That's sort of how I feel about the story of how I got into writing. Those of you who have read/seen/heard any interview I've ever done (in publications, radio shows and regional television stations all over the US and Italy) know that I started writing during my divorce. You know that I hadn't been pursuing writing as a career before that. You know that writing Sex, Murder And A Double Latte (my first novel) gave me direction and strength during a time when my life was in shambles. I've retold that piece of my history so many times it doesn't feel real anymore. The swirl of intense emotions that existed for me at that time no longer exist in that story. Just like when you hear a song on the radio that excites you initially but begins to bore you once every radio station starts playing it twenty or more times a day.
All this has gotten me thinking, is there more to the story? Something that I haven't really talked about or explored? Something that will keep me from getting bored by my own author-orgin story? Of course the answer to that is yes. Because although I've told countless people that I hadn't considered a career as a writer before my divorce that's not 100% true. I hadn't considered a career as a novelist. But I had considered (and then forcibly pushed aside) the idea of pursing a career as a writer.
The truth is that I have always loved writing. As a kid I won prizes on the few occasions when my school would have short-story contests. In middle school I told my mother I was going to be a playwright. Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Neil Simon and Shakespeare were my heroes. I've read Satre's No Exit, Wilder's Our Town and Sterner's Other People's Money more times than I can count. In high school I even wrote and performed a short skit for a charity event/competition benefiting women's shelters and was honored beyond words when I took first prize in my category. And yet by the time I received that honor I had already given up my playwriting ambitions, not because I didn't have a passion for writing but because I was rebellious.
According to my grandmother, writing was something all the women in our family were supposed to do. My mother had disappointed my grandmother by not pursuing a career as a writer and now the burden was on me. My grandmother helped raise me and I loved her and my grandfather they way other children love their father. To this day the memory of my grandparents continues to inspire me.
And yet I'd be lying if I were to say that I wasn't a little resentful of her "plan," for me. According to her, women in our family needed to begin piano and ballet lessons at 5. I did but refused to practice the piano and quickly traded in ballet for more modern forms of dance (never really heard the end of that). When I turned 12 my grandmother bought me private singing lessons as a "birthday gift." Singing lessons were nowhere to be found on my wish list but I understood that, like the ballet lessons, this was something I was supposed to do. I also understood that my voice was fine but not as good as my mother's voice and there was a level of competition involved in all this as far as my grandmother was concerned. The only reason I wasn't pushed to draw more was because I so clearly sucked at it. But writing? That was something I had a talent for. My mother and grandmother had a talent for it too. "I can't decide who's the better writer," my grandmother would muse, "your mother, you or me."
But I didn't want to compete with members of my own family and I was not going to pursue a dream that someone else had handed to me. Instead I threw myself into acting. Acting was the one art form that no one felt I needed to do. No one ever said, "You must audition for this play." No one in my family had ever seriously pursued acting endeavors which meant that the medium was mine. I never would have written a skit for someone else to perform at that charity benefit. But as long as I was the one performing it I could easily say the whole project had been about my acting and not my writing at all. And I did love acting. Performing the work of my favorite writers on stage made me absolutely giddy. But I refused to go back to my 6th grade ideas of actually making a living as a writer. At least not until my divorce...which just happened to coincided with my grandmother's passing.
Now, whenever I run into someone who knew my grandmother I'm reminded of how happy she would have been to have seen someone in the family get published and I kick myself for being too bullheaded to make that happen during her lifetime. Naming my main character (Sophie) after her hardly seems sufficient. And yet a little part of me knows that pursuing the dream of writing would have been a hundred times more intimidating if she had been around while I was doing it.
The bitter truth is that while she helped cultivate my dream of being a writer, I didn't have the confidence or even the generosity to sow those particular seeds during her lifetime.
As it is I have to settle for honoring her memory by continuing to cultivate the dream that I had previously forced into dormancy and hope that somehow she knows what I'm doing.
So that's the other part of the story of "how I got into writing." It's a little too complicated to talk about in interviews. I can't fit it into a logline and I'm pretty sure that's a good thing. This is a part of my history that will remain real for me.
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