Nov 10 2012

Becoming a Writer

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I hesitated to write this post because it’s such a departure from most of my stories with their ties to the natural world.

But then I thought: maybe it’s not so different after all, because the story I’m about to tell really does relate to the natural evolution of the writer’s world.

But first, the spark for this post:

The addition of new shelving units and the cleaning of existing storage space in our house took me on a trip down memory lane – or, more accurately, through a crapload of boxes. Click to enlarge.

As you can imagine, I unearthed some interesting things.

What a hoot. I remember nagging my older sister to write newspapers with me when we were younger. My mom, miraculously, saved this edition – dated May 28, 1984. Please don’t read it. The grammatical and spelling errors make me break out in a cold sweat. I would have been 12 and my sister 14. Monkey Man, a god-awful story about a man, part-monkey, (such an original title!), was written when I was 10 or 11. Love my artwork, eh?

And then there was this enchanting story about Lendle Lubunzie, a Luvatarian (“… As you are called Earthling,” he says to the main character, Tulip Jones, “I am a Luvatarian.”) Did I forget to mention that he’s from the world of Loveopia? Yeah, obviously I was into alliteration. This gem was written for a contest when I was in eighth grade. As this was the only entry, it won. (And, of course, Lendle loved orange Reese’s Pieces).

You’ll see the name Shannon Blair at the right corner (mine was on the opposite side). Yes, I coerced my friend into co-writing this story one weekend. I’m seeing a theme, here. “Write with me, write with me. Pleeaaase. Someone write with me.” Coercion, anyone? Click to enlarge if you must.

Again, more lovely artwork. Click to enlarge.

And then I came across the Holy Grail of finds. Letters – yes, plural – from Beverly Cleary. Sent to me thirty years ago (What the??? And thank you, Mom, for saving them!) I remember carting those letters around like they were gold. Star struck can’t even begin to describe the way I felt. I’m sure if you look, you’ll see some of my fingerprints deposited on the paper from over-handling.

That THE Beverly Clearly would take time to write me two notes left a lasting impression. Click to enlarge.

I think something happened at that point – something my young mind wasn’t able to process. Sure, I was aware that Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume (and other authors) sparked my love of reading, my appreciation of words and story. But I think the personal correspondence from a “famous author” was a catalyst of sorts, an inconspicuous seed settling deep inside, waiting patiently to sprout.

But for years the seed lay dormant, unable to germinate as teachers encouraged me to become an educator. “You’re good at English. Become an English teacher.” I’m struck, today, at the fact that no one ever encouraged me to aspire to become an author, a writer.

Even I didn’t consider it. It was something other people did. Like Beverly Cleary. Not me. The first time I ever thought, “Hey – maybe I could try,” was a full year after I graduated from college – with my English and comprehensive communications teaching certification in hand, 7-12.

In a bookstore with my friend, Elana, I came across a book, So You Want to Write a Novel? A response reverberated inside of me, catching me a bit off guard. Yes! The answer was yes. All these years later. And just like that, the seed planted by Beverly Cleary began to take root.

For Writers: I realize that ‘what I wanted to be’ had been in front of me all along. The proof was before my eyes (seen above in my silly stories, and also in my career choice to write – not teach – for newspapers and magazines, and work in the communications field).

Yet the encouragement to pursue the fiction dream was never presented as an option. Only in 2010 did I begin to seriously dig back in to the fertile writing soil that has begged for cultivation all these years. This time, I believe it is an option. And dang it, I will tend to it, pursue it, nurture it.

When did you set down your writing roots? Did something or someone inspire you? Do you have any childhood proof?

Nov 5 2012


Melissa Crytzer Fry

Road trips, I think, may be a writer’s best friend – mostly because they seem to spur that kind of reflection that doesn’t seem to happen behind a computer monitor.

I love this photo, taken in northern Arizona, which illustrates the reflection of pine trees in shallow water. Click to enlarge.

Given that I was headed with hubby to visit my little sister in Flagstaff (five hours away), where she attends Northern Arizona University – I had plenty of time for reflection.

Mainly, I asked myself how it was possible that I was going to celebrate her twenty-first birthday… how it was possible that she’s a college junior. We’re not sisters by blood, but we are sisters by heart. We were paired by Big Brothers Big Sisters when she was in fourth grade, and I can’t imagine a more perfect ‘match.’ What age was she then? Nine? What age am I now? Ahem… We won’t go there. Reflections.

Another reflective photo in Flagstaff – mountains on the receding waters of Mormon Lake. Click to enlarge.

Suffice it to say that the trip was memorable as usual, amid Flagstaff’s volcanic mountain ranges. The basalt, andesite and ash fragments littering the public parks fulfilled my geologic appetite once again.

Hubby stopped to set up his portable radio along the way, while I wandered about Mormon Lake snapping photos, still reflecting on the wonderful young woman my little sister has become.

This is Ham Radio Boy in action alongside Mormon Lake, outside of Flagstaff. Click to enlarge.

I’m always amazed at the things I don’t see until I look closely. I hadn’t noticed the cobwebs on these flowers until the sun reflected from them in my viewfinder ... A literal reminder of the illuminating power of reflection. Click to enlarge.

I loved the layers in this close-up: a hint of mountains and trees reflected in the water, high and low spots of failing fall grass, and the rusty color of autumn toward the water. If you look closely, you can also see animal trails. Click to enlarge.

As I gazed at the mountains and pines so foreign to our low desert, I thought about the figurative mountains this young lady, my sister, has climbed – bigger than Mt. Humphrey’s in the distance (a stratovolcano). I am proud – so proud of all she has accomplished.

For Readers & Writers: All this reflection got me to thinking about books and the role of reflection after we’ve closed the flaps on a good story. I think the most memorable of books spur that kind of reflection – about self, about surroundings, about hard-to-answer questions, about humanity, about nature. What book(s) kept you thinking well after reading that final page? Why? What story won’t stop replaying itself in your mind?