So, for those who know me, you may be surprised to find out that I am writing children’s picture books. For those who don’t know me, please indulge me whilst I explain. My story begins in the locker-lined halls of high school…
Franklin H.S. was actually a pretty decent public school in rural Pennsylvania. Back in the late 1980s, I found myself, an 11th grade, straight-laced geek, bathing in the Honors academic whirlpool. You see, for me, whirlpool baths have always been a bit of a double-edged sword. Simultaneously pleasant and disgusting.
In this case, the “bubbles” of this metaphorical soapy soak were the cut-and-dry, memorize-and-regurgitate math and sciences classes – trigonometry, biology, chemistry. Black-and-white. Defined answers. Research-based. Tepid. Pleasant. Easy. Perfect.
However, underlying every glistening bubble is the jetted water. Forced yuck. Murky. Distasteful. Make-you-gag-if-you-think-about-it-too-much filth. Unfortunately, I viewed the “dirty water” of my high school academics to be my English classes. Creative writing. Diagramming. Book reporting. Poem writing. Journaling. This may sound like Nirvana to many writers. But to me, it was – impossible!
I just couldn’t seem to free up my boxed-in mind. Everything I wrote seemed taped, tied, and strapped down – completely scripted and predictable. Writing was not just difficult – it was the equivalent of adding dirt to my whirlpool. It turned my leisurely tubby into a mud-wresting match.
To make matters worse (at the time, it seemed worse, but in retrospect, it was a blessing), my friends were wonderful writers. Their writing was fluid and fluent. Mine – flawed and flimsy.
And yet, I worked at it. Sitting on my bed, scratching away at rough drafts on college-ruled paper. Printing. Lining out. Caret-ing. Copying. Erasing. Processing. Just me – and my struggle.
At the end of each year in high school, our teachers had a tradition – to hand out awards to the seniors who best represented each department. Shockingly, I was honored with the award for the English Department. To this day, I am still mystified by this gesture. At the time, I thought they were crazy. But now, I wonder, did they see something I didn’t? A creativity that needed nurturing? A talent that needed encouragement? A platform I needed to find? Maybe.
I do think at least an element of their decision-making was based on my effort. My teachers knew writing was difficult for me, and yet, I think they saw my determination to work at it. To improve it. To not be satisfied with it. It’s that determination – that struggle – which continues to drive me and my writing.
So, what does all this mean now? Well, I am an M.D. by education. Family practice trained. But, then my children came along. And their birth brought about my re-birth. Priorities changed. Goals shifted. And I found myself in love with introducing them to the world – through exploration, experimentation, and, of course, books. The beauty of the words. The stirring of the imagination. The art of the story. And the story-telling. I fell in love.
I have found no greater joy than reading to children and reaching THAT moment. That moment in a well-written story, when all eyes are peeled, all breaths are bated, and there is silence. The silence of a climax – the silence of captured imaginations – the silence of a yarn being spun. That is now my goal – my hope – my dream – for my writing. To spin the kind of yarn that captures a child and wraps them up so tightly, they can’t even speak…
Until page 32.