When I was in sixth grade, the primary social media tool was a stenographer’s pad with spiral wire at the top that we called a “Slan” book. I don’t know if I was misunderstanding that and it was actually “Slam,” as in “slam shut,” or if, perhaps, “slan” was actually short for “slander,” which I now realize actually describes a lot of what was written in the books. ;-D Each page had one question at the top, with the innocuous “What is your name?” on the first page, and numbers down the left side. Each person who signed it kept the same line number throughout the book. As one flipped through the pages, the questions became more and more personal, ultimately seeking the revelation of the “deepest thoughts” about the most important issues to us 11- and 12-year-olds at the time: our own appearances and the opposite sex. We added questions all the time, as social situations changed, each at the top of its own page, and continually passed them around, getting our classmates, friends, and enemies, to comment. (Adding a Comment isn’t new ;-D) It was a big coup to get a BOY to sign your book, but often the boy just did it to write the most shocking things he could. (The owner was then properly mortified. :-D)
Even then, my own life context included being a writer. To the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I wrote, “Write and illustrate books.”
In junior high, I won a writing contest that included a cash prize. In high school, my poems were published in a “literary magazine.” (In college I wrote course papers, and little else.) After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in history and in comprehensive social studies education, I became a teacher. Writing lesson plans soon morphed into writing curriculum. I liked writing lesson plans, and I LOVED writing curriculum. Soon it was used by other teachers in my school, then adopted at the district level. When I chose a field for my master’s degree, it was educational leadership: curriculum and supervision.
In succeeding years, I taught every grade from fifth through college, and continued to write curriculum. I conducted and published research in education. Some of my non-fiction articles were also published in magazines. I went back to school and earned a doctorate in teaching and learning. That process included a dissertation that was published. In the past few years, I started taking turns writing a column for the local newspaper. I started a business helping people write dissertations and books. In the past few months, I started several blogs. I even get to illustrate, in a sense, because I help my doctoral scholar clients design the charts and graphs they use to display their data. I think of myself as a writer–well, sort of.
Sometimes I feel like I’m still waiting to “write and illustrate my own books when I grow up,” because NONE of the seven or eight books I’ve written, including the two that I illustrated at a publisher’s request, has actually been published. The publisher that committed to purchase and publish two of them backed out, so nope, not one in print.
But as I wrote this post today, I found that at this point, I needed to take the narrative in a completely different direction from the one I had planned. I actually had to delete a paragraph and go back! I realized that in the context truest to my deepest values, “Grammie” may have replaced both “Writer” and “Author” as the most meaningful literary title I have. Who knew??? I remembered that I did write and illustrate one more complete book, and printed it myself. It is in a ring binder that sits on the bed shelf of my oldest granddaughter, and it was my very personal gift to her. It is entitled, Two Kinds of Mommies, and I wrote it several years ago to explain her birth and adoption process to her in a way that would help her young mind understand and reinforce what her parents had always been so open about. I wanted to help her tender heart be warmed and feel the deepest sense of belonging in her/our family, because we all prayed for her, and in a completely illogical and totally inexplicable chain of circumstances on two continents and several states, God placed her–only and exactly her–in our arms and hearts in His perfect time. Her experience of being adopted into our family is a picture of how all of us who believe get adopted into God’s family. I guess I have accomplished the “when I grow up” goal after all!
What do you think makes a person a “writer” or an “author”–writing, or having what you’ve written published, or something else? When and how did YOU know when you had become what YOU are now?