An Essay for Ben the Editor Day
Around sixteen years ago, I wrote my first story, one which today I pray never ever gets into the hands of the free world. Melodramatic, nonsensical, and - well, really just dumb, it was scribbled on two pieces of that old-fashioned printer paper and completed with my own illustrations. That was the first of many stories that I would write over the next four or five years. Most of the stories were based on my own adventures that I shared with Ezmerelda, my Yorkie Terrier, on my family's farm.
One day Ezmerelda and I spent an entire sweltering summer day out in the sandy corral, trekking across a vast desert. We came in that evening, both of us filthy from having to sleep in the sand under the stars. My mom wouldn't even let me in the house, I was so dirty. Instead, she literally hosed me off on the front porch.
Another day, Ezmerelda and I fended off a mountain lion that was going to kill my dad's entire herd of cows. Once the beast was dead, a tall, handsome man on a beautiful horse rode to my rescue (from what I don't know, since the lion was already dead) and carried me off to a castle that was nestled in the distance cloud kingdoms floating over our house.
Then tragedy struck. When I was ten, Ezmerelda was killed by another dog. Without my best friend and comrade in arms, I sort of lost my thirst for wild adventures. With no wild and adventurous experiences taking place during the day, I had nothing to come in and write about in the evenings.
Until I was thirteen, and the front of a greeting card in a convenient store suddenly caught my imagination. I went home and began writing a story about the scene portrayed on the card. A few weeks - and twenty pages later - I realized that this was more than a story. This was a book!
I had been using the blank pages at the back of my journal to write the story. Now, though, I worried that I would not have enough room. I had only one other blank book in my possession, so I decided to copy the beginning of my book into it, leaving my journal pages free. I sat down to begin copying, when a revolutionary thought struck me. Use this notebook to write a different story instead!
What 'different' story I would write, I had no idea. But that didn't matter - I would think of something, I was sure. One week later, I was walking back to the church nursery after services to retrieve my little sister. My book-in-progress was rattling around in the back of my head. It was then that the realization hit me square in the face - I was going to be a writer! Not a vet, not a cattle rancher - a writer!
The realization unleashed a flood of new and 'fabulous' inspirations. That summer I wrote my first poem ever - a horrendous page-and-a-half of doggerel that would in later years bring me the closest I have ever come to being suicidal. I finished my book shortly after my fourteenth birthday, and set to work immediately on the sequel. More poems, more short stories, more books - were proposing themselves in my imagination almost every day. And I loved every minute of it. Notebook after notebook filled up with my scribblings. Ideas would pop into my head and somehow seem to take over my thoughts, so that I couldn't concentrate until I had written them down.
My mom finally caught on that when I looked up from my schoolwork and said that I had to go write something down, I wasn't just trying to escape math or grammar. Eventually she got to where she would tell me 'Alright, go take five and get it written down and then get back here.' Even then, I would wake up in the middle of the night and have ideas that I had to write. I shared a room with my sister, so I couldn't turn on a lamp. Instead, I kept a disposable flashlight inside my pillowcase.
For the majority of my writings during that time, Mom was the first audience. I would present her with a new short story or poem and wait for her to give her critique and opinion. After a while, though, I realized that while she was good to point out mistakes in grammar or punctuation, she was biased in my favor. To this day she tells me that she gives me her honest opinion and tells me the truth because she cares about me and wants me to know when something isn't as good as it could be. But - well, you all know how moms are. Whether they like it or not, they are biased in our favor.
So I started searching for another audience, one that would give me honest feedback without being the least biased in my favor. That was a search that went on unsuccessfully for years.
Then one day a few years ago, my writing buddy Heather called me and said "I've found this awesome website that you have to go to! It's called ApricotPie!"
A cooking website? What is so great about that, I wondered. "So what's so great about it?"
"It's exclusively for homeschooled writers!"
Whoah - there was such a thing? There were actually enough crazy people like me and Heather to merit their own website?
My family didn't have internet at the time, so it took me a while to actually get to the site and join, but once I did I was thrilled and completely hooked. Here were people like me, suffering from the gift/curse of writing, and who would give me honest, unbiased feedback on my work! I started submitting my work, getting feedback. A while later, I sent a request to Ben, and he made me an official ApricotPie Writer.
I'm still learning and growing in my journey as a writer. I've come a long way, but there's an even longer way to go yet. And ApricotPie has been a big step - in fact, many steps - along the way. I love being a member of AP, and God willing I will be a member for a very very long time to come.
So, thank you, Ben, for making ApricotPie such a wonderful place for the crazy people like me, who don't always fit in in the 'real' world but who have a safe haven and welcoming company here at ApricotPie. We all love you, and please keep up the wonderful job you're doing!