Hunger Mountain (Blog 21)

Hunger Mountain is a Literary Journal that accepts submissions of Creative NonFiction. It’s audience for Creative NonFiction ranges from young adult to adult.

Submissions

–          Accepts submissions with vision, intent, craft, and an ability to transport the reader into the world of the artist.

–          Must be original and unpublished

–          Double-spaced manuscript that does not exceed 10,000 words.

–          Accept personal, lyrical, and meditative essays, memoirs, collages, rants, and humor, but they do not limit acceptances to these

–          Submissions must include recognition of truth, a unique voice with a firm command of language, and an engaging story with multiple pressure points

–          No fee to submit

–          No payment

–          Submissions accepted year round with a 4 month response time

–          Submit through their online submission manager

Contest

–          Anyone can enter

–          $20 entry fee.

–          Entries must be postmarked by September 10th

–          Submit one piece of creative nonfiction, not to exceed 10,000 words

–          Writing must be original, written in English, and previously unpublished

–          Your name or address should not appear anywhere on the essay

–          If you send your entry in the mail, enclose an index card with essay title and your name, address, phone number, and email address

–          If you send your entry in the mail, enclose an SASE for notification of winners

–          You may also enclose a postage-paid postcard for acknowledgement of entry (if you’d like)

–          Entries must be typed, double-spaced, and on one side of the paper only

–          Use a paper clip or send unbound—no staples or binding, please

–          Once submitted, entries cannot be altered

–          All entries will be considered for general publication as well as for the CNF Prize

–          Simultaneous submissions are okay, but there will be no refunds of entry fees to work that is accepted elsewhere.

–          Multiple entries allowed—each entry must include a separate entry fee

–          No entries will be returned.

Reflective Analysis of Portfolio (blog 20)

Looking back on my portfolio I found a few exciting and, unfortunately, not so exciting things. I realized that, no matter how much I may still feel confused, I somewhat understand Creative NonFiction. Depending on what topic you want to work on depends on how you should write a Creative NonFiction piece. I find it a little easier, and more interesting, to work on “Eye” essays than “I” essays (minus my last attempt). I think it has to do with the fact that “Eye” essays tend to have a journalistic feel. I am a journalist. It just kind of clicked for me, but I do think it tends to depend on the topic. “I” pieces are something different. You have to enjoy writing about yourself, and while I don’t mind writing about myself I find it easier to write about something that isn’t me. Writing about other people, places, things, etc. works for me because I like learning about them and I like informing the world about something they may not know about (for example, Muggle Quidditch). I think if you write about yourself and your experiences you’re led to think about them and to find more about yourself, which isn’t a bad thing. Some people like to remain a mystery. For me, all the topics I think I would write about myself are topics that I really wouldn’t want to write about myself because I just don’t want to face them.
I think my progress as a writer for Creative NonFiction has grown with every essay. I started out not really knowing what I was doing but going through the motions blindly. Essay 2 I had a better idea of what I was doing, but still had a bit of trouble because I was still talking about myself. By far essay 3 had to be the easiest one for me because I partially wrote it as if I were writing a journalistic piece on it, but adding my own experiences in with it (which is generally a no-no when it comes to journalism unless you’re working on an opinion piece). That’s the one thing about Creative NonFiction that makes it Creative NonFiction. You have to connect it with your experiences and your life, even if it is an “Eye” piece. Unfortunately, for essay 4 I felt like I was writing essay 1 all over again. I was very stuck on my topic, and every topic that I really wanted to do I could only think of how to write it as an “I” essay. So naturally, I decided to write on the one thing I knew a lot about: writing essays. It also worked because my professor from my Improvisation class just had a rant about why knowing how to write an essay was important. The part about the professor’s husband and about the guy he hired was the story she told us. I know that essay 4 was not Creative NonFiction because it was definitely more of an essay piece than anything. I think it’s a good idea and has great potential as a Creative NonFiction piece, but I think it has to be done in a different way. What way that is, I have no idea.
I’ve only revised one essay so far: essay 2. It changed quite a bit from what I had started with to what it came out to be. I originally got the idea for this essay from the piece “Music is my Bag” by Meghan Daum. I really wanted to write about something I really, really enjoy doing. Something that I wouldn’t mind doing for the rest of my life. So, naturally, I began looking for a way to talk about what writing means to me and connecting it with books. The first draft I wrote broke the shell, but really didn’t go where I wanted it to go in the end. So I started from scratch and was stuck for quite some time until a friend suggested I look into bildungsroman. By connecting bildungsroman, or the formation novel, with the formation that my writing had gone through from when I was in fifth grade until now. I think starting with a quote helped as well because it set the mood for what I was writing about. I talked about how much I loved writing and the quote represents that feeling without me coming out and saying, “This essay is about how much I like writing.” I got this idea from the John McPhee piece “The Patch.” He started with a quote that helped set up the essay and I really liked that idea.
I don’t think it will take me as long to revise my second essay. I decided that I’m going to revise the Muggle Quidditch piece by setting it up in the beginning and tying in my experience at the International Quidditch World Cup. I even interviewed some players from the Harvard team, but I hope I asked the right questions. I also want to add more about me and my experiences with Harry Potter to emphasis that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Muggle Quidditch. I’ve been there, done that.
In the end, after this class is over, I don’t know if I’ll want to go into Creative NonFiction seriously. I enjoy writing it for this class, but I’ve said many times to myself how it’s not for me. I like creating and expanding a world and characters, not writing about real life (which is the reason why I could not do journalism for the rest of my life either). But honestly, I can see myself writing Creative NonFiction again. Afterall, I did enjoy working on and thinking about these pieces. There are at least one or two more Creative NonFiction pieces floating in my head that I really would like to try to write. Maybe even more that I haven’t discovered, but I’m afraid that once I sit down to write them they won’t come out as I want them to and that I’ll turn them more into fiction. But the point of writing the pieces is to make them Creative NonFiction. Even though Creative NonFiction is not my forte, I would really like to keep at it because it was really fun writing in a new way that I never thought of writing before.

