I have thought for many years that I was born at the right time. Looking back to those early years I can see that I was bound to be a writer. One of my necessary skills was imagination which I learned by listening to the radio. A mahogany appliance that appeared to glow in the dark sat on an end table in our living room. Narration, dialogue and sound effects became the critical parts of painting pictures in my mind.
It was 1949, I was nearly twelve, and my grandmother who lived in Albany, California bought a television set. During the summer months I spent every Wednesday with her and my grandfather. There were only three stations we could watch went off-the-air at 9 p.m. each night. All three channels displayed our flag, in black and white and played the Star Spangled Banner.
By the mid-1950s, our three channels had added more programming like local news. With commercials at a very minimum, these stations turned to obtaining, through renting or buying, silent movies. For a young kid, they were clever and very funny. Over a short period of time I added a second notch in my writer’s bag of tricks. While watching these silent films I learned, “show, don’t tell.” These on screen actors had to convey emotion with hand gestures, body language, eye-brows and their mouths.
I learned all about action when nearly every Friday night my parents would take me to a local theater in Oakland, California to see two “B” Westerns, a newsreel, and cartoon. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t pursue writing after leaving high school. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that a forth item was added to my writer’s tool box.
Writing was not completely forgotten in the late 1960s to early 1970s, but I got interested in art. I had been drawing since I was nine years old and wanted to learn more. I enrolled in The Art Instruction Schools of Minnesota. I worked on this course while working at Pacific Bell in the Bay Area. When I got the chance, I transferred into the training department writing technical curriculum. There I learned all about pacing. It became necessary for me to choose words that got a point across without using hundreds of unnecessary words.
It was during this period that I began thinking about writing a children’s book. Technical writing during the day and fiction at night. I had seen an ad for The Institute of Children’s Literature in Pennsylvania and after a couple of years took three classes from them. My effort at the conclusion was a YA novel, The Hooded Rider of Whispering Pines, and several short stories written during those courses. This manuscript was put in a drawer only to see the light of day again in the late 1990s. I used it at Holy Names University in Oakland, California to challenge a creative writing class. I graduated with a BA in English (cum laude) in 1998. But the manuscript went back in the drawer.
I left California in 1999 and landed in Dalton Gardens, Idaho. I joined the Idaho Writers League in 2001. Years earlier I had joined the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators) and helped form the Inland Empire Chapter in Spokane. That manuscript is once again out of the drawer. However, it isn’t my first book. I wrote A Brief History of the Silent Screen and the World at that Time in 2008. I aimed the marketing “for the teen years to the seniors.” Most young adults would like to know where movies came from. My second book, Helen Gibson, Silent Serial Queen: Who Became Hollywood’s First Professional Stunt Woman. It was dedicated to all the young women who have a dream. Those short stories I did earlier were tweaked a bit and over the past four years won prizes at the IWL yearly contest.
So what does all of this mean? Don’t give up your writing. Make sure you have the right tools to do the job. Find an age group or genre you can relate to and start writing. Decide if you love fiction or non-fiction or both. Enter contests. Go to writing conferences. Join a writing group so you can get your work critiqued. If you know a teacher, see if you can read your work to a class. Kids are very blunt and will let you know what they think. I’ll bet a lot of you reading this have heard all of the above many times before. Well, it must be good advise, since it works!