The Evolution of a ‘Ryter’

I have always been a voracious reader. I read everything I can get my hands on. I have also always been a writer. Fortunately I have had parents and teachers that supported this endeavor.

In third grade I wrote my first play. It was a story about a teacher with an unruly class. I wrote it, directed it and starred in it. Unfortunately I had a ‘cast’ of friends who decided to make up their own dialog as we performed. Not a good experience. In fourth grade I wrote a holiday play about Santa and his elves. This time I was a much sterner task master…er…control freak…um… director. Our play went off without a hitch. We performed it for our class and several younger classes as well. The only thing I remember is that we all fell on top of one another behind the piano (our ‘back stage’ area) in the Music Room at the end of the performance. Giggling, laughing and SO glad it was over. Fourth grade was also the year that I wrote my first melodramatic fiction story. It was a story about a little girl who had lost the use of her legs and became the poster child for the Easter Seal Society. It was entitled ‘Amy’s Legs’ and Mr. Dieck gave me an unofficial ‘A+’ for writing it. Again, the thing I remember most about that story was snitching a piece of green yarn from my mother’s knitting bag to hold the multitude of loose leaf pages together.

Fifth grade was devoted to book reports of every size, shape and length. Sixth grade was devoted to reading again. My Teacher was a stickler for the classics, Greek mythology and history. Mrs. Schultz was a 70ish traditionalist who was teaching for her very last year. She read aloud every single day. She read only Newberry Award winners (with the exception of ‘Boy of the Pyramids’ because we were studying Egypt at the time) and I can still name every book she read to us. Seventh grade was totally devoted to survival of the first year of jr. high. I do remember that we were introduced to journaling and that Mr. Pritchard was a little freaked that my entries read like magazine articles and book reviews instead of ‘personal recollections’. Always thinking outside of the box. Heh.

Just for ‘fun’ I was writing scripts for my favorite television shows. My friend, Linda Sue Nutt, was the first one I ever allowed to read those. She read them as fast as I could write them. My younger sister became a fan and favorite critic. She would read things as they were being written…chapters always out of order. It used to make her crazy. Still does. Once, about seven years ago, we decided to pass the time on a mutual family campout by creating a plot and group of characters, going off to our campers to write and then meeting later to compare. She finished her story in several pages. Mine had twice as many and was only the first chapter. Still working on that one!

In tenth grade I was a lonely only sophomore in a Journalism class and wrote copy for the high school year book. It was quite heady to have upperclassmen seek me out for captions for photos or pages of photos. My very first published poem is in that book. My ‘scripts’ were also circulating amongst the other kids in that class. My Journalism Teacher recommended me as the school reporter for the local newspaper. It was a job I held for the next two and a half years. In fact, my byline was a regular fixture in THREE local newspapers during that time. All for the ‘experience’, of course. On second thought, I think the Lakeland Tribune paid me a nominal fee for each ‘feature’ that I wrote. That paper became defunct when I was in college.

As a senior I was taking an ‘Exploratory English’ class. We basically met with the teacher and determined our own course of study. Since I was reading…alot… during the second marking period and didn’t have anything to turn in for a grade, I hastily finished a little ditty I had started writing for fun during the summer. It was a lengthy novel that evolved from an essay I had written for English the year before. The exercise in 11th grade had been to write a theme with a character – as unlike us a possible – in a situation we would never be caught in. I think the purpose of the exercise was for us to come to the realization that no matter what, our fictional characters always carry a bit of us. My essay was entitled ‘The Decision’ and the follow up novel was entitled ‘The Crystal Image’. It was about a girl and her family coming to terms with an illegitemate pregnancy, birth and subsequent return home with a child. A hot topic in the early 70’s. It was a smash….much to my dismay. My teacher loved it. My friends read it and loved it. It was entered in a short story contest for an out lying college. It was one of twelve stories selected from high school entries to be part of a short story symposium with invited published authors. The authors would be on campus for a week working with college students prior to our little symposium.