The Real Life Bildungsroman (Blog 19 Revision 1)

“I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I would die,”

-Isaac Asimov

Bildungsroman is a German word meaning “formation novel.” It is a genre of a novel that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of a character from childhood to adulthood. It can be found in almost any novel from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte to Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

Throughout my writing career a lot of the stories I have focused on have followed the guide of bildungsroman. It’s not inevitable that a story will have that genre in it, but I feel that nine out of ten times it will. Most characters tend to grow throughout a story, but not all of them start as a child and end as an adult.

***

I can remember writing from a very young age. I used to go to a babysitter who encouraged me to write picture short stories (or short stories with badly drawn pictures depicting what was going on). When I began writing complete stories right away I was attracted to Fantasy and Science Fiction elements. In fifth grade I started a series on a group of superheroes who fought crime. The crime was generally committed by video game characters, and the general idea came from the movie “Mystery Men.” I enjoyed knowing that there were other worlds waiting to be discovered and explored. I wanted to discover those worlds and I wanted to allow others to explore them. Writing suddenly stopped for me when reading took over my life and became the new flame of my heart for a while.

***

An example of a fantasy bildungsroman is the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling because it follows Harry’s life from when he is eleven until he turns seventeen. The reason why this series can be considered part of the bildungsroman genre is because Harry grows physically and mentally throughout the seven year series. At first he is just an innocent eleven year old, new to the wizarding world that has been hidden from him for the first ten years of his life. As the series goes on the subjects of love, racism, and death bring a mature perspective to the series.

Love starts out as the love of parents and children, but rapidly changes into the love between two teenagers as the books progress. Within the last two books hormones rage as the characters fall in and out of love with one another fairly quickly. When the first book starts racism is only touched on lightly with Harry’s aunt and uncle not liking wizards, but halfway through the series there is a type of World War II feel where the Death Eaters (the bad guys) are the Nazi’s and the muggles and muggle born wizards (non-magical people and wizards born to non-magical parents) are the Jews. Finally death hits home right from the beginning with the death of Harry’s parents. Before the story starts Harry parents are already dead and he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle. It’s a kind of death that Harry has to deal with, but might not affect him as much as if he grew up with his parents before they died. In the fourth book, the death of a classmate, Cedric Diggory, is the first real death of the series. After that, the death of Harry’s godfather in the fifth book shows Harry that he has no real home left, leaving him to grow up quickly in order to be able to handle to ordeal.

