The question that she poses is "What are you grateful for?" So here are ten things that I am grateful for.
Also. Here is a picture of Estes Park. Because it's pretty, and I am also grateful for Estes Park. Always be grateful for Estes Park.
10. Characters taking over.
9. Victor Frankenstein, Sirius Black, and Boxer the Horse
8. Radical Face and my best friend's mix CD's.
Oh, don't pretend like you aren't excited when people cry at your stuff.
For those of you who don't know Radical Face, you need to. Here's a link. This music taught me how to write short stories just as much as my undergraduate workshops did. See, this guy is a genius and he says so much with so little. Another good one is Josh Ritter. And there's a chock-a-block of amazing storytellers in the weird, warped music my writing partner and best friend in college handed off to me throughout the years. Now when I hear the Decemberists or Avett Brothers or Mountain Goats, I get the itch to write. Honestly, I think the mixes my friend made for me and their inspiration had less to do with the music on the mixes themselves, but more to do with the fact that someone cared enough about me to push me to write and force me to expand my horizons.
7. The people who push me to write and force me to expand my horizons.
"Well, he feels it," Gramma said. "I suppose when an author writes so much, he just knows."
"Do you think I could do that?" I asked, and of course my Gramma, who thought I could do anything, said, "Of course. You can do anything."
Mom held me to a high standard, even when I was a kid. At eleven, I was way deep into writing long speculative fiction. Every night, I would hand her a chapter and ask her, "Tell me if you got bored." In the morning, it was like opening up the New York Times to find a review. Actually, it was worse than the Times. My mom was brutal.
"It didn't really pique my attention," she'd say. "And didn't you steal that idea from something else?"
As I grew up, there were teachers that joined the mix. Tracy, who shut the lights off in the room and put the music on and made us open up our imaginations. Brian, who is the main reason why I went into playwriting and shoved myself into DePaul (and got into Stonecoast). David, who gave me an internship and my first published piece. Steinbruck and Jorgenson, who put on my little plays and made me try out for contests that I never won. Christine, who actually believed I could play with the big boys and was worth something. Martinez, John, Don, and now Nancy.
But there were also friends.
Upon arriving in Chicago, I met another playwriting major. She was working on a YA steampunk novel before anyone really knew what steampunk was. Actually, four years later when I first heard the term, I called her and said, "Oh! That's what you were doing!"
She has long moved away and began her next adventure, but those four years we spent in Chicago together were the most formative years of my writing existence. I showed up in the city as a little girl who thought I was weird because I wrote weird stuff, and I left the city with an armful of movies, books, and music to prove to me that I was not alone. She took my writing seriously; sometimes more seriously than me. We actually dropped out of a class together and sat at a coffee shop across the street and discussed different characters and archs and plots and symbols. We believed it all mattered. She believed it all mattered. And because of her, it did matter.
6. Nature and Wordsworth.
That said, you can imagine how painful poetry classes could be for me. I did not get it, I did not want to get it, and I actually spent most of my time in poetry classes learning to be ambidextrous in my notebook as I sat in the back of the class (sorry, Professor, I never said it was a smart move).
But then came 19th Century British Literature. And thus followed Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey."
I think "Tintern Abbey" completely revolutionized the content of my writing. It was like someone a hundred and fifty years ago totally got what I felt about the city and how much I missed my home. There's always been a definitive struggle inside of me as a person: to live in the hustle and bustle that will give me opportunity and make me successful, or try to be happy in the countryside that I was born into. Wordsworth didn't give me any closure on that conflict, but he did vocalize it beautifully. Shortly after, I started playing with this juxtaposition of nature versus industrial city, and most of my work since then has had some sort of semblance of that poem.
We all should read more poetry.
5. Laptops, pop, library stalls, writing desks, and Hershey bars.
4. Having a job that allows me to create stories all day long.
3. Getting into Stonecoast.
I think it's amazing.
Not only is Stonecoast awesome, but I got in. And I had the courage to try for an MFA and I had those recommenders who helped me through the process (Brian, John, Christine, and Jen ... notice they're the teachers who were mentioned earlier). I had support from them and my wonderful Alex, and I did it. I really did it.
2. The complication in my current book series.
I love that moment. And I am so grateful when it comes. Not all projects get that moment. A lot don't. But if you ever do feel that relief that you have that "spark" in your manuscript, you thank your lucky stars. You didn't just waste the last year of your life typing random words in random order on a random word doc.
So when it happened, I just sat back and smiled. And then I kept writing.
1. All of the many pages I've cut and never used.
Since the age of nine, I've worked on about twenty full-length manuscripts and playscripts.
Out of those twenty, about five of them have been published or produced. And honestly, about three of them are stories I would consider awesome and worth anything.
I am always really sad when I write something in vain. I am always really sad when I work on something for a year and then I find out it's trash and I scrap it. But there's always this comfort in knowing that every word I write --- no matter how awful that word was --- propels me forward into growing and maturing as a writer.
I am grateful for all of the words that no one will read. I am grateful for all of the awful, teeth-grating scenes I wrote and slaved over, just to delete them or stick them in a "maybe" folder, just to have that "maybe" folder turn into a "never" folder or a "oh yeah, I forgot this was here" folder. I am grateful for all of the characters who lived so others could live more vibrantly. And I am grateful for all of the misspelled words and weak dialogue and funky chapter breaks that are lost to the times.
Because they made me who I am. They were just one more step in the right direction.
So what are you grateful for?