Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Urge to Write

As early as age seven my inclination to write was noticeable. I wrote letters to my grandparents as soon as I was able. It seemed natural to sit at the kitchen table with a sheet of paper given to me like a prize and put down something interesting to share with them.

Even though my grandparents lived far away and we saw them rarely I was connected to them the instant I picked up my pencil and later the pen. My letters were included with mom’s weekly mail to them. I like to think there was kindly amusement on their part in the receiving of these faithful missives from me, the oldest granddaughter.

Getting a little older I kept notes of our trips when we traveled West. It was exciting to describe mountain scenery - the precipitous crags and the antelopes that you could see in bounding herds in those days. It was all strange and unfamiliar. There was a need to catch that beauty. I enjoyed recording the details of the sightings and experiences along the way. There was something infinitely satisfying in all of this.

I began to dream of becoming an author. All one has to do to be an author is write a book. It seemed quite simple. Twelve-year-old logic grasps the essentials very quickly. I began writing a story which I suppose was based somewhat on the premise of Nancy Drew the girl detective. It was either a mystery or an action plot based on the adventures of a girl detective.

The name I gave my heroine was Cassandra – Cassie for short. Cassie was such a cool name. I was at an age when you learned there were cool names and not cool names. I didn't think my name was cool. But Cassie was as good as gold. It was neat being able to pick a name, decide a character, give life to her.

Eventually there were several typed pages. The plot was interesting to me. I used my younger sister and brother as my review team. I read them newly written portions. As I read aloud to them I paid attention to the flow of the words with an ear to the "sound" of the conversations I contrived for my heroine.

I could spot the rough places in the text, or unnatural sounding conversations, in a way that doesn't happen when you read your work or scan it quietly on your own. This was a first valuable lesson in writing. It helps to have someone critique or suggest changes even though it can be very painful to eliminate, delete or start over.

It was fun developing the story. It made the summer pass quickly. The typing was done on a manual typewriter. I typed on the screen porch. It was heaven combining two of the things I like most, writing and being in touch with warm nature.

The typed pages, or manuscript as it seemed good enough to be called, had a special place. The cardboard box which held the writings was stored in the lower cabinet of a built-in bookcase. At the end of each writing session I stowed my continuing story on the shelf in the cabinet. It was as good as locking my book away. No one else claimed that particular space of the house.

The story was left behind as I went forward into the teenage years. It was forgotten or perhaps casually deserted as something to get back to some day.

Years later I came upon the box in the cubbyhole. The manuscript looked intact. I thought momentarily about saving it. But I was in clean-up mode that day. It was a time of looking ahead, not behind. The pages were ripped in half and thrown away. I don't even think I looked the story over first. The writings seemed long ago and no longer relevant. Poor Cassie. She didn't have a chance.

I must have figured, at that ripe age of twenty-two or twenty-seven or so, that there wasn't a future for this manuscript. It didn’t dawn on me that I might someday enjoy reviewing my incipient book or admire the youthful ambition it represented.

The story would have served as an example of early writings. It would have let me see the style of expression I favored then. But perhaps it serves better by being lost. It's a reminder that many of our efforts seem to evaporate but are never entirely absent. Each thing done adds to the whole of what we do.

I ditched Cassie but went on to create another work of fiction. Unlike the detective techniques I was trying to master in the first work the next story borrowed much from my own life. Even then I understood I came from an interesting family. The peaceful setting of our summer home, and Italian heritage adding a lively twist, gave many possibilities as a writer.

The summer home was given the fancy name Bella Vista or Bella Pino in the second story. I don't remember which. At some later time the chosen name seemed too made up (which was originally the whole point of course).

This became another lesson. You have to write honestly or what is deemed honest to you. When you fail in that the writing falters. That book too was eventually set aside. But from its imagery, much of it saved, has come inspiration that continues to take me farther down the writing road.

Ro Giencke - May 31, 2011

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