Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Becky the Writer

A few months ago, I was asked, "What did you want to be when you grew up?"
"A writer," I said. 
"Oh... are you a writer?"
I said, "YES."

Am I? 
I write, certainly. I write every day. 
Journal entries, poems, very long text messages, even occasionally manuscripts for children's books. But it was hard to say, 
"Yes, I am a writer," 
because I very rarely get paid for all that writing. Working at Seek Learning Magazine, I felt a little more like a real writer. I was writing articles and publishing them! I was getting paid... a little. 

But sometimes, I look at my life and I think, There's nothing else I could have become. I had to be a writer. God made me a writer.  My life formed me into a writer. Even if I never publish another book: I am a writer. 

Here is a timeline of my life. I think you will see, my career choices were limited:

Becky is Born: 
Finding that breastfeeding is extremely boring, Becky's mother passes time by reading the entire Wheel of Time series aloud to her newborn. A love of sci-fi is kindled in Becky's infant breast.

Age 3: 
Becky dictates her first poem. It is about a toe named Moe. Becky's Dad declares her a poetic genius. Surely, she will grow up to be a poet! (This is agreeable to all.)

Age 8: 
Becky reads the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. Here is a real conversation between Becky and her mother:

Mother: You know, the first time that I read the Chronicles of Narnia, I stayed home sick all week so that I could finish the whole series.
Becky: I want to stay home and read the whole series!
Mother: Oh, but you can only stay home and read them if you're really sick. 
Becky: I am! 
Mother: I believe you. Go get back into bed and bring your books. 

Becky learns an important lesson. Books are more important than school. 

Age 9: 
Becky begins writing extensive fan-fiction based on the Redwall series. She reads every Roald Dahl book she can get her hands on and also begins writing very gruesome poetry in the vein of Dirty Beasts.

Age 10: 
Becky's 4th grade teacher reads The Hobbit aloud to Becky's class. Becky's eyes are opened. It is the beginning of a new world. 
Becky also sets her sheets on fire, while trying to read under the covers. She pretends to sleep through the fire alarm, hoping that her parents don't notice that the sheets are smoking. 
They do notice. 

Age 11: 
For Christmas, Becky receives the first three Harry Potter books. She reads them in 72 hours. Then she reads them again. And again. And again. It is the beginning of a life-long obsession. 
Becky also reads Anne of Green Gables. She has found a bosom friend and kindred spirit in Anne Shirley. More than any other fictional character, Anne is Becky. Becky is Anne. They are two starry-eyed, dramatic chatterbox peas in a pod. 

Age 12: 
Becky learns that The Hobbit has sequels. She reads the Lord of the Rings for the first time. Her entire brain explodes. It is the greatest thing ever written. She spends an unholy amount of time trying to translate her own poetry into Elvish. 
Becky's first poem is published in the local newspaper. It is neither gruesome nor Elvish. It is very patriotic. 

Age 13: 
Becky is accused of cheating when she gets 100% on a comprehension exam about the book To Kill a Mockingbird. She shouts at her teacher and tells him that she is smarter than he is. 
She has extremely high self esteem and an extremely low tolerance for people that don't care about books as much as she does. 
She also fights with a teacher who tells her that favourite does not have a U in it. Of course it does. 
Becky knows it does. 

Age 14: 
Becky joins the school newspaper and yearbook.  She starts a new hobby, which she never gives up: writing down conversations that she eavesdrops on. There is almost nothing quite as delightful as the strange "dialogue" that comes out of people's mouths when they don't know they're being spied on. 

Age 15: 
One day, driving down a dark and snowy road in the middle of nowhere, her Dad pulls the car over. They get out into the snowy forest and Becky's Dad recites Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. 
"Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though. He will not see me stopping here, to watch his woods fill up with snow."
Inspired, Becky decides to memorize a new poem every week. The first poem that she learns by heart is I taste a liquor never brewed by Emily Dickinson. She still knows it. She is still waiting patiently for someone to need it recited so that she can perform. 

Age 16: 
Becky joins the Speech Team. She competes in "Storytelling," a category that requires the memorization of several folktales and a dramatic retelling in your own words. She rarely wins awards, but she has found a passion. She loves to retell stories in new ways. 
Becky also discovers Mary Oliver. A different English teacher accuses her of cheating when she writes an impassioned essay about her poetry. Once again, Becky is scornful and unforgiving.

