There is no step one when you write a book, unless you consider being born that initiation.
My personal love affair with words began as a child. My mother, an avid reader, did what good moms do. She read to us. There was one requested book, Rudyard Kiplings’ “How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin,” that she read so many times she grew tired of it. But I didn’t.
I remember going to school and loving to learn spelling, to see how words fit together, and to hear how they sounded. This was the era when phonics was king, when sound and spelling were partners. I still have my first spelling book. In it, my dad—surely at my request—wrote my name in his bold and sure hand. For a long time, my favorite color was red. My spelling book was red and I’m sure there’s a correlation.
I also remember that as a first grader about the graduate to the second grade, I was terrified I of having to learn “VOWELS.” My best friend Betty, one grade ahead of me, assured me it was possible that I could learn vowels.
And I did.
In second grade, however, I moved away from Betty and all the things that were familiar and reassuring. That first year away was lonely. But by that time I could read and I remember a small book—it was pink—called “The Littlest Witch.” I don’t remember the story, but I remember the comfort it gave me, especially during that first year when our family was crammed into a hot three-story row house across from the local hospital. I was in a new school, and my second-grade classmates were less than kind to the girl who enrolled late in the fall. Had it not been for a new friend, Sandy, and my kind teacher, Mrs. Garber—and the “littlest witch”—I might not have survived second grade.
Then came third grade, a new school, and a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Reeke. She had a commanding voice, sparkly brown eyes and hair the color of cinnamon. I loved her and I wanted to do whatever I could to please her—to make her proud of me.
So I wrote a play. In her wisdom as a stellar teacher, she recognized my effort and sent me and our student teacher, Miss Settle, to the cafeteria to polish my play. (My elementary school was attached to a teachers college.) When Miss Settle and I finished, my class put on the play for the school and for parents. I was the playwright and the star of the play.
I had found my life’s work.
For a while, theater and writing competed, but in the end, my introversion won out and writing became my choice. I am so glad.
When I started writing CAIRNAERIE, it felt like just one more step in this writing journey, which had no real beginning and no foreseeable end. It is just one step. Step 3,064.
Now step 3,065 has arrived.