You Can Do It: A Guide For New Writers (#1)

So you want to be a writer

There are thousands of ‘How to Be A Writer’ books, guides and self help books. Books for all levels of experience and expertise, books about all aspects of writing. Thousands of them are good and thousands are very good. I have read many, maybe approaching fifty. I watch You Tube channels with video blogs about writing, I am on email lists, I’m on Facebook groups about writing, I follow favorite authors on Twitter and other social media and I snoop and dig at things that have to do with writing. Because I want to be a good writer.

You can do it. Just do it. Once you write something, you are a writer. Once you’ve written something for others to read and be entertained or educated, you are an author. You can do it.

My Story – How and When Did I Start Writing

I was not even a big reader when I was a kid. My first experience came in the fourth grade when Ronnie Stachurski came over and we read White Fang by Jack London. We didn’t read much, or at least I didn’t. Ronnie was clearly more of a reader than me. I wanted to go outside and throw my hardball against the side wall of the apartment building and develop my baseball catching skills. If not that then maybe a trip to the corner store to buy those confederate American picture cards that came with a piece of confederate currency and a stick of pink bubble gum. All in a days play.

In 1965 we moved to Maryland street in Winnipeg to be close to the sanitorium where my father was recovering from TB. Our apartment was walking distance to the sanitorium. On one of those walks over I learned that our mother had suffered two miscarriages, both girls, one died in premature birth, the other, also premature was too early for her lungs to develop fully and she did not survive either. I believe mother named at least one of them.

With the move meant attending a new school. I was in the sixth grade, this was my second of three sixth grade schools I attended that year. The school was Wellington school, about a five or six block walk from our apartment. It was a standalone sandstone building. It had no gymnasium so we took PT in a downstairs basement room that had probably been used as cellar storage at one time. Our teacher, Mr. Kirkpatrick, was a dark haired good looking man from somewhere in the British isles, perhaps Wales or Scotland or perhaps just England. He was nice enough, not too strict but very insistent on creativity and progress. Our class was on the third floor of the three story edifice. No doubt we were so elevated being the sixth graders, the highest rank in the school, deserving of the highest elevation and view. From the window you could see a main drive a couple blocks away and even the playground at Notre Dame park.

Mr. Kirkpatrick must have been particularly drawn to creative writing. One of the first assignments he presented me was the writing of my own novel. A novel? I had barely written a paragraph of anything up until that time. I was not a reader, not even close, though I had heard of Catcher in the Rye.

Wellington school, Winnipeg, Manitoba. An assignment to create and write my own novel. This did not scare me. In fact I thought it was a marvelous idea. To become a writer, a creator. The other kids in the class had a big jump start on me as the year was a third of the way done when we moved to Maryland street. I was not daunted or discouraged and I had an idea of what I wanted to write about. Travels into deep space. This was a year before Star Trek appeared on the TV screen, but I had been an avid fan of space travel already for a couple of years. In fact in the fifth grade, in Calgary, my good friend Blair Stapleton and I built a space ship diorama that you could sit in. Built it under a work table in Miss Bilton’s fifth grade class. We colored rocket ship controls and made up a scenario of our launch into space, as a demonstration for our classmates. That was before the announcement came over the PA system that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Miss Bilton cried right in front of us. I stared out our window across the landscape to Spy Hill and misconstrued the word ‘assassinated’ for ‘insulted’ and wondered why that made Miss Bilton cry. I learned the truth of the tragedy when I returned home for lunch and saw Walter Cronkite sharing the tragic news on the TV. The import of that event didn’t really strike me until a few years later when my own favorite uncle passed away suddenly. Years later I wrote ‘Death of an Uncle’ about that event. I had been given the news about his death, from my father, as I was bathing in our elephantine bathtub in the apartment on Maryland. Father had been set free from the sanitorium by then. He broke the news to me while I was naked in the cooling water and he shaved away his chin whiskers in the white enamel sink.

I began my novel assignment in earnest and was pleased with my progress, though Mr. Kirkpatrick continually admonished me to catch up. Because I had not been a big writer until then, I thought penning a half page of foolscap a day was pretty significant. Perhaps a hundred or two hundred words. Sadly (or not) we moved again that year and I attended my third grade six class at Lord Selkirk School. The novel was forgotten but there was a reading and comprehension program at my third school. I was assigned a starting module, color coded, I think I was orange. I learned that orange was fairly low on the scale and despite its rank my reading skills were even below that, as far as speed and comprehension. I was not discouraged and was determined to scale the ranks and make it all the way to being a purple reader. This did not happen before graduating out of sixth grade. My unfinished novel became wrapped in a plastic bag and packed away, not to see the light of day for more than a year, until after we moved again.

Tune in again to hear what happened next in my writing saga.

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