I earned my first paycheck as a writer when I won an elementary school contest for my story about a tiger's troubled friendship with an incompatible bee. It was the first time I realized I was in love with shaping words and images into story, and that if I worked hard enough at it, someone else may read it too.
Growing up in Rhode Island, whenever we had visitors my parents made my five siblings and I lead the same tour: along the terrifying but stunning cliff walks of Newport, followed by days at Second Beach where our skin crunched tight with salt and we dined in our bathing suits on picnic tables, feasting on clam cakes and watching the shadows move in until we shivered violently enough to go home.
It would have been the stuff of idyllic childhood memories, had we changed things up a bit in the winter.
One day at the beach I found an old overturned rowboat leaning against a food shack. I surrounded it with pictures I drew in the sand, sprinkled paths of seaweed from a door I framed with stones, and convinced my sister and cousin that a beautiful angel lived underneath, and I had met her.
Their wide eyes belied their objections of disbelief, so I insisted it was as true as the sun that had driven the fairy to an upside-down rowboat home for shelter. I added details to convince them: a rock pushed aside near her door (evidence she had recently been outside), white gossamer wings and her lonely life under the sand, a life saved by days when little girls like us would come along to talk to her.
This may have been where I first began to see place as one of the hottest flames that fuels our lives. Whether we pay attention or not, the places we choose--or don't--are as alive as our families and teachers in shaping who we are.
When the real world offered plenty of ways to write and work with others on their writing, I started in college with an internship at Paramount Pictures in the literary affairs office, where upcoming novels went to be reviewed for their film potential.
After a stint in book publicity W.W. Norton, Inc. in New York, I taught high school and college students in literature and writing for ten years, published a few pieces, and recently had one of the best learning experiences I could have asked for by writing for Michelle Rhee and her team of education reformers at the DC Public Schools.
I still love the unique challenge of writing for others, or helping an individual or organization to express unique messages and voices, whether because they don't have time to do it all themselves, or because they are not sure yet what they want their message to be.
But while writing for others can pay for the gas to get to the beach, it will not unearth the angel who lives there or explore the shipwrecks that shape our lives today.
So I am venturing into the Twitterverse, reading other blogs and starting my own. On my blog I write about whatever strikes me, whether what compels us to the places we call home; relationship; culture; health; loss; women who inspire me; provocative books, articles or ideas.
For me it is all fodder for the next story about the shipwrecks that save us, or the tiger and the bee who cannot get along when all they hear are the roar and the buzz of the other. For you, if any blog entry lifts you up, makes you think or smile, or sparks reflection or discussion, it will be time well spent for me.
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