This is a reprint of an article I had published in ICWF's FellowScript magazine in November 2019. It best conveys the essence of my writing journey, not in facts but through my inner progression from word-struck child to seasoned writer -- still word-struck.
An Indian princess opened the door for me. I found her waiting on a shelf between the faded red cloth covers of my first chapter book. She crouched behind a tree on page one, her black braids and fringed buckskin dress sketched above the opening paragraph. With a raised hand she pointed into the belly of the book, so I followed her.
This first trip to a library marked my graduation from picture to chapter books, a momentous event not to be hurried. My mother waited patiently while I drew down volume after volume. Each cover was judged on its appeal, illustrations perused, and pages thumbed through. When the Indian princess beckoned me into her world, I knew this was the perfect choice. She rode home proudly on my lap, my fidgety fingers on the cover itching to let her out.
So began construction of the revolving door between my two worlds. In my exterior world I contentedly lived an ordinary life. But my interior world whispered at the door for any opportunity to grab my imagination by the hand and run. It teased my waking hours with daydreams and at night it held sway, filling my mind’s eye with fantastic scenes and stories until I sank reluctantly into sleep. Discovering chapter books threw the door wide for a myriad of tales to march in, populating my world with rich characters and scenes often more real to me than my own life.
Stepping through the wardrobe door into C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, I encountered the great lion, Aslan, who evoked a childish reverence foreshadowing a future faith in his prototype. The miniature world of The Borrowers found me prone on the floor acting out their story with dollhouse furniture. J.R.R. Tolkien’s wizard, Gandalf, took on the bushy gray brows and twinkling eyes of my teacher, Mr. Smith, who read The Hobbit aloud while doing all the voices.
My unfettered imagination refused to be reined in, spilling words onto paper at every opportunity. Gypsies, haunted forests, princesses, and magic spells pushed their way through my pen, seeking form and voice in my amateur compositions. My vocabulary and writing skills developed simultaneously with the countless books I devoured to feed my appetite for stories. I could not ingest words quick enough to satisfy the ravenous hunger of one who saw the world as a continuous tale begging to be transcribed.
Behind the exterior world of a shy, awkward girl a parallel world teemed with all that I did not possess. Like infants learning to walk, adventure, beauty, and virtue stumbled for expression in my writing. At first I hugged my novice attempts to myself. The exercise of writing brought a satisfaction wholly my own ˗˗ a solitary catharsis not dependent on affirmation from others. But what good was a story written if not shared? If one day mine was to be the book drawn from a shelf then I needed to let others into my interior world. The door revolved both ways.
So I released some of my literary offspring and to my wonder they were affirmed as showing promise. This changed everything. Books were places in which I could be lost, but now they became where I could be found. Reading for pleasure evolved into exploring literature to learn from successful authors. Could I subtly comment on the social mores of the day like Jane Austen, create and populate whole worlds like Tolkien, craft an endearing heroine like Lucy Maud Montgomery? Could I spread my own heart across a page for others to peruse?
Years later, the door to my interior world still stands open. Being vulnerable is the risk I take as a writer chronicling from the heart. Numerous books are welcomed in to refresh, stimulate, and feed that world. I leave the door revolving in the wind. Perhaps an Indian princess will pass through.
More of Valerie's work can be read on her blog.https://wordpress.scriptordeus.com/