***

I started writing again the summer before high school. It started with a fantasy story about a fairy and a half-elf who have to save their world from an evil bent on destruction (this is a theme that still constantly pops up in my work). I never got farther than a few chapters with this story, but I knew how I wanted it to end. It was the middle part that got me. I finally got over this writers block when I switched over to fanfiction. Fanfiction is where you take the characters (and sometimes setting depending on where you want your story to take place) from a book and put them into your own story. While there are hundreds of types of fanfiction, I focused on one: Harry Potter. It was a series that I absolutely loved, where the characters were like my friends. I felt like I knew them so well, which is funny since the characters I used in my stories weren’t really in the books.

The Marauder’s were the older generation, i.e. Harry’s parents and their friends. Even though there were only a handful of scenes throughout the series where they were mentioned, they had a big following. Maybe it was because we didn’t know exactly what they were like or who they were. Where the characters already existed, in a way it was like creating our own because there was plenty of room to build. Yet, in every fanfiction author’s story, each character seemed to come off the same.

But I didn’t always stick to fantasy and fanfiction. Sometimes I traveled into the more normal realm of the teen novel, but the lack of fantasy elements made the experience less enjoyable. As high school was coming to a close, I began working on several pieces that just followed the daily lives of teenagers, but I couldn’t find anything more interesting than a bit of drama and an unplanned pregnancy. So, I gave up.

***

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is another book housed in the bildungsroman genre. The book is similar to Cather in the Rye by J.D Salinger, a book that the author was inspired by. Cather in the Rye is even listed in the story as a book that the main character, who’s alias is Charlie, is assigned by his English teacher to read. The book goes through the high school career of Charlie as he tells it to a “friend” through letters. It tells of his struggle with depression, being shy and introverted as he goes through high school as a wallflower, trying to make friends. This story shows the mental and psychological transition of Charlie as he discovers who he is.

***

It wasn’t until college that I found what I consider my first real story. The idea came to me in a dream, where I was climbing up a snowy mountain slope with a guy on our way to stop an evil force from destroying the world (there’s that theme again). The dream wasn’t even very long, but in the little that there was I knew exactly why I was there and exactly what I was doing. I woke up and began to plot out a story that mixed real life and fantasy, the perfect combination that accommodated both topics that I loved to write about.

Choosing an Audience(blog 18)

After thinking about my pieces I realize they are all about experiences that people go through at the high school/college level age. They are about relationships, finding out who you are, and advice. I don’t think my work is really literary, but more for the average person to just enjoy.

Some places I would consider sending my work:

Hunger Mountain

I think this journal would fit some of my work because it focuses on the art that is in the work. Two pieces I would consider sending to this (after editing) are my one on books and the one on Muggle Quidditch. I think those two would fit the most because they are about topics that gravitate more toward an artistic topic.

Collision

I think this journal would fit some of my work because they accept personal essays and narratives, which is what we have been working on. I think either “I” piece (after editing) could be used for this publication.

Crazyhorse

I think this journal would be a good one to try because they take a wide variety of pieces. I would have to read through their journal (along with the other ones) to get a feel for what they are really looking for first, but afterward I would be able to decide exactly what piece would be good to send in. The only hesitations I have is that this one seems to have published more fiction and poetry lately than creative nonfiction. This could mean one of two things: no one has sent in any creative nonfiction lately or they are very tough with their creative nonfiction. Either can be good and bad situations.

These three are journals I would definitely look into more. From reading their submission guidelines I get the feeling that these journals all focus on topics that I would find interesting to write about. There are probably more choices out there to look into as well. I just have to find them first.

Over and out.

The College Survival Guide: Essay Writing (blog 17)

If you’ve picked up this manual, it must mean you need some guidance when it comes to essay writing, or you could be wondering, what’s so complicated about writing an essay that someone had to write an essay about writing essays? Essay writing is harder than most people let on. Why else would practically every student groan whenever a professor assigns one?

