How did you become a writer?

Week three discussion question for the DIY MFA Street Team–we’re a group of writers who love the DIY MFA website and are supporting the upcoming release of Gabriela Pareira’s DIY MFA book. We’re building a community on FB by sharing blog posts on the weekly prompts.

So here goes: I am a writer because I was a voracious reader as a child, a tween, an adolescent, a young adult–OK, I’m a lifelong voracious reader. And I love stories. Becoming a writer means being able to practice the craft of storytelling.

I also like when I manage to swing my word net and catch the right combination of words and sound that fit into a poem and then open a chink into outer space. Or into my heart’s breath.

As far as I can tell, my first published piece was called “Meditation,” and it was a description of the half-hour walk down the wooded lane from our home to the bus stop, and the piece appeared in my junior-high literary publication–I hesitate to call it a literary magazine. I remember feeling proud–and moreso, I felt productive or useful or just plain good that others reading that piece understood something else or saw something differently or simply enjoyed my words.

There’s ego and arrogance in publication–unavoidable, eh? But I want to err on the side of communication and aesthetics–sharing language is one of the coolest things we do.

Three other points on the trajectory of becoming a writer: At 18, I remember sitting on my single bed and having a short story pour out of me all at once. I thought that might qualify me as a writer. At 19, I remember being in Berlin and finishing The Sun Also Rises, and then thinking, “I want to be Hemingway.” Translation: I wanted to write a novel like Hemingway. Since then, I’ve gained a diverse selection of literary models and heroes, and a PhD in comparative literature expanded my lifelong trajectory of voracious reading.  When I started graduate school, I did not respect my academic writing because I thought I would only be really proud if I published a piece of fiction. I’ve since revised that take on writing because I believe any kind of writing takes a good chunk of creativity and craft.

So here I am. A woman who has journaled for over 30 years, has a few academic articles and poems published, has been blogging since 2003, has taught writing and literature off and on for over thirty years, has done freelance editing, and is revising a middle-grade novel. I became a writer by reading a lot of books on writing, being in writing groups, and practicing.

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