Monday, November 12, 2012

When Did You Know?

Post by Jenny

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the author lecture which wrapped up our community-wide reading event. This year’s novel was The World We Found, by Thrity Umrigar.  Ms. Umrigar was born in India and came to the US when she was 21 to study journalism. She works now as a journalist, an assistant professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, and an author.

Oh, and she’s been writing since she was six years old.

Ms. Umrigar’s earliest memories are of writing on her balcony overlooking Bombay. Her first works were poems to her parents, indignant rhyming verses inspired by a perceived wrong and taped to their teak wardrobe. Though she was careful to remain anonymous, her shrewd parents always knew the poems were from her. Perhaps being an only child had a little to do with that.

She continued to write and drew inspiration from Emily Dickinson, Bob Dylan, and cereal boxes. Though she published her first short story at age sixteen, her parents did not encourage her to pursue writing. She thought journalism had more credibility than fiction, and it also served the same purposes as her early poems: self-expression and righting a wrong. She used fiction techniques to tell non-fiction stories, and novels followed.

I have two early writing memories—and neither involves a balcony in an exotic locale. Before I could spell or put a sentence together, I would sit at my dad’s typewriter and produce pages of random letters. Although the results were as readable as preschool cryptography, I was proud of my efforts. My first book was soon to follow—a thin, hand-written and illustrated story about a little black bug.

In school, I liked to write because I was as awkward as they come, and it was a whole lot easier than talking in front of a class. But in college, I did not pursue writing, and it was only years later that I began to think seriously about giving it another try.

One of the great things about writing is that it’s never too early or too late to start. You can be as low-tech or high-tech as you wish. You can tell everyone or tell no one. You can write until your fingers go numb and the milk in your fridge expires, or you can write ten words a day. It’s completely up to you.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?


Dean K Miller said...

When did I really know? Maybe 2 or 3 years ago. When did I fantasize about writing? Let's go back more than 3 decades.

As I see it, I've saved myself 30 years of rejections, but then again, maybe I've just stored them up to unleashed in a tsunami of "keep at it" letters.

Rini K said...

I finished my first short story when I was 11 or 12, so I've wanted to write for a while. But it has only been a few years (since I did my first Nano) that I actually started doing it in earnest.

I did not have an exotic location, but wrote at my desk in the middle of my school work mess on an old manual typewriter.

Maggie said...

I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I was in grade school. Our assignment was to write a short story, which I did right before English started. My teacher liked it so much, she read it to the whole class.

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