What’s the Point?

To whom it may concern,

I am a college student and am required to take a course where we must write a fifteen to twenty page research paper. I personally think this is ridiculous. I guess my question is, why do I need to know how to write a paper? I’m not even an English major!

Sincerely,

The Non-Writer.

This is a question that plagues the minds of several students, especially those who are not English majors. Why learn how to do something you will never have to use ever again? Unfortunately, you will have to use writing skills in practically every job you have. Writing skills are an important factor when it comes to a business.

One professor I knew told a story about her husband and how he had to hire a new accountant. In the application process there was a writing section. One gentleman stood out above all others, and was hired almost immediately. But when he handed in his first assignment, her husband couldn’t understand half of what he wrote. In fact, the proposal was so horrendous that there was no way he could fix it in time. He called the guy in for a meeting and asked him about it. That’s when the truth came out. The guys mother had written his application writing samples. He was fired on the spot.

If that doesn’t give an incentive to learn how to write a proper essay, I don’t know what will.

Choosing a Topic

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

-Jack London

Choosing a topic for an essay is sometimes harder than writing the actual essay itself. A good rule of thumb to go by is picking a topic that you understand very well or that you are interested in. Choosing a topic that you understand very well will make writing about it a lot easier than writing about a topic you know nothing about. The same goes with writing about something you’re interested in. If you choose a topic you could care less about, research will be boring and you will be less inclined to actually work on the paper.

Sometimes, though, you don’t have a choice on what topic to write on. More times than not the professor of the course will assign your essay topic to you. There are pros and cons to having a professor assign a topic and letting you choose your own topic. It all depends on the type of professor you have. There are two types of professors to look out for:

The Assigner

The assigner is a type of professor that will give you the topic to must work on. Generally these are assignments that are discussed in length throughout the semester so that you understand completely what the professor wants. Of course, not every assigner professor does this. Sometimes they expect you know exactly what they want to see. They are generally known as the mind reader professor, and if you have one of these a good rule of thumb is to ask them exactly what they want if you are stuck. Half of the time they will tell you exactly what they are looking for. It is also a good idea to tell them what you are working on so they can let you know if you are on the right track or not. Of course, there are those mind reader professors who get offended that you don’t know what they want, or are even more vague in their second explanation than in their first. If this happens ask classmates what their interpretation is of it. If they have the same interpretation you know that you either all understood or misunderstood the professor. You are not alone.

The Chooser

The chooser professor takes two forms. There’s the professor that lets you pick the entire topic on your own and the professor who assigns a topic but let’s you pick how you’re going to explore the topic. The pro with this type of professor is that you have free reign with your topic and can choose something that works for you. The con with the chooser professor is that they tend to think you should know everything about the topic you choose to write on. Why else would you choose your own topic?

The Writing Process

Once you have your topic the writing process can begin. The actual process of writing a paper may take a few different steps, depending on what the type of paper is. In almost every type of paper there will be some form of research that has to be done. Either you’ll have to quote a book or you may have to find more information online or from electronic databases and newspapers in order to get the information you need.

A note on using the internet for research: rule of thumb is to use websites that have a .org, .edu, or .net ending. You should not use blogs or .com addresses because they generally will be opinions rather than information. Even when using the appropriate address link, be sure to read thoroughly through the material before using any information from the website.

How to Begin?

Even before you start your essay, it is recommended you make an outline. Some students can write a perfectly coherent paper without making an outline, but for those who struggle to figure out where to go with a paper, writing it out may help. Some ways of creating an outline are:

The List

Putting each paragraph into bullet form first will allow you to see if the essay will be coherent. You will be able to notice if you are missing any important points in your paper as well.

Starting from the Bottom

This isn’t technically an outline method, but it is another way to begin a paper when you have no other idea how to start it. As long as you have your thesis, this technique will be able to work. After writing down your thesis, start working on one of the body paragraphs and do the introduction later. It’s effective because it helps release some of the clutter in your mind and allows your brain room to breathe.

How long is a paragraph really?

Dear Survival Writers,

This may sound like an odd question, but how long is a paragraph really?

