but the thought of having my first published work be a cheesy romance novel always made me abandon the idea. 
Then, a couple of months ago, as I rejected two more of these offers to buy my story, I decided to pull the old thing out, blow off the dust, and see what it was that these people seemed to see in it. I figured that if there were so many people out there willing to buy it and fix it up for publication, well, by golly, then I might as well fix it up for publication myself!

     The first step was to remove the story from That was sad because I still had a tiny handful of followers who would return and re-read it every once in a while.
     Next, I had to read through it to find out why it was still getting so much attention.

What was so special about this book?

      Sure it's fun. I mean, with the Wild West setting and the hootin', hollerin' cowboys and the saucy main character, how could it be otherwise? But there has to be something beyond that. What would keep that little band of faithful followers coming back again and again after all this time? Does this book have the potential to be something more than just a cheesy romance?

 Reading through it now, there is something there. I'm not quite sure what it is yet, or how to bring it to the surface, but under all the cliches, sloppiness, bad writing, corny lines, and patchy plot, there is something intriguing. But it's going to take a lot of work to resurrect it. At first I thought it was going to take a lot of revision. Now I'm realizing that it's going to take a complete re-write. 

Challenge accepted. 

     I know it's going to be a big project, and it will take some serious dedication for me to make time to actually do it, but now that inner author has woken up inside of me and she's so happy to be reunited with her babies. I'm afraid she might get violent if I tried to smother her again.

     Another shout out to Duckie Sheppard, my long-time writing buddy who's been trying to convince me to take on this project for the past several years. Thank you for all your nudging and confidence-boosting, Duckie! This girl's going to be famous someday. I aspire to be as dedicated a writer as she is.

     In conclusion, I don't think any of us ever really stop playing with toys. I think our play just changes over the years. Whether it's ballet, art, computers, books, writing, or any other medium, that desire to imagine and create is inside of all of us. Maybe we should indulge that part of us every once in a while. What do you think?


  1. No, YOU'RE the best! :-)

    I'm thrilled to hear that you're revising your old story! I've thought about doing that with one of my old stories, but I'm always intimidated by the length. I wish you lots of luck!!!

  2. Hurray for rewrites! Revisions? Anyway, I'm excited for you and I'm excited to read the new works. SUPER excited!
    When I think back to how I played with toys - I can't find much different between that and writing. It was all make believe that I acted out with figurines. Now I sit and make believe and act it out with words. All us writers is just kids at heart :)

  3. Hopping over from D.V. Sheppard's blog. Wow! That's great you've got so much interest in your story. I hope you do well with it. Best of luck with the rewrite!

    I think I was 15 when I switched from toys to my own imagination. I still had my imaginary friends though. And my stuffed lamb. Okay, maybe I never quit playing with toys...