Friday, November 11, 2011

What's Your Story?



Shellie Neumeier
Every writer has a story…the story of how they became a writer. As for me, I haven’t been a writer for long, but I’ve been a storyteller for longer than I can remember. My first recollection involves a few relatives, the dark of night, and the promise of a camp-out. My cousins gathered around, bored and looking for something to do. The night’s choir of crickets and critters cleared its throat as the four of us crept inside the old army tent set-up in the back yard. We nestled deep into our sleeping bags, and I began to tell a story. The musty canvas flapped from an occasional breeze punctuating each beat of the tale and I smiled into the flashlight’s gleam as my characters trudged through thick fields, dank forests, and web-covered cabins. By the time our mothers came to tuck us in, I’d sufficiently frightened them all. If memory serves, we slept on the family room floor that night.

It didn’t take long for word to spread of the stories told by moonlight. When Christmas rolled around, my cousins, nearly a dozen this time, sat around the cookie platter and begged for another story. That night I told a holiday tale which held them in place till the platter ran dry and my Aunts began calling. I honestly don’t know who had more fun, me or my cousins. 

On second thought, me for sure. 

As I grew, so did my tales. Anyone within earshot was fair game; my younger brother, the children I babysat for, the cat if he sat long enough. I toyed with writing for a little while, but high school English nipped any hope of publication in the bud. My grammar skills lacked, the details fell flat, and the plot-lines grew unfocused. I simply couldn’t do it. In college I declared a Psychology major and eventually graduated with a secondary education degree minoring in Psychology, Sociology, and Social Studies, hardly an MSA. 

I remember my first day as a substitute teacher. Twenty-four sets of eyes stared at me with various levels of disinterest (trust me; disinterest has many levels in high school and teachers see them all). My hands began to sweat and I shifted from side to side as my gaze slipped over each face. With a deep breath, I introduced myself. Then I told a story. 

Over the years, I’d collected a number of most-embarrassing moments—other people’s, of course—and I shared them all that day. By seventh hour kids crowded into my room saying, “hey, isn’t she the sub who tells stories?” 

Yesss! Substitute success. Story success.
But, write? Oh no.

Nearly twenty years would pass before writing would take center stage. Four children, seven dogs, and three careers needed to pass first. Then one night after the children scattered to their rooms, I faced my husband across the kitchen table and asked, “now what?”

Out of fear for our budget or what may happen to his power tools, my husband arched his eyebrows and said, “you know those stories you always tell?”

“Yeah?”

“Write ‘em.”

“Huh?”

“Write. Them. Down.”

“Me?” Suddenly I was a woman of few words.

“Yes, you. Give it a try. Couldn’t hurt.” 

That’s what he thought.

Three weeks later, my first novel, DRIVEN, was birthed. Multiple rewrites, overhauls, and edits landed that manuscript on the desk of an amazing editor willing to work with my grammatical weaknesses. In the span of three months, from first word to signed contract, my world as I knew it changed. 

Please don’t mistake me. I say none of this with arrogance or pride, but with humble astonishment that God would take someone like me and offer them a gift like this. For that is what this is…all of it. A gift. The gift of storytelling to a child. The gift of life experience to an adolescent. The gift of authorship to a grateful soul. So if you ask me why I write, I’ll tell you this, “it’s what I was made to do.”

Now it’s your turn…Do you write? If so, what made you start? If not, what holds your pen back?

Tell Me. Tell Me.
Twitter: shellie_c
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