From,

Confused.

The length of a paragraph can be confusing to some students because not every professor follows the same format. Some professors want 6 sentences while others are happy with only 3. If you aren’t sure how long a paragraph should be, the general rule of thumb is that it’s 5-8 sentences long. Of course a paragraph can be longer, just make sure it’s not too long. A big block of text can intimidate and even bore readers, making them skim through it rather than actually reading it.

Form

The form of a paper is considered: introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and conclusion. There can be more than 3 body paragraphs in an essay. Unless otherwise stated by the professor an essay should not include “I,” “me,” or “myself.” If you’re using headings for each section, make sure the heading is with the paragraph. Do not have the heading at the bottom of a page and the paragraph start on the next page. Try not to overuse transition words, and do not use “In conclusion” to conclude your essay. There are other ways to let your reader know that you are finished talking about your topic and you are ending it.

Editing

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”

-H.G. Wells

When to Edit

Editing is the last part of the essay writing process. A student should always edit their papers before handing them in to check for any spelling errors or odd sounding sentences.

Proofreading

After completing your essay, it’s always good to step away for a few hours, or even up to a week before looking at it again. This method may not be best for those students who are procrastinators, but for early birds it’s the perfect method. When you proofread a paper it is always best to read your writing out loud. This way you can hear how each sentence sounds. If you end up stumbling over a sentence, or it just doesn’t sound right, that generally means that your sentence should be re-worked.

Another approach to the proofreading method is to have a friend, fellow classmate, or parent proofread for you. It’s recommended that you ask someone who you know will help and not just quickly read through it and say, “It was good.”

Spell Check

Spell check is a fun little tool that, when clicked, pulls up every word it believes you spelled wrong and gives suggestions to what you might have meant. Spell check is also those green, blue, and red squiggly lines found under misspelled or grammatically incorrect words in the document. Microsoft Word also automatically corrects words that it sees you’ve spelt wrong.

There is nothing wrong with using spell check, but it should be used sparingly. It is important to go back and read over what the sentence says when using spell check. Students have the tendency to just click “change all” not realizing that some words Microsoft Word thinks is spelled wrong are really correctly spelled.

That’s All?

I hope this manual was helpful in some way. There isn’t much to essay writing, and it is really easy to get help on an essay if you ask. This manual did not discuss every aspect of essay writing, but focused on some rule of thumb topics. If you are still having problems with your essay talk with your professor or someone from your class. After all, seeking help is better than going through an experience blindly.

Notes for “Eye” Essay 2 (blog 16)

I have yet to really get something written for my final “Eye” essay, but I do have plenty of notes and thoughts on my topic (its putting these thoughts and notes into actual sentences on the page that’s slowing me down).

I’m writing an essay about writing an essay, and my main goal is to make it not like an essay. It’s Creative NonFiction after all. So I found a few quotes that I was originally (and still might) going to use and made some bullets about what I’m going to include:

-A small intro to the piece

-Knowing what to write

-The writing process

-Editing

I even thought of a few ways to relate to this topic (with the possibility of including the writing process of this essay which inspired the whole topic). Then, while I was thinking about writing a small part about different types of professors (the types that assign a topic for an essay and those that let you have free reign) an idea came to me. Why not make this sort of like a survival guide?

Title and opening sentence:

The College Student Survival Guide

Tip #25: Essay Writing

Tip #25 in our college student survival guide is on essay writing, one of the most dreaded topics for even the best writers.

The “tip” part came as a sort of after thought, and the number is just a random number. I figured there are  a lot of survival tips needed to survive college and some students may find essay writing farther down on their list (hence the high number).

The idea about the different professors was transformed into looking at it as if the student was looking at an exotic animal: a creature that doesn’t understand that they have at least 4 other classes to do homework for as well as write their 10 page paper.

While the piece will focus on how to write an essay, I want to do it in a way that’s a mixture of funny and serious (and of course not preachy). I already have discovered that there are a lot of students who do not know how to write a proper essay, and I don’t want to make this like I’m telling them what to do. I want it to be more light hearted, if that makes any sense, and set it on a level that all college students will understand and appreciate.

