Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Writing Journey

My writer's journey is that: a journey.  How I got started writing gets fuzzy now, but I know I began writing in fifth grade, writing a series of "Crimebusters" stories featuring my cousins, my brother, and me. I also had a sixth grade teacher who loved a paper I wrote on a racetrack of some sort (I forget the exact details).  I wrote Sweet Valley High-like stories in the seventh and eighth grade, and decided to write stories with African American kids as the focus as well.  I was determined to write better stories than the ones provided on television ("Beverly Hills, 90210") and in the Sweet Valley High series books. Above all, I wanted the characters to look like me.

My eighth grade teacher found sponsors who paid for me to go to a week long camp that had a writing class. The camp was informative and fun.  If I didn't get anything else from the camp, I knew I wanted a writing career.

What I found odd is that I didn't like to read.  I believe I didn't catch the reading bug because a lot of the required reading in school bored me, and was not relatable to my life (The Sweet Valley High books weren't relatable, but I read them anyway).  I was in my 20s before I started to enjoy reading.

My 20s brought poetry, mostly without rhyme. My poems expressed my feelings and thoughts, and were basic and simple - no exquisite vocabulary or clever lyrics.  My poems were succinct, and a few were published in my college's literary magazine.

At one point I had a notebook, a notepad, and loose leaf paper with poetry scribbled down, and I seriously considered getting them published.  Extremely wet behind the ears regarding publishing, I stumbled upon a 'publishing' company online named PublishAmerica, and thought it the perfect fit.  It would market/advertise, get my book in bookstores, provide a cover - sounds perfect, right?

Terrible, terrible, terrible. PublishAmerica was a vanity press posing as a legit publisher. It did no advertising outside of sending some notices to friends and relatives from a list I provided, and a tiny newspaper blurb.  My poetry book was priced too high, and only available online.  I didn't find out about PublishAmerica's 'stink' until after I signed the contract. The company is still in business fooling other people, though there is a class action suit against it.  It still has the rights to my book, which burns me up.

After that debacle, the writing came few and far between.  The spark was gone, the creativity stayed in my head instead of on paper.  I believe dealing with that PublishAmerica scarred me somehow - messed with my mind.  I wondered about how I would define myself without the label of 'writer'.  What else was I good at?

That crisis went on for a number of years before I decided to try to jump-start myself - begin again.  So I started 'Shades Appeal'.  I knew I had something to say, and perhaps a blog would spur me into pushing my voice out again.  I also registered for a fiction writing class that I've since completed.

It's been a slow process, but progress nevertheless!  Along with blogging, I have the beginnings of a story (that will stay under wraps for now).  I believe I'm in a good space with room to continue to grow.  I'm hoping this revitalization will be more positive than negative the more I research on the writing industry and learn from others.  Maybe I'll finally write that novel!

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