Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Silly Library, Books are for Kids

I've mentioned before how much I looked forward to the Bookmobile making its appearance on my street when I was a kid, and how much I loved reading.

We moved the summer after third grade, to a neighborhood sort of across town, where the Bookmobile didn't go. I started fourth grade, made new friends, and got both a computer and a puppy. The library sort of took a seat on the backburner, and I made use of the one at my Christian school, or just went to B. Dalton in the mall. When I was in seventh grade, Books-A-Million came to the Wal-mart shopping center, and suddenly, between it and B. Dalton, a wealth of books and magazines was suddenly available.

I literally did not visit the library again until I was in 10th grade.

Not joking. What books I wanted, I saved for and bought, or asked for them for my birthday or Christmas.

That year Clive Barker released his YA novel Abarat. I saw an ad for the book in a kids' magazine and thought "hey, that looks pretty cool." By this time, I'd of course devoured all of the Chronicles of Narnia, buffet style, and discovered The Lord of the Rings. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was a huge favorite of mine, as was A Wrinkle in Time, and I wanted more adventure. More worlds to step into. So Abarat looked pretty cool.

It was also pretty expensive at BAM. What money I had, I didn't want to spend. So I decided, after seven years, to get a library card for the Wilson County Public Library.

I felt rich there, standing in the YA section. I remember (because I'm a freak who remembers stuff like this, don't judge) borrowing Wolf Tower by Tanith Lee and Many Waters, by Madeleine L'Engle. They didn't even have a copy of Abarat, but I still couldn't wait to check out more.

Problem was, a lot of YA books back then weren't all that interesting, especially the ones they had at the Wilson County Library. Usually they were "poignant, coming of age stories" written circa 1982. If there was any fantasy at all, it was all mythological Wales type of stuff, and a lot of the time they'd have the second book in a series, without having the first. I eventually did buy Abarat. As I got older, books became less of a cool thing for me. I wasn't at all interested in things like Pride and Prejudice; I wanted something more along the lines of my favorites. The bookstore wasn't much help either, though I'd known that. B. Dalton had closed a few years before, and BAM either didn't stock things as much or just plain sold out. I was restless and not content with basically having very little to read that I liked. The library didn't have anything because they purchased from BAM, and the local store didn't have all that much either.

But my mind had entertainment. It craved a story so much that it wrote one.

See, we had to read some story in English class that was sort of like the poor man's version of the story of Icarus. Only this tale read like a bad driver's ed film, because the kid's dad was Apollo, and he totally borrowed and wrecked the car. Or something. At any rate, my teacher decided we needed to write our own myth, preferably with a happier ending and that didn't graphically detail what happens to a body in an auto collision. I wrote some dumb little page-long thing where this chick found a clearing in the woods that was magical and turned blue when she walked into it. There's more details, all of which I remember, but they're dumb. Sorry. 

I turned it in and got it back, and promptly shoved it into my backpack, whereupon it was immediately stained with banana.*

I didn't forget about it, though. There was more to this story, so I wrote out another copy for myself to continue later. I went to my Gramma's that weekend and started working.

I confess, I have no idea what we did in my 6th period class for the rest of the freaking year, because I wrote the whole time. Like really. I think it was World Geography, but I know I didn't pay attention because I still suck at geography.**

I figured I was freaking brilliant by writing a novel at the age of 15. I finished it and began the process of rewriting, changing and taking out and putting in and having a ball. Then I got the idea for the sequel, then another idea for the third book. The second one was finished by the next winter, shortly after my library adventures began.

I never finished the third one, and here and there I'd work on it between high school and finishing college.

It's funny when you re-find things you hadn't touched in a while.

That book sucked.

Like, it was really bad. Childish and confusing and often times, downright dumb. I threw in plot devices like they were candy at a parade, and often characters existed just to remind the main character that she was special. Yeah, I was one of those writers. I wanted to make it as fantastical as possible, but keep it down to earth and for some reason, partially set in West Virginia (which at the time, I had never been to.)*** There was a gap somewhere in there, where I grew up and started writing a little better. Characters were more complex, there were more secrets, and the dog no longer talked. Dogs, by the way, were the only creatures that could talk in the story. I had two dogs at the time, so I blame that.

And yet, still, even after all my emo-ness and stuff, it still wasn't ready. Like at all.

Like it read like a horrible fan-fiction that wasn't even clear what exactly the author was a fan of.

Lo and behold, college! It was great, and it was awful and I had a lot of friends and did a lot shopping and hanging out and basically not ever working on my book.

But it simmered back there, on the back burner. All the bad stuff cooked off, and spices were added, and my story became mental comfort food. I like where it is now. Heck, I love where it is now. Granted, it is like a fickle lover, sometimes frustrating and many times amazing. Yes, the bare bones are there. Teenagers, quest, weapons. Like the human skeleton, this formula is literally everywhere in YA fiction, whether you know it or not. It's extremely basic. Now I have on my side a weird obesession with the Cold War, lots more attitude, many movies without hobbits, and a temper upon which I blame genetics.****

But that's all I'll say about that.

Because I think it's time to pretend I had a few too many and do the writer's version of dancing on a table at a wedding and launching my stilettos across the room.

I'm going to put some annotated excerpts from the previous work on this blog. Many of the notes may just contain exclamations of shame or LOLs because it's seriously bad, but funny bad. Seriously funny bad.

So prepare to enjoy.

Or just stare awkwardly. Your choice.

*I still have the sheet of notebook paper, and it still has banana on it. It's a beautiful sort of gross.
**Seriously, as far as I know, every state that isn't Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, or West Virginia floats around in this weird archipelago. Of freedom.
***I did go in 2005, on a senior ski trip with my class. And I have the shoulder pain and loss of motion to prove it!
****Yeah, if you think the Hatfields and McCoys were bad, you shoulda seen my family and the neighboring family where they lived, back before 1950. Apparently, an uncle of mine busted home one day and asked his mama (my great-grandmother) where the gun was, because he was gon' kill him somebody. She was all "heck to the naw" and I don't think anything came of that. Also, my Granny once frightened a school principal into actually punishing other students that jumped both my dad and my aunt. I am so proud of both of these events, you don't even know.

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