I think something that will help me write this is if I look at both the Werewolf Survival Guide and the Zombie Survival Guide because, although they are different types of survival guides, they are written the way I would like to write this creative nonfiction piece. As if it were a chapter from a book.

Over and out.

Thoughts on “Eye” essay 2 (Blog 15)

Where my first “Eye” essay was very easy to come up with, I’m really stuck on my second “Eye” essay. My original idea was to look at the story of Little Red Riding Hood, but I couldn’t think of a way to relate to it so I tried to brainstorm other ideas and got really stuck.

Then I talked with my dad, because I knew that my dad would be able to help jog some ideas. He suggested I do an essay on our family Christmas parties, which would be interesting to do. My only issue with that is that I don’t know how to make it an “Eye” essay. I just feel like it would turn out to be an “I” essay.

Finally, I talk to Joe who suggested I do something on my mom. I was hesitant on doing it because I wasn’t sure how I would go about it. He said I should do it on funerals and connect it. While I think that’s also an interesting idea, I’m not sure how to go about it.

The only other idea I had was doing something on Wizard Rock, but at the same time I didn’t want to do it since my last essay was on Muggle Quidditch. I’d like to shake it up a bit.

And no lie about five seconds ago I think I came up with what I want to write on. It was partially inspired by Dr. Chandler and by my roommate. In our conference, Dr. Chandler said (I think jokingly) that I should write a paper on how everyone wants me to write a paper on something else. Then I was talking to my roommate about how I was really stuck and she said something and both comments brought this idea to my mind: writing an essay about writing an essay.

Think about it. There are several ways that people try to write essays and trust me I’ve tried them all. I think this will be an interesting one to work on.

Over and out.

Researching Quidditch (blog 12)

We all (or at least the majority of us) know where the game quidditch is from. If you don’t it’s from the popular Harry Potter series. While thinking over where I want to take my first “eye” essay on quidditch, I decided to first go and look at the International Quidditch Association website. Yes, there is such a thing as an International Quidditch Association, and yes they have a website.

The group began as the intercollegiate quidditch association, but they officially changed their name in 2010 because they were no longer just teaching groups how to play quidditch in American, but also throughout Europe. This group I think will play a big role in my essay because they are the main source of teaching different groups how to play quidditch. But of course it won’t be my only source of reference.

I also plan on touching on quidditch within the Harry Potter series and trying to find a source of how J.K Rowling came up with the sport (which shouldn’t be too hard to find). I may also compare it with different sports, but that’s only an inkling right now. I think bringing in that aspect might make my essay a bit too all over the place, but we shall see.

On November 13 and 14 there will be a International Quidditch Tournament held in New York City. I’m hoping on going (at least on the 14 since I have a scholarship banquet to attend on the 13) and I feel like if I do it will help me with this piece. For right now, I will take the first Muggle quidditch game I ever watched and the first Muggle quidditch game I ever played and work those in. It will show how my version and the version now played by hundreds of colleges around the world differ.

Is this an “Eye” Storm? (Blog 11)

We are now venturing into the first “eye” essay. “Eye” essays are about the world or people around you. So far, we read a piece on “The Shaggs” and a piece that was not only an “eye” piece, but like an investigation piece as well.

Thinking about these pieces in relation to my piece, I decided to write on something that I really like. It’s always easier and a lot more fun to write on something that you know really well, then writing on something that you don’t know at all.

After creating a list in class of topics I like and know enough about, I immediately chose writing on Muggle Quidditch. In fact, I had chose this topic in the beginning of October when I went to a Medieval Festival with one of my friends where we sat and watched a Muggle Quidditch game. Toward the end, my focus was drawn from the game and into my head as I thought, “Now this is a Creative NonFiction piece!” What I need to figure out now is how I’m going to write it.

I think I’m going to be using a parallel structure for this essay. My main focus will be the National Quidditch Association and how it is spreading in knowledge of Muggle Quidditch. Along with that, I will be looking at the game I watched at the Medieval Festival as well as my own experiences playing Muggle Quidditch.

That is where my thoughts are swinging right now. The more I think about it, I hope I think of more ideas and more ways to work through this essay.

