You ought to be a writer.
I heard this a lot from my mother. Isn’t that the person who usually starts the ball rolling? Of course, in third grade, writing didn’t sound like much fun at all.
“I don’t want to be a writer; I want to be a teacher.”
After all, it was teachers who helped my world hang together. It was teachers who were there day after day. And it was teachers, in the end, who got me reading. I discovered I could read at home and not be at home at all. I could be somewhere else.
By fifth grade, I had exhausted the children’s department and moved upstairs. The Indianapolis Public Library was one of those grand old buildings with Doric columns and marble floors that rang when I walked on them, even if I tiptoed. I would wander both adult floors, running my hands across the books and occasionally, I would even press my entire body against them, hoping the words would enter my body by osmosis. Then I discovered the plays.
The library had an entire section of pamphlet plays, mostly published by Samuel French, Inc. and the Dramatists Play Service. Colorful and easy to read, I entered the world of theater through those plays, watching the characters move around the stage in my mind. I could be any character; I could be every character. Best of all, I was in control.
As a result, my first writing success was a play I wrote about pen pals and Jack LaLanne. I believe it was called “Sincerely Yours, Katie.” (All of my characters had easy American sounding names, something I had long coveted after a grueling first grade where my endless name of eight letters seemed to extend from one edge of my desk to the other: Irmgarde.) I produced the play along with two of my friends and we performed it at school. I insisted everyone memorize their lines, wear costumes, and use real props. This wasn’t pretend, this was real. Oh yeah!
“I don’t want to be a writer; I want to be an actress.”