Slice of Life: Evolution of a Writer

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“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
Larry L. King

A year and a half ago, I started writing a middle grade novel, or maybe it’s an early chapter book. It hasn’t let me know which it wants to be yet. But I really started writing it more than ten years ago, when I wrote a picture book manuscript about a girl and her grandmother. That manuscript was much too long to be a picture book, so I rewrote it. I rewrote it so many times and cut so many details that I no longer recognized my story.

Or maybe I started writing that novel ten years before that when I began teaching third grade. Working with those young writers and reading books about writing inspired me pick up my own pen after too many years of not writing.

During those years of not writing I was reading. I was reading Shakespeare and Faulkner, poets and playwrights, E.B. White and Gary Paulsen, Barbara Kingsolver and Louise Erdrich. I soaked  up their words and the rhythms of their sentences like dry earth soaks up the spring rain.

Then again, that book might have started ten years before that when, after reading stack after stack of picture books to my children, I remembered an idea I’d had in high school about writing children’s books. Toddlers are very entertaining. To a young mother every silly thing they did was the stuff of the next Caldecott winner.

Maybe that story began when I was in fifth grade and wrote a story about aliens landing in a pond near my house. I remember this story only because my father liked it and told me it was good. High praise from a man of few words.

Who knows when that story really began. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at a little formica-topped table in my bedroom scribbling across a drawing pad, pretending I was writing. I knew then that I had a story to tell. I’ve been writing it ever since.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

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12 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Evolution of a Writer

  1. Love the image of you pretending to be writing at that Formica topped table. And the words: “I’ve been writing ever since.” I’m envious of people who’ve always had writing in their bones.

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  2. That little Formica table got me. What a beautifully crafted reflection. When does it start? What makes a writer? All those moments add up in ways we can’t possibly calculate.

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  3. I love this piece and how you traced your writing journey back to that small Formica table. One of my favorite lines: “I soaked up their words and the rhythms of their sentences like dry earth soaks up the spring rain.” Thanks for sprinkling us with your beautiful, thoughtful words.

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  4. Catherine, this is a wonderful look back at your writerly life and how it all began. This line resonates with me: “I soaked up their words and the rhythms of their sentences like dry earth soaks up the spring rain.” As reading specialists, we know the value of reading to inspire writing. I am excited to join you on your journey.

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  5. I love when writer’s look back and share how they got started, Such a fun way to get to know each other. Thanks for this glimpse into your writing beginnings.

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  6. Beautiful and nostalgic that probably brought a few tears to many, Catherine. ” I knew then that I had a story to tell. I’ve been writing it ever since.” Have you seen the book “Previously”. Your slice reminded me of that picture book. Love that backwards look at your writing life.

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  7. Your slice really makes me think about the when and where and why stories begin! I love how you retraced the possible beginnings of the story you are writing now. What a wonderful, thoughtful post to kick off the March challenge!!!

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  8. I love the rhythm of your post that leads us through your writing life. When do we become writers? Happy Day One! Here’s to another journey through March. I look forward to sharing it with you.

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