Age 17: 
Becky starts her first writing group. She writes three very poor novels:
The first is a dystopian sci-fi that takes place in a future world where men have been eliminated and each woman helps maintain the human race by giving birth to her own clone. 
The second is a portal fantasy, where a young girl escapes reality by falling down a trap door in her bedroom which leads to a magical wonderland. 
The last is a true Anne Shirely masterpiece: When a poor girl falls in love with her best friend's wealthy brother, their friendship is over... also everyone dies. 
Becky sends her stories to her friend. He tries to edit out all the romance. 
He sends his stories to her. She tries to edit out all the sword fights. 

Age 18: 
Becky attends BYU on a writing scholarship. She decides that she should probably study English, because that is how she will get to read lots of books and write lots of poetry. 
She brings all of her Harry Potter books and Extended Lord of the Rings DVDs to her dorm room, because she cannot be without them, even for one semester. Her roommate has a replica of Arwen's sword in her room. The bosom sisters spend the semester knitting while listening to Harry Potter audiobooks and reading aloud to each other. 
They throw Harry Potter a birthday party on July 31st. Then, they throw him a party the next year. And the next. Forever. They make Harry treacle tarts, but he doesn't come. 

Age 19:
Becky goes on a blind date with a man who insults James Barry and Peter Pan within minutes of the date beginning. She decides to never see him again. 
Later, she changes her mind and marries him. But first, she makes him read all of the Harry Potter books. It is part of their courtship. 

Age 20: 
Becky writes her first novel that is not garbage.  She has figured out how to write what she knows.  It's a coming of age story, as all great stories are. 

Age 21: 
Becky is pregnant with twins. She tries to name them Fred and George, but her husband disapproves. She starts a blog for a tech class and is soon one of the top Twin Mommy Bloggers in the country. She loves writing and writes a post every single day. Sometimes, she writes two or three posts a day. She makes friends from all over the world. 

Age 22: 
Overwhelmed by exhaustion and postpartum depression, Becky marches into a used bookstore and chooses the thickest, least expensive book on the shelf marked "Classics." She knows, books can heal her. 
The book is East of Eden. 
Once again, the world is made new. It is like nothing she has ever read.
She reads it again. Again. Again. 
It changes her. 

Age 23: 
Becky reads Lord of the Rings aloud to her husband and small children. She will read it to them again. Again. Again. She wants to write books, but for now she is too tired. Instead, she writes a poem every day. They are much better than her Elvish poems. 
Every day, she reads poems to her toddlers. A.A. Milne and Robert Frost. Mary Oliver and Jack Prelutsky. Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe. 
She contradicts herself. 
She contains multitudes.

Age 24:
Becky is invited by a professor to attend a writing conference. She meets with an agent there and he says, "Please send me your novel!" He wants to help her publish it. 
Becky goes home and considers sending her novel. She really does. 
But she is so tired. She is pregnant again. 
She never gets around to it. 
She does not regret this. It wasn't the right time. 
Someday, the time will be right. Her books will be published. 
For now, she will read 100 picture books a day to a small and captive audience. This is called "market research."

Age 25:
Becky has another baby. She tries very hard to name him Samwise, but again she is thwarted by her opinionated husband. Combating postpartum depression again, Becky reads the Lord of the Rings aloud to her infant who is not named Samwise.
She also begins reading classics to her big kids.  Robin Hood, the Hobbit, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, A Little Princess, Tuck Everlasting, A Wrinkle in Time, Little House in the Big Woods... They are only 3 years old, but they love to snuggle close and listen. 
They have many deep conversations about right and wrong, truth and lies, life and death, love and hatred. 

Age 26:
One day, Becky is reading Charlotte's Web aloud. A warm breeze is blowing and all of Charlotte's children are calling "Goodbye! Goodbye!" as they float away from the barn. Becky is holding her children and weeping. They are weeping, too. She looks up, out the front window, and sees the neighbor kids walking home from the school bus. It is 4pm. He's been gone from home all day!
Becky makes a decision. 
She is not sending her kids to school. 
If her children attend school, who will she read books to all day?
If her children attend school, someone else will read books to them!
No. They will be homeschooled. 
They will stay home and Becky will read books to them every single day. Hundreds of books. Thousands. 