Over and out.

Embracing Your Inner Nerd (blog 10)

I’m in fifth grade. I’m in the classroom after recess. I had just had an argument with a friend about something trivial. It’s silent reading time, and before the teacher can tell the class to take out their books I’m already reading.

It started with:

Ella Enchanted

The Phantom Tollbooth

Stonewords

Then came:

Harry Potter

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Cut

And then:

Beowulf

1984

The Silmarillion

By time I’m a junior and senior in high school, I’m choosing Moby Dick and Les Miserables to read for class projects. By time I graduate, I’ve read one hundred book in four years. By my senior year of college that list is over two hundred.

***

Nerds. There are different kinds of nerds. Video game nerds, computer nerds, movie nerds, sports nerds, theatre nerds, music nerds, etc. I am a book nerd. Many people may think it’s because I’m an English major, but there are English majors that don’t like to read. There are non-English majors that love to read. Being a nerd doesn’t have to do with what you do for a living, but it could.

***

I’m a sophomore in high school. “I’ve decided I want to be an English teacher,” I tell my guidance counselor. She tells me she thinks it’s a great idea. My English teacher asks me to read two books: The Alchemist and Pictures of Hollis Woods. They aren’t class assigned. It’s more of a test to see if they would be good books to assign later. And I’m the guinea pig. But it’s okay. She’s the reason I want to be an English teacher.

***

Reading so much also helped with my writing skills. Ever since I knew how to write, I always loved making up small stories. I remember being at my babysitters house and her encouraging me to write out any story I could think of. By the time I was in fifth grade I had created a complete story about ten super heroes who weren’t that super. Of course, it wasn’t that original. The general idea came from the movie “Mystery Men” and the villains were Mario and Luigi from Super Mario Bros. But as a first attempt, it was pretty decent. There have been several times where I tried to go and rewrite it, but I never got farther than the first few chapters before giving up.

***

Junior year. Along with a few assigned readings, our teacher assigns two reading projects where we can choose any book we want. First book has to be an author from America. I choose Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. The second book can be by any author. I choose Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. My teacher’s response, “You’re crazy.”

***

In high school my writing had flourished. I had left behind the super heroes and began to focus more on mythical creatures. My stories (or more like beginning chapters) starred half elves and fairies. Plots had also begun to be more distinct in my head. I would start writing a story knowing where I wanted to beginning to go, and how I wanted to end. The only part that was hard to figure out was the middle section.

The upside was that I had started creating a fan base. There were two guys I went to school with that liked reading what I had in my story notebook. Almost every day they would ask to look through, and I didn’t really mind but I did warn them that it wasn’t quite done. I also started writing Harry Potter fanfiction. Fanfiction is when you take the characters from a book you like and put them in a plot you created. I started by writing short stories, but eventually I wrote a 36 chapter story. I didn’t get a lot of reviews on it, so I didn’t think many people were reading it until I looked at my statistics to find I had over one thousand hits. Even today I still get e-mails from people marking my story as one of their favorites.

By the time I was finishing high school, I started to branch away from fantasy and go toward writing Teen fiction.

***

Senior year. I’m in my first AP English class. We’re assigned a similar project as the year before, except we have to choose books from the college preferred list. I choose Moby Dick by Herman Melville because it sounded like fun. I still want to be a teacher.

***

Half way through my freshman year of college I no longer want to be a teacher. I felt more mature than the rest of my class and couldn’t figure out why they were still acting like they were freshmen in high school. I changed my focus to writing. They saying goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.” I was determined to show that I could “do.”

Even with my focus changed, I still had literature classes. My friends changed from those that accompanied me through high school and I now hung around William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, Franz Kafka, and several others.

After several writing classes my craft has been honed, but, like every novice writer, it still needs work. My focus is Young Adult fiction, and my stories can still be categorized as either Teen Fiction or Fantasy. I’ve improved at the short story, and am getting better at the novel.

I still make space on my bookshelf for my old friends, and even though I do enjoy the classics now, I’m still a sucker for a good Teen or Fantasy novel every now and then. Those are still the books that influence my writing.