My Story – Finding the Place I Belong
What got me started about thinking about my story as a writer, and wanting to share it with you, was this: a few months ago, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) had an online contest asking Canadians to write about belonging — what it meant to them, when they have felt like they belonged, or when they felt maybe they didn’t.
For me, I can tell you, without hesitation, that I knew I belonged the summer of 2005 when I attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop. But getting there wasn’t easy.
I never felt like I belonged, anywhere. Sure I had friends in school and at church, but it always felt like something didn’t fit right, and that something was me. I would rather play football with the boys than talk about makeup and boys. But I was a girl, so while I played football, they had to change the rules to accommodate me.
In Junior High, my friends and I wrote stories and what would now be called fan fiction (we didn’t know the term existed). It was fun. We had our place to hang out. But I always felt like I never quite measured up. I always felt like they were tolerating me, or I just wasn’t quite good enough, or that as much as we had in common, they didn’t understand me. They didn’t get me.
Please note, those are my perceptions. They may have been perfectly fine and happy with me.
So you would think that once I finally admitted to being a writer, and found other local writers to connect with through the Manitoba Writer’s Guild and the Winnipeg Writers’ Collective, that I would have found my place to belong.
It was close, but it still wasn’t quite right. I met and connected with many wonderful people through these organizations. I often see them at book launches and other literary events and we have a great time catching up. But again, it still wasn’t the right fit for me. I didn’t write poetry, and I didn’t write literary fiction, or non-fiction. I wrote romance first, and now I was becoming a Fantasy writer.
When I first tried my hand at writing Fantasy, I knew I was in the right direction to finding a way to tell the stories I truly love. My first efforts were pitiful, but I didn’t care. It was in 2001 and I was reading “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Our local literary festival Thin Air was hosting the first Sunburst Awards, an award for genre fiction. I got to meet writers and readers of genre fiction, and they thought it was cool that I was writing Fantasy.
I had finally encountered people–adults, normal people–who enjoyed reading the same genre as I did. They didn’t call me a nerd, geek, freak, or loser.
Around that time, I was encouraged to start attending our local fan convention held every year. I admit, I was still rather judgemental and I turned up my nose at the prospect. I’d seen those people, in costumes, what weirdos! As it was pointed out to me, those ‘weirdos’ were going to be my readership and I ought to embrace them.
I wasn’t ready to do that. Why? Because I was still terrified of being judged by my associations. I still wanted to be cool, or at least normal.
In 2005, I was accepted into Odyssey. Six weeks of learning about writing, and writing. It was going to be awesome!
One problem. I was going to be with other Fantasy and Science Fiction writers, who were probably bigger fans of the genre than I was, which also meant they were probably the same ‘weirdos’ who dressed in costume.
Without a doubt, all of my classmates were much more knowledgeable of the genre than I was. One or two wore costumes to major conventions. Most didn’t. We all felt like our acceptance had been a mistake, and that when that mistake was discovered, we’d be sent packing. We all worried about having our stories critiqued.
Most importantly, we all got each other. We understood the stories, we encouraged more creativity and imagination from each other.
There was no judgement on who we were, what we believed in, or what we wrote. We all loved Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. We supported each other.
And I felt, for the first time, that it was truly OK to write Fantasy. I didn’t have to hide any aspect of my personality for fear of being judged or picked on.
Finally I could be me.
Finally I belonged.
One of my best friends out of Odyssey: She wears costumes to conventions and does LARPing (Live Action Role Playing). I regularly attend my local fan convention. I love the costumes, and the attendees are some of the sweetest most accepting people you will ever meet. Someday, someone is going to wear a costume based on one of the characters in my books, and I will be PROUD!
My Story – Why I Chose Fantasy
I didn’t always write Fantasy.
When I started writing, time and place didn’t really matter to me. It was always the relationships of the characters, and that was predominantly a romantic relationship. I wouldn’t say I wrote traditional romances simply because they didn’t necessarily have a Happily Ever After ending, but love was definitely involved.
With the characters as my focus, I had freedom to experiment and play with my writing. My stories were set on space ships and other planets, fictional worlds, the past and the present in our world.
The first novel I wrote was an Historical Romance. The second novel I wrote was, well, I’m not really sure what category it would fall under: part romance, part thriller, mostly a character study probably.
But even while I was writing all these other stories and experimenting, it never felt right. I’d always read science fiction and fantasy but I refused to admit it for the longest time. People who read science fiction and fantasy were socially awkward and weird and therefore bullied in school. I was already picked on enough in school, I didn’t need to add any other reasons for the bullies to torture me. So I adopted their attitude.
That all started to change in the fall of 2001. I was reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”. I loved the secondary world. And I loved that he was commenting on political and social issues in a way that made me think at the same time it entertained me.
And just like I realized real people wrote books thanks to L. M. Montgomery, I realized that writing Fantasy allowed me the freedom to tell the kinds of stories I wanted to tell.
It still took a few years before I would be comfortable telling people I wrote Fantasy. The fear of ridicule runs deep.
Getting past that fear and accpeting who I am, what I love to read and write, fully, has made all the difference in my life.
My Story – The Beginning
As I figure out what I’m going to do with this blog, I thought I’d start by telling you more about me. Sure, you can read the rather pitiful bio I have on this site that desperately needs to be re-done, but that really only gives you the basics, if that. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into great detail. I just think it is only fair that if I’m asking you to spend time with my books, you ought to know more about me and why I write what I write.
So here we go.
I have always loved reading and writing. It fascinated me that my mom’s scribbles (her cursive writing) were words, just like in the stories she read to me. If I wasn’t writing (scribbling) stories and letters to my mom, I was pretending I could read them.
I couldn’t wait to learn to read. I began devouring books soon after. One book in particular resonated with me. That was “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery. It wasn’t just that Anne was plucky and smart and ambitious. I loved that she wanted to be a writer, just like I did. I was in grade 2 when I discoverd I was a kindred spirit with Anne. I knew then, that stories weren’t magically produced by the stores. I knew then that an actual person wrote them. And I was an actual person, so I could write stories too.
That sent me on an the life-long quest to be a published author.
I began writing stories about hijacked space ships that landed in my back yard, and the reanimation of millions of dinosaur skeletons. As I got older (starting grade 7), I turned to more dramatic stories of American Civil War romance and Gangland redemption.
Writing has always been much more than just about the stories to me.
I wear glasses, I was one of the smarter ones in class, I’ve always been on the chubby side. I didn’t fit in because I didn’t look right, I didn’t play sports, and I wasn’t outgoing. I was bullied a lot. Thankfully, I suppose, this was before the internet, so it wasn’t as bad as it is now. Still, I had little to no friends in school. One of my supposed friends decided one day that she hated me, she told me so, she told me I was ugly. She then convinced my other friend that she hated me too. I was called fat, ugly, cross-eyed, four-eyes, and a loser. I was laughed at and nasty rumors were spread about me, by that supposed best friend. The bullying lasted with me until I graduated High School.
Writing became the best way I had to express myself and my feelings. It also became my way of exploring how I feel and think about the world, what is happening politically and socially. Writing helps me understand points of view that aren’t mine.
I was always going to write. What it did, though, is help me get through the many years of being bullied and feeling like I never fit it. It gave me my own place to fit in, to explore, and to be myself.
My next post is going to be about why I chose to write Fantasy.