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My Writing Life - 10 Tales of Writing Passion

10 Award Winning Stories that Explore Why We Write

My Writing Life - 10 Tales of Writing Passion

by: Molly Ringle, Greg Crites, R.A. Keenan, Ann Elle Altman, Leslie DuBois, Larry Phillips, Lindsay Thompson, Elena Santiago, Patti Ann Yaeger, Mitch Geller

Published by TheNextBigWriter Press

Across the world, millions of people write every day. Why do they do it? My Writing Life tells the humorous, poignant, and honest stories of why ten diverse men and women were compelled to write and how it changed their lives.

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The History of My Writing Life

Last May 2008, TheNextBigWriter Online Writing Workshop launched the My Writing Life contest. In the contest writers were asked to remember when they first realized they wanted, or even needed to write. The response was enormous and the site’s members not only enjoyed writing their own personal stories, but also enjoyed reading the work of others.

From all of the wonderful submissions, ten diverse, honest, and moving stories were chosen to appear in My Writing Life.

If you’re a writer My Writing Life will provide insight into others that are like yourself. You are not writing alone.

If you’re the friend or family member of a writer, the book will give an idea of why someone significant in your life spends so much time at the keyboard.

And if you’re a reader, My Writing Life will provide you with an idea of what lies behind the stories you enjoy.

For thousands of years, humans have told their stories. First on stone walls, then on papyrus, paper, and now on computer screens. Today, tens of millions of men, women, and children put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, and write out the thoughts in their mind. What is it about writing, or storytelling that has so captivated humans through the ages? Why do we write? Read on to find out.


Book Excerpts

Chapter 1

I Ought To Send That Bitch a Thank-You Note

By Molly Ringle

Revenge inspired me to start writing novels.

Maybe I ought to call it justice, the need to write down the truth, make the world see the wrongs done to me. I mean, when you're twelve and some other girl crashes your party and dazzles the boy you like, you can't just sit back and take it. You have to do something. So I wrote a novel.

A novella, really. Maybe a long short story. I think it was about sixty pages, typewritten, single-spaced. I don't actually have a copy of it anymore; if it survives at all, it's somewhere in a box in my parents' house in Oregon . That's probably for the best. If I were to read that old story now, all my amateur writer tricks would only make me want to die.

Trouble is, without reading my pre-adolescent masterpiece, I no longer remember what exactly happened.

I asked my younger sister Peg, who also experienced the traumatic event, whether she remembered anything.

"I remember Annie was cute," she said. "And Chris and Matt liked her. Therefore we hated her."

"But what did she do?" I asked. "What actually happened?"

"I have no idea. Maybe we were just that petty."

(Writing lesson: Make your plot memorable, the kind of event that the people who actually lived it can remember a couple of decades later. At least I can pull lessons out of my first foray into the novel, even if I didn't get all the lessons right.)

In any case, for context, here is my best recollection of that terrible, fuzzy event:

Peg was ten at the time. I was twelve. Though like most sisters we fought from time to time (Peg was the biter; I was the scratcher), we hung out together during almost all our non-school hours, enjoying a blend of girly and tomboyish pastimes. We owned Barbies, but we sent them cliff-diving off the creekbank in our backyard. We played with make-up and gossiped about our crushes, but around the maple-shaded creek we also invented an alternate universe full of ghouls and pirates that would have satisfied any adventure-loving boy.

In fact, our favorite playmates were two brothers—also ten and twelve—who lived near us. Matt, the younger, was blue-eyed, thin, and moody. Peg had dibs on him. Chris, the older, had freckles, big brown eyes, and a carefree grin. He was mine.

He had no idea he was mine, but only because boys are supremely dense. At the very least, I owned him by default, since he didn't belong to any other girl.

One Friday night, Peg, these boys, and I arranged a clandestine, pseudo-slumber party. The brilliant plan was that Peg and I would sneak out of our house and visit the brothers during their slumber party with another guy, who lived a few houses down from us. That boy's folks were out of town, or maybe just guaranteed not to care if we showed up; I forget exactly. We figured we'd do wild things like eat piles of sugary food and watch movies with swear words and sex scenes. Who knew what might go down with crazy, badass kids like us?

Then a malevolent god threw a twist into our plans in the form of Annie . I don't know who invited this eleven-year-old squeaky-voiced girly-girl with the perky brown curls (it was the 1980s and I'm spiteful enough to suggest that her hairstyle was a perm), but we might have met her through the third boy, the slumber party host. Or maybe Peg invited her, in a moment of social weakness. Peg had many such moments—all her life, she has always impulsively reached out and drawn in new friends easily, a feat I still haven't mastered.

Then again, such skills sometimes land you an Annie . For that night, whichever way the invitation took place, Annie unrolled her (probably pink and polka-dotted) sleeping bag at our house and joined us in the visit to our boys.

(Writing lesson: Don't start your novel with an average day; write about the day something changed for the worse. I got that one right, at least.)

Since we three girls were naive, and thought sexy clothes were cute and fun, we rummaged through the costume box and pulled out see-through lacy nighties, tight black corsets, and similarly inappropriate attire for middle school children.

(Writing lesson: You probably don't want to have your middle-grade novel's characters dress like this unless you want the PTA to burn your books in a big pile.)

Read the whole story in My Writing Life.


Chapter 2

Diary of a MAD Scribbler

By Greg Crites

This is a story of birth, rejection, first love, loss, death, rebirth, and monumental bullshit.

Writing? I was never fond of that word. A misanthropic lawyer-turned politician is ‘writing’ when they scrawl out some harebrained legislation that will adversely affect ten percent of the population while earning themselves some quantity of brown-paper-bag-cash.

I prefer ‘storytelling’.

My infatuation with storytelling stems from humble and unremarkable origins. It was second grade I believe. I dimly remember spending quite a bit of my school day writing things on a blackboard one-hundred times. Things like: I will not throw worms on the girls, I will not jump off the see-saw while someone is on the other end, I will not push the spin-go-round at psychotic warp speeds in an attempt to make others puke (author note: I use ‘psychotic warp speeds, puke, etc’ as an example of creative license and because of my inability to remember the exact words the teacher made me write). There were many others, but you get the point. These early exercises strengthened my wrist, and acclimated my world view to accept scribbling long strings of words as—inevitable.

At some point around post-fourth-grade summer vacation I met my grandmother for the first time. She was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian and lived in some strange faraway place called West Virginia . She played wild tunes on an old piano, sent me out to streams to get water, coaxed me under dilapidated wooden shacks to collect eggs, advised me on the evil nature of the white man, and gave me the thing that planted the seeds that grew into the dense canopy of cynicism and sarcasm that shade my outlook to this day. She gave me a stack of MAD magazines.

By the time I trudged dejectedly into the school for fifth grade’s opening bell, those MAD magazines had fertilized a newfound tendency for what polite society calls smart aleck remarks. This tendency resulted in my advanced instruction in two additional experiential lessons: violent confrontation with peers, and continually angry authority figures. The first required I learn to fight; the second required I learn to act penitent.

I learned the first well enough, and I seemed remarkably adept at the second. Unfortunately, I did not realize penitence required at least some effort to discontinue that behavior one was acting penitent about. My first books began to appear during this period. Small, primitive illustrated tomes full of crude drawings and scathing poems comparing this or that teacher to toilets and other more repulsive objects. These invariably found their way into the hands of whatever teacher served as the main antagonist and resulted in my spending non-voluntary extra time in school—after hours.

This punitive reward system only solidified my adversarial relationship with the school’s ruling oligarchy.

Read the whole story in My Writing Life.




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