I’ve always been the outlier. That one that throws off a surveyors assumptions. The one marketers don’t know how to reach and cannot figure out why. It’s DNA deep with me. I don’t do it on purpose. Here’s one story to illustrate that.
In 9th grade we students were required to fill out a form listing all the books we’d ever read; author names and synopsis to be included. The window to fill out and turn that in was very short — three weeks. I was the last to hand mine in, and it was incomplete, for the most part missing the descriptions of the stories. After pointedly saying I had not done the project correctly and that I was messing up her report, the librarian made two comments.
One: There was no way I read all those books.
Two: There was no way I read all those books.
I was insulted. Bowing up indignantly, I said, “I am not a liar!”
She pointed to a title and said, “Prove it. Tell me this one.” I did. We went through that routine quite a few times until finally she said, “Well, I’ve never known someone so young to read these — and this many.”
By these she meant Victoria Holt, John Le Carré, Frederick Forsyth, Isaac Asimov, Victor Hugo, John Steinbeck, Patricia Highsmith, Agatha Christie, and many more of whom could only be considered writers of adult fiction.
Not for me the kid’s section at the library with their insipid little tales of first love, puppy dogs, lost homework, and wonderful parents who understood them.
Yes, please, give me all the complexities of human nature, set them in a difficult situation, put life on the line, and watch how they exceeded my expectations — or under-performed; I didn’t care which.
From each tale I confirmed what I knew about human nature, or learned more about it, was taught how to identify options and carry on, but — most importantly — studied the art and craft of telling a damn good story by those I now know to be masters of the form.
Telling a damn good story was something I was already good at. I was born with words for blood. There is no separating my being from words.
I am words. Words are me.
Like my blood, take them away and I die.
In school, the happiest day was always Friday, not because it was the end of the school week, but because that’s the day we got to write more and longer: a story using all 20 spelling words. All other students groaned. I almost wept with joy. I could feel my body tingle with excitement. The ends of my fingers hurt from words trying to escape to paper.
All the other students quickly began scribbling on paper, in a rush to finish this horrendous assignment.
After slowly studying the list, I’d close my eyes. I could feel the words moving and deciding where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do. Sometimes I would sit like that for several minutes. Then there it was. The story.
I’d open my eyes, bend head to paper, and before I knew it, several pages would be full. This length was necessary because to use them correctly, the assigned words couldn’t just be plopped in willy-nilly. Do not ask me to misuse a word. I won’t do it. So, I had to keep writing until I could put each word in its proper place.
From 3rd grade and up, after grading my assignment, teachers would look at me and say, “Angela, where did you learn to write like this?”
I never understood that question. I still don’t.
Inventing lives not my own.
These were as natural as breathing and, in my family at least, that natural ability was put to good use protecting my mother and siblings. (More on that in Twinkle – a memoir.)