Writing

Writing fiction has been my passion and my core since I was old enough to pick up a pen (or crayon). My earliest stories almost invariably featured social rejects who found some way to prove themselves and thereby gain acceptance in their community. Today, the only one I remember clearly is “The Black Fairy”, which was of course about a white fairy who dressed all in black, because I was a first-grader lacking social consciousness and a sense of connotation.

Around the age of 8, I graduated to using my mom’s Brother typewriter and attempted to write full novels, or “chapter books” as the kids called them. My novels were never completed and contained a surprising amount of shock violence. I was obsessed with dinosaurs, autism, the mystery of what “business people” did, and the paranormal and science fiction. God, was I ever obsessed with the paranormal and science fiction. I read The Girl with the Silver Eyes too many times to count, along with half-forgotten titles pertaining to dead ghost wolves, dead ghost horses, dead ghost old-timey children and dead ghost siblings, plus aliens and teenagers who turn into animals. At that age, I can’t give myself credit for anything more than the desire to escape, but over time I became deeply invested in the idea that science fiction and unrealism (or what I’d rather call social fiction, but that’s a different essay) has the potential for powerful allegory and often gives us the tool to cope with reality, even as we escape it.

I deeply love, admire, respect, and enjoy Ursula Le Guin, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Isaac Asimov, and Neal Stephenson, but I also love and etc. Zadie Smith, Milan Kundera, Gabriel García Márquez, John Steinbeck, David Foster Wallace, and Michael Chabon, plus many others. All of these people set the standard for me as a writer and as a human being. I think compassion is the most important quality in any writer and any artist, and I don’t suffer people who don’t seem to care about the world we live in and the people we share it with, here and now.

At 13 I started the first manuscript I would actually complete: A Sidewalk Underground, which, despite the cool title, was a wobbling and hamfisted first attempt. The next three manuscripts, a trilogy called 1. The Kernel in David Morrow, 2. Fire and Farce, and 3. Time for the Navigator were a little bit less rubbish, but after a few rejections from agents, some being very courteous and explanatory, and 100% correct, I decided I’d rather move on to a new story, started from scratch but with the benefit of a little more experience.

So I hammered out Prolongment, my fifth manuscript, which was picked up by independent sci-fi publisher Curiosity Quills in 2012. Prolongment was fun to write and had a few good ideas tucked in its pages, but I still can’t help but cringe when I think of it. In places, it’s unnecessarily complex (though it certainly felt necessary at the time), it’s riddled with typos and the cover is definitely on-brand but very pulpy. Having a book on Amazon that you don’t really love is a painful experience with virtually no known precedents (have you heard of an author who openly regrets their first book?), and I don’t really know how to deal with it without sounding sour, snobby, or dismissive of the people who liked it, because I don’t want to be that person. It’s a conundrum.

Right now I’m drafting a new book called Vaganto, about a woman named Io who crosses a continent on foot to search for her missing father. It set 1500 years in the future, when most of humanity has returned to the wild. There are no laws, no borders, and no governments, yet a loosely communal anarchic global society has settled in place of those things, with all its own factions and politics, including a universal philosophy of constant movement. I really love this book and think about it constantly, and I hope I’ll be proud to submit it one day.

In the meantime, however, I’ve put up this page to bookmark that yes, I am a writer, I do write, and writing is not just about being published. Writing for me is essential beyond all these other parameters of success, which were tacked on much much later. Writing is the act of being myself. I would like to post a few poems and short stories here eventually, and when I finish a draft of Vaganto, I plan to embark on a 52 Stories project, in which I bang out one short story every week. The point is that is not only to explore the literal hundreds of ideas I’ve got jotted down in my google drive, but also to teach myself to remember the joy of it, to write instinctively, with confidence, and without tiptoeing or mincing or doing loads of research and making sure everything is perfect. Every story will be a draft of course, but drafts lead to other things. I think that will be a fun journey, and I can’t wait to share.

 

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