Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday's Focus: The Secret Life of a Child Writer

Today I read an interesting post by a fellow writer about the imaginary friend she had as a child. It was great reading, as well as a terrific idea for a story. It brought back memories of my childhood.

I grew up on an isolated ranch, an extremely large ranch ( 300,000 acres) in Texas, until I was seven years old. For the next six years, I continued my journey from child to teen on military bases all over the US and in several foreign countries. It's very hard to make friends when there's either no other children around ( life on the ranch), or you are in a spot where you know you'll only be for a short the fact that military children are mandated to only associate with children of the same ranking parent. At least that's the way it was when I was growing up as a military brat.

I didn't have an imaginary friend. But I did have a secret life. I wrote stories and poems. All from the imagination of a child, it's true, but oh! the wonderous world I lived in through those stories! I was a princess, living high on a mountain where I could see the whole world below me. I had friends, boys and girls both, and we dressed in beautiful costumes and were driven in golden coaches with big, golden Palomino horses pulling the coaches. ( Oh yes, my ranch life intervened many times in my secret world.) Those coaches took us to the largest playgrounds in the world, all covered in brightly painted swings and slides, and to the fanciest toy stores where any and all toys were ours for the taking.

Other times, I was a spy, the World's Greatest Female Spy, wanted by every country on the planet to spy on all the other countries, and wrest from them the most highly valued secret technology.

Sometimes, I was a great artist, living in the 16th Century, and competing with the world's finest artists, such as Picasso and Rembrandt and others of superb renown. The fact that all of the artists I competed with didn't actually live in the 16th Century had little impact upon my storytelling! I think I must have chosen that century for the absurd "costumes" both males and females of that era wore, as I often wondered, first, what they really had on underneath, and second, how they could move around in the first place.

My parents didn't know I was writing all these little stories and bits and pieces of my imaginary life that came to roost on paper. My father was busy being a Major, and my mother was busy being a Major's wife. That left me with a nanny, usually an "underling" of some that as a private or corporal's wife who had no children of her own. The kind of nanny who doesn't really want children, including those of her husband's commanding officer. So I was pretty much on my own during those years.

However, one year...I was ten at the time...I sent a poem I had written about my three kittens to a Children's Digest that I had an old copy of. They published it. The poem was about my kittens, Trouble, Mischief, and Bubblegum. Trouble was orange and white, Mischief was black and white, and Bubblegum was a kind of nondescript pinkish/reddish orange. Two years later, I sent a story to the same magazine about the young mare I had trained on the last military base we were on. I trained her for showing, and just before my first show, she went blind. Because I had voice-trained her, as well as to cues, I still took her to the show, without telling anyone she was blind, and she won both of her classes. That story was also published. In those days, children who sent in stories or poetry to be published weren't paid...hmm, sounds kind of like today's markets in some cases, right?

My imaginary world didn't end when my father finally took his last position in Los Angeles, CA, and we settled down. But it changed drastically. From imagination on paper, I went to imagination on stage, and sang in Musical Theatre for 7 years. After that, I married and began my family. But the imaginary world which had sustained me for so long, in so many lonesome and usually undesirable places when I was growing up, was passed along to both of my children, and even one grandchild. My son wrote scripts for movies, my daughter is now a writer of adult fantasy and mystery, and one granddaughter is a script writer for TV shows.

And then there's me. Yes, my imaginary world on paper made my life bearable for many years as a child, growing up in a changing world in sometimes very scary places. Even though I stopped writing for a time, my imagination never stopped soaring. Today, I am a published author of many short stories and non-fiction articles, and with a debut novel coming out in November. My 'secret life' is not much of a secret any more, and my imaginary world on paper, I hope, will never be contained.

Yet...I often much did that secret life of a child writer influence who I am today? I imagined at one time that I was a great artist. I became a professional artist in later years. Do you ever wonder what your childhood had to do with who you have become as an adult?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.