We spent a wonderful day on that Sienna Heights College campus. By we, I mean my mother, my grandmother, my ‘Literary Cheerleader’/English Teacher Sue Shipley, the other ‘winners’ and their various supporters. We met with an author in small groups of four. Our written pieces were critiqued. I was red faced and worried and so stressed by the time mine was picked up to be discussed. It was the last of the four in our group. I remember my head buzzing and my face burning….but this very distinquished, white turtle neck sweater/dark jacketed/stylishly graying/oh so handsome author (I wish I could remember his name!) picked up my submitted manuscript and said that he would absolutely love it if his students walked into a writing class with the kind of material he was holding in his hands. I remember that he began asking ME questions about how I developed my characters, how I decided my plot lines and chose my descriptive phrases. Not at all what he had done with the previous three stories. Yikes! It was a surprise only to me when I was declared the winner of a college scholarship for that story.

Did I mention that I have a hearing loss? Before my graduation I allowed the people that love me talk me out of going to school for a writing degree. “Get something that you can support yourself with” they said. They were my family, my friends, my school counselor. “Be a teacher”, they said. “You can still write in the summer time.” Did I mention that I had also been involved in available child development avenues for high school; classroom helper at the nearest elementary school, student aide the high school day care/pre school center, vacation Bible school teacher, etc? Elementary Education appealed to me and that is where I directed myself. Writing became lost in the shuffle, except for my own enjoyment or for the professors that read my term papers and exam essay questions. When I graduated from college Elementary Education allowed me to put all of my extracurricular interests into play. I wrote for my students. I wrote for my lessons. I wrote…I wrote…I wrote.

Real life stepped in. Multiple jobs to pay bills while I searched for a full time job in education to ‘support’ myself. I investigated teaching in the Los Angeles area to be closer to the entertainment world that I longed to write for. Too far from family. I got married and busied myself with my husband, home and two stepdaughters. I busied myself with my classroom. I busied myself with community theater, as a make up person, set designer/painter, costume cooridinator, producer, assistant director and finally director. I wrote copy for programs and press releases. I wrote newsletters for various purposes. I still do that. I wrote plays for school drama clubs to perform. I busied myself with my own son and daughter and their activities and their lives. And still I wrote. Nothing big. Nothing anyone else really wanted to read. Nothing I was really comfortable having outsiders read. Until I discovered fan fictions.

I posted my first chapter of my first fan fiction on line during a school holiday vacation in January 2006. People responded with ‘reviews’. Well…that was fun, so I posted another chapter…and another and another. In the past fifteen months I have posted 15 different pieces with multiple chapters. Some are funny. Some are melodramatic. Some are just plain ‘fluff’. Some follow the course of the show they were written about. Some are ‘back stories’ – or histories – for characters that appealed to me…answering questions that I needed answers to. Fifteen pieces have generated 140,890 computer hits at one site alone. Some of the stories have been posted elsewhere and gotten even more ‘hits’. I have written several pieces for writing ‘challenges’ that have won their own little contests with readers’ votes. I write a lengthy, detailed recap of a weekly television show for a friend’s web site. I submit television reviews for another site and have my own little fan base. I have developed some very good friendships amongst my frequent reviewers. This writing has become a very ego building thing at a time when I really needed it.

This writing has also become an all consuming thing. I will never regret my life or my family. I will never regret what I have accomplished in my career. But given the fact that I am finding my all of my free time being sucked in to the time that I spend in front of my computer key board, I think I am always going to wonder what would have happened if I had followed my own originally charted path. I ran into my Literary Cheerleader/English Teacher, Sue Shipley, once about 12 years ago. We were at the grocery store. In the bread department. I was so proud to show off my husband and my too cute little son. She asked me what I was doing now and I still remember the disappointment in her eyes when I said that I was teaching first grade. She told me – again – that she was still holding out hope. That she knew I would make money as a writer some day. “I have always thought that you are able to write what people like to read,” she said. “That’s not an easy thing.”

Write what people like to read. Apparently I still can. I am working on it. Still trying lots of different kinds of writing. Still trying to find that muse that always seems to elude me. I find that I like manupulating characters that are already defined. I am too old to quit what I am doing for a living. With two soccer stars to support, I am too poor to go back to school. Yet, I am too young to totally belie what I enjoy doing the most. It’s a conundrum……but an evolving one.

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