Age 27:
Becky prays, asking God for help raising her children. She receives a powerful answer. It is time to begin memorizing beautiful words again. 
Every single morning, Becky recites a scripture verse and poem with her kids until they all have it memorized. Within a year, they have memorized over 50 verses of scripture and two dozen poems. 
The first things they memorized were: Nobody by Emily Dickinson and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Becky teaches her children to dictate their own poetry. Their poems include many "thees" and "thous."

Age 28:
Another baby is born. She is named after her grandmother... and also, secretly, after Louisa Mae Alcott. Becky begins designing her own homeschool curriculums. 
The word "Curriculum" is used here to describe long lists of books. 
Books about seeds and mushrooms and honeybees. Books about the civil war, about Polynesian way finders, about medieval plagues. Books of Shakespeare. Caterpillars. Airplanes. The Cultural Revolution. 
And Becky writes every day. 
She always writes every day. 
She reads and she writes and she just can't help it. 

Age 29:
Becky splurges on a Webster's 1828 Dictionary at a curriculum fair. She spends literal hours reading the dictionary. She is in love with her dictionary. She recommends the dictionary to people on a weekly basis and makes her kids look up words in the dictionary on a daily basis. 
This is probably not normal behavior. 

Age 30:
Becky helps start a magazine for mothers who love God and love to homeschool. She writes and edits and designs and writes. It is a delight to create. 
She also co-authors and self publishes her first book, Christlike Attributes. It is exciting, but it is not enough. 
Her son tells her, "I want to write a real book. Not just a book for my mom, but a book that they have in libraries!" 
That is also what Becky wants. 

Age 31: 
Becky discovers that she loves picture book biographies, perhaps more than any other genre. Well... not more. But very much. 
The people in Becky's house drown under piles of books. The books are everywhere. 
(This is where the books belong.)
Becky helps publish the second issue of her magazine. She writes articles about storytelling, poetry, memorization, and writing. She delights in motherhood and writes love letters to her life and her children every single day. 
She also writes her first picture book manuscript. It is very long. It is trying to be a novel. 
She writes another picture book. And another. 

Age 32: 
One day, Becky has a realization. Everyone is sleeping through the night. No one is breastfeeding.
Sometimes, Becky has entire stretches of time that are uninterrupted by children. 
She opens up a note on her phone. It is called, "Books to Write."
It is a list of ideas.
Becky begins writing. 
(She had never really stopped writing.)

Age 33:
Becky comes of age in the shire. Hobbits, of course, aren't considered fully grown until they are 33 years old. 
Now that Becky is fully grown, she is ready to get to work. She is ready to write like she means it. 
She attends a writers conference. It feels like deja vu. A different book publisher reads her book and says the same thing that she heard so long ago. 
"Send me your manuscript! Let's turn this into a book!"
This time, it's the right time. 

This time, when someone asks, "Are you a writer?"
Becky won't hesitate. 
The answer is yes. 


Molly S said...

This is INCREDIBLE!! I have followed you since the twins were born, following you over to Instagram until you disappeared (from my feeds at least?)

I thought of you last night and wondered how you were doing, as one does when you attach interest to Internet strangers in 2022. I searched your old blog title and here you are, posting for the first time in YEARS? that's incredible. Your writing, as always, gave me a chuckle and promoted ideas with the living way you write! Cheers, old friend! Blessings to you!

Lauren said...

I am delighted. As soon as it's published I will buy three copies.

(Also, you forgot to include how you used to shout poetry at all your roommates and force them to listen to you read aloud for hours.)

Jena said...

I am so happy to read this today. I've loved your voice since before the twins were born when we were both at BYU. I'm turning 33 next month, and I'm ready to make some big decisions now that I'm "fully grown". Thanks for the inspiration!

-From someone who considers herself a bosom friend, fellow hobbit, and a Hufflepuff

Jess said...

This makes my heart happy. I have missed your inspiring insights and humor. I frequently laugh with my husband about the squirrels that stored nuts in your kayak in the garage. Hilarious. Count me as an early buyer of your future publications!

Abella said...

Congratulations!! I can't wait to buy your book! I've been following your blog since the early days and I am so happy to see this update. I miss reading your writing since you left public social media (but I totally get it!). I have a four month old at home so I am still knee deep in the all consuming baby stage but you are inspiring me to get back to writing!