Authorial Puberty: Ten Years of Writing

My decision to become a writer was made on a ski lift.

It was March Break, we were visiting friends in Calgary, and it was a long way up. Passing over the snow-covered runs and dark trees, with the sharp-edged Rockies looming to every side, a story idea struck me. Not just a story idea. A novel idea. It was for Phantom of the Opera fanfic, but still. Right there on that ski lift, I decided that a) I was going to write this story, and b) I was going to be a writer.

I was fourteen-turning-fifteen. It’s March Break next week, so that would’ve been…almost exactly ten years ago.

It begins...

It begins…

Like most writers, I’d written through childhood, of course. Hosting Lauren Harris at my mom’s house this week has given me the chance to reread an epic ferret fantasy I wrote when I was about ten. I never finished it, which is unfortunate, because good heavens—that cliff-hanger.

"Rather stunning news"? What could it BE?? Alas, I do not remember!

“Rather stunning news”? What could it BE?? Alas, I do not remember!

But it wasn’t a consistent thing. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be an Egyptologist. I wanted to be a marine biologist. I wanted to be an astronaut. I really wanted to be a NASA Flight Director.

And now it’s been ten years since I said, “Nope. I’m going to be a writer.”

Reading old writing is like leafing through childhood photos. You look different—oh, that gap-toothed smile, and ouch, those pimples—but you can see the bone structure beneath. You can see the adult who will emerge.

Age 10. Not too much has changed.

Age 10. Not too much has changed.

And like childhood photos, old writing has a sense of innocence and play. I had so much fun writing my Phantom story. I remember going to the library and checking out stacks of books about opera and Italy and Paris. Curling up with my hardbound notebook, letting the story spin out under my pen. Everything was so shiny and bright: the early spring mornings of a writing life, when everything is possible and you don’t know about the obstacles yet. You can’t even imagine them, because you’re so wide-eyed and full of wonder.



I hope we keep some of that wonder as we mature into our writing selves. Of course, there’s a naiveté to that “young” writing that makes us cringe when we look back. Experience and maturity—seasoning—they allow for richer, fuller, deeper stories. As you continue writing and reading and thinking, you also start to sort out what sort of writer you are. Almost like you’re deciding what you want to be when you grow up, all over again. Your voice changes, cracks, and eventually breaks. You’ve all seen that here on this blog. Stonecoast was essentially my authorial puberty: when my cute little treble voice finally broke and I decided that when I’m a grown-up writer, I want to make art.

We harden and sharpen in some ways. We lose some of that innocence. Ten years ago, money never crossed my mind; not in a writing context, anyway. It’s an important consideration now. I don’t just think about what would be fun to write. I think about what would be a) fun and b) best for my long-term career. I think about the way I come across on social media, at conventions, over email. The fan-girl instinct is still there, but it’s been heavily trained and reined.

That’s all part of growing up, I think. We lose some of that innocence—I’m not entirely convinced that’s a bad thing. But I really hope we don’t lose the wonder. I really hope that when deadlines are mounting and the rejections are piling up, when the contract needs another round of negotiations and you really need to sell a story soon because it’s been too long and you could use the shot of cash—

10Yw5 (1)

When there’s all of that, all the things we don’t even think about when we started out, I really hope we keep the wonder. It’s that excitement when a character springs to life; the sense of astonishment and power as a world knits together; the sheer joy of telling a story. That’s why we got into writing—wherever we started, whenever we started.

That’s why I became a writer, anyway.

It’s been a good ten years.

Here’s to many more, and the wonder they bring.



What I’m Listening to This Week

OMG we pulled this piece out at rehearsal recently, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop ever since. I’ve loved Vivaldi’s Gloria since I joined my first choir. There’s so much I could go on about: the galloping brass and strings, the way it leaps and flashes, the breathless moments of pause (0:30 and 2:02—that is all). You need to do this piece light and quick: not like a brook falling over rocks, like a stream surging ahead.

Of course…because I love this piece, and because it’s so much fun, it does bring out one of my bad chorister habits.

“Keep still,” I’ve been told. “You’re trying to conduct—that’s my job!”

And I laughed aloud, because that’s exactly what it is. On certain pieces—usually ones I know and love—I totally bob and weave all over the choir stalls. I do need to stop it, but it’s hard, because OMG THE MUSIC IS RIGHT THERE.



Posted on March 10, 2016, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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