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08:19 am: Wright's Writing Corner: Raising A Writer

Today, our Guest Blogger,Ginger Kenney--a writer herself--discusses the joys and wonders of raising a writer.
 


Raising A Writer

I didn’t set out to raise a writer. Who would? Any responsible parent would want her child to be in a field where he could make a living, right? A doctor, maybe. Or a lawyer. Well, no, not a lawyer. A computer scientist, maybe.

 

Actually, I didn’t set out to place my children on any particular vocational or avocational path. I just wanted to raise good human beings who would have the opportunity to develop whatever passions and talents they had been given.

But on the other hand, I’ve always made up stories, even just for myself, even as a child. Long before I discovered that I could write my stories down, I began inventing stories for my son. 

When Adam was two years old, I took him to the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas.

(A small digression is in order here. Texans like to boast that they have the biggest and best of just about everything, and often enough, this is true. But the Kimbell isn’t like that. The Kimbell is the smallest and best museum I have ever visited. Its permanent collection comprises only about 300 works of art—one or two absolutely topnotch representatives of just about everything. Oh, and it’s also a great building. Go there. It’s worth a journey.)

Now how, one might ask, does one tour an art collection whose every item is worth looking at carefully, with a hyperactive two-year-old in tow? The answer is: it’s easy! Every picture tells a story—and this was Adam’s afternoon of story after story, all illustrated by the world’s greatest art masters.

Adam is now in his twenties and doesn’t remember the Kimbell. But when he was a senior at Brown, he created a capstone project called “The Museum”. It’s a hypertext fiction about a group of people who visit a museum, where every object they look at has its own story. Coincidence? You tell me.

When he was three or four, we went on a road trip to Prince Edward Island. At our hotel’s elegant dining room overlooking the ocean, there was only one way to keep an active young child still while we ate. I told stories, his favorite kind of stories, those where he could choose what happens next. And later had to explain to the couple sitting at the next table that, no, I was not an author. I had still never written a word. Little did I suspect.

At about that time, Adam started inventing “Tell You Where You Are” games for his friends. His best friends were the ones that would sit with him for hours while he invented stories for them to experience, stories that evolved in response to their choices. In college and beyond, Adam has explored his interest in interactive fiction in a number of school and extracurricular projects. (To see some of them, follow this link and click on “Works”.)

I started writing my stories down when a combination of a laptop computer and a job involving considerable travel landed me in too many hotel rooms too much of the time. When it came down to a choice between the stories on the television and the stories in my head, there was no contest. Particularly since by that time I had two young children who could enjoy the stories in my head when I came home again.

During the years from when Adam was nine until he was fourteen (and Margot was four to nine), I wrote about a dozen novellas, all somewhere in the domain of fantasy-scifi-speculative fiction. As audience and critics, my children helped me polish these works, sitting together at the kitchen table night after night, working on both ideas and wording. (And no, I never tried to publish them. Back then, that wasn’t the point.)

Both insightful and funny, Adam is still one of my best critics.

And he is submitting his short stories to some of the same magazines I am. I’m not taking any bets on which of us gets published first.

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Thanks so much, Ginger! 
 You can see her blog at: www.gskenney.com/ginger/ 

Also, visit Danielle Ackley-McPhail's blog for more insights on writing!




Comments

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From:damcphail
Date:September 23rd, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
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How very cool! Thanks for sharing that. I used to do the same thing when I went to bed at night, after I had finished a book I wished hadn't ended. I'd write myself into a continuation in my head. Go figure I ended up on this path!
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From:kokorognosis
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
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You know, it's funny.... My mother is a big reader, also does some writing, and my father is so dyslexic that his writing is nigh unintelligible. (Though the flip side of that is that he is absolutely brilliant in any sort of three dimensional design. He made the neatest lego spaceships for us.)But, when it comes down to it, it was my father who planted the story telling seed, and not my mother-- though, to be fair, my mother did put me through my paces and made me write stories constantly through my early homeschooled years.

The night before my first day of kindergarten (Prior to the homeschooling, I went to private school for K-3), I was unable to sleep due to nerves. When my father came into check on me, I was awake and complaining of being unable to sleep.

My father's solution? He lined my window sill with little green army men and told me to make up a cartoon in my head about them. It worked; I was entertained until I fell asleep, and the next night, I did the same thing.

I did that for a long, long time, in one way or another, and eventually cartoons became thinking about stories I was working on. I only stopped when adult life bit me in the butt and I found that I was too tired at night to keep my eyes open for more than thirty seconds of being horizontal.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
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That's cool. I wonder if something like that would work with Juss.
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From:kokorognosis
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
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Give it a shot; your children certainly sound imaginative enough for it.
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From:cdenmier
Date:September 23rd, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
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As a first-time parent (of a three-month old) I found this amusing. I've thought a bit about whether any of my children would want to write, but never took it back to the elemental level you did: it's not about making them like writing, it's about making them like stories -- it's about stoking that lively imagination that children have.

When I think of it, this is the reason I started writing: I kept coming up with stories and decided to finally start pulling some down into a more permanent form. I pray that my son has the same imagination that yours does -- good luck on publishing your stuff (and the same to your son).
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From:gingersea
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
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It's even more fundamental than making them like stories. I was going to say that it's about helping them to be comfortable with imagination as a means of expression, but having written this far, I think it's even more basic than that. It's about having them be comfortable with just exactly who they are.

And I don't say this lightly. Peer pressure is a terribly visible problem among children once they hit school age--especially in the middle-grade years. It's not so visible among us adults because so many of us have already been socialized.

It's not that "normal" (whatever that is) is "bad". But it stretches further than a person might think, and so providing a role model where the stuff from the inside is worth pursuing *no matter how unique it may be* may be one of the more important things we as parents can do.
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From:brni
Date:September 24th, 2009 04:34 am (UTC)
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Peer pressure is an awful thing. I wish I could say I was strong enough to resist it as a kid, but really I just could never figure out the rules. Anything that gives hope outside of the strictures of peer pressure is a wonderful gift to a child.
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From:bojojoti
Date:September 23rd, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for sharing.

When our children were pre-school age, my husband worked in several states, and we accompanied him. To entertain our children on the long drives, I made up stories for them. Most revolved around our family pet, a very mischievous and intelligent black cat. They were the best travelers as long as my voice held out!

Neither child became a writer, but there is always hope for a grandchild properly nurtured!
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From:gingersea
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
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I have a friend who made up stories for his children. Years later, his grown children asked him to write them down so that they could tell them to their children. And they remembered the stories much better than he did!

Where this ends up may be deep underground. But it is there. And perhaps the same is true for your children.
[User Picture]
From:brni
Date:September 24th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
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When I was a kid, we took a long trip to Europe - a good six months worth. Several months were spent on the top of a mountain in Austria, pretty much isolated from anyone and anything but the cows.

There was a TV show called Vickie the Viking that we looked forward to - the animation and storyboarding was good enough that we didn't need to understand the language. But it was only on once a week. The rest of the time, we'd torture my dad into spinning wild and implausible Vickie the Viking tales (no more implausible, if you look on youtube, than the actual plots).

That might not be the seed that led me here, but I wouldn't doubt it.

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