About Me

History of an Author: Part Two

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: About Me, My Writing | Tags: , , , , |

Last week, I trailed off by talking about how my writing developed through poetry, and then I shared a couple of poems here for your viewing pleasure. I think this week would be a good time to start talking fiction.

First, let me repeat that I have a very vivid imagination from years spent in childhood by myself, coming up with unusual one-person games, reading as many books as I could get my hands on, and generally being the kid that came up with all the fun games. As a result, I was the favorite cousin of my younger male cousins: Taylor and Matt.

I’ll allow a short diversion to say that their favorite game was something I came up with called “Captain.” It was rather convoluted, and with Taylor’s imagination (he’s now in college studying creative writing as a major – I’m so proud!) added into the mix, the game shifted constantly.

“Captain” was a game we played at my grandparent’s house. I was, of course, the Captain since I was the oldest, and Taylor, being second oldest, chose to play the role of Crockie, a talking crocodile who traveled with the Captain. Matt, as the youngest, was dubbed First Mate, which I think thrilled him because he had two names to go by and sounded official. The outside swing set served as our ship, which in our minds was a magical wooden boat with a forcefield around it, propelled by Crockie and First Mate on the swings, it sailed through water, air, and space to unknown destinations. (Sounds quite fanciful, doesn’t it?)

Our destinations were a number of places, generally made up or pulled out of Taylor’s collection of sci-fi teen novels. We hunted aliens, ran away from bogeymen, attempted to climb mountains, and operated covert missions, all from the humble backyard at the house my father and his siblings grew up in.

As you can imagine, my imagination was the guiding force for these games. So it’s no surprise that when I got into high school I wanted to take the one creative writing class my school offered. Unfortunately it wasn’t offered to freshmen as they typically weren’t considered good enough writers to get in. But I submitted the application and got in the second semester’s class my freshman year.

Ms. Holt was our teacher, and she taught this class that had all four grades taking it. There were different focuses throughout the semester including poetry, fiction, and scriptwriting, and being a high school class, it was very amateurish indeed. That’s probably a good thing, looking back, because of the students in the class, the majority of them were angst-ridden teens with the tendency to write dark, violent, suicidal poems and stories. (I’ll admit to being rather shocked by some of the things I heard in that class!)

Ms. Holt’s class is where I wrote my first short story. It was a very short story now that I think back, but it was such fun to plan. I remember not knowing exactly what to write about, and it was our big assignment for the fiction segment of the class.

I ended up writing something I titled “The Indy 500 Massacre,” which was, as you can probably guess, a mystery. I don’t remember my characters’ names, but I do remember the synopsis of the story and the twist that I threw in after consulting my mom.

The story began with a murder victim and my murderer, who had a peculiar fascination with the Indy 500 race. When this murder victim was found, most of the detectives had no idea what could have been used to kill the man. Thus, I introduced my main character: a detective with an eye for details. He was the one, of course, who proposed that the murderer had stabbed the victim with an icicle. (Yes, a little fanciful, but it’s high school!)

More murders happened, of course, but the most interesting part of these other murders is that they were ruled natural deaths. My poor detective ran himself ragged trying to figure out how the murders connected to a betting pool around the Indy 500. Eventually, and almost too late, he discovered that these so-called natural deaths were truly murders being performed through injections of a substance called physostigmine. This particular drug (according to my mother) has the effect of slowing down the heart rate until the heart eventually stops beating. It leaves the blood stream in 10 minutes, is untraceable unless by some coincidence a blood vessel ruptures, and makes it look as if a heart attack was the cause of death.

My detective discovered, of course, that the identity of the killer could only be one of two possible people. And, then, the killer just happened to show up, having figured out that the detective was too smart to not see the connection. Long story short: a poorly aimed bullet and a very determined detective managed to trap the killer, stopping the murders and saving the day!

I look back at that poorly written piece and see how much I’ve changed in my writing over the years. The style is just being developed, the vocabulary desires much growth and fleshing out, the timing is stilted at best. But it’s my first short story, and I’ll never let anyone else read it, but I’ll keep it to prove I’ve improved.

To be fair, for a high school freshman, a plot like that’s somewhat impressive. We were allowed to send our stories around to different students to get their critiques as part of our grade, and I’ll never forget what one girl wrote on my story.

“Great story! I really liked the whole murder mystery thing. It’s a little disturbing that you know so much about killing people. But I know you wouldn’t!”

Do you have any amusing responses to things you’ve written? I’ve gotten several over the years, and it’s always with great entertainment that I let people read my work and ask for feedback.

-Rae-

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History of the Author

Posted on March 2, 2010. Filed under: About Me, Poetry | Tags: , , , , |

Since I’m doing some more themed posts for the month of March, I thought it would be fun to regale you with tales of my own writing history. Or at least to give you an idea of how I started writing.

For Tuesdays I thought I’d post a little of my own history as a writer for your viewing pleasure. So if it bores you, feel free to read the other posts and ignore the Tuesday ones! 😀 But it’s a little more about me as an author and what I’ve done over the years.

With no further ado, let’s begin!

I’ll go ahead and say that I’ve been a reader from a very early age. I had Peter Rabbit memorized by the time I was 2, and I’d literally stop my mom in the reading if she skipped a part of turned ahead a page. Apparently I was very dedicated to Beatrix Potter’s characters, especially if they had the name Peter.

So I grew up on books like Peter Rabbit, The Monkey and the Crocodile, and Adventures in the Big Thicket. As far as I know, we still have those three books as well because I couldn’t bear to part with them. I figure if I ever have kids I’ll read those same stories to my children.

But my love of reading was fed by parents who like to read and grandparents who love to read as well. And it blossomed mainly due to the fact I’m an only child. With no brothers or sisters to interrupt or play with, I contented myself with reading lots and lots of books as a child and playing make believe on my own. I credit my zany imagination to hours and hours of alone time as a child when I’d come up with story lines that had more complexities to them than what most children dream up.

So if you’re wondering what kind of kid I was, that should give you a clue, but couple it with a perversely outgoing personality, and I was a bit of a handful. I was always thrilled to go to school and daycare and whatnot because there were other kids around; the downside to this was those kids didn’t have the same imagination or vocabulary as me because I was always around adults. Either way, I enjoyed myself, and I learned quickly how to entertain myself in the absence of excessive TV or other playmates.

But my reading bug was something I’ve held onto, and out of that grew a love of writing. Of course, it didn’t really start till I was in middle school. Like a lot of people, I had problems in middle school. It didn’t help that I attended a private Christian academy with very few other students because I managed to become the school outcast.

Can you guess where this is going?

I’ve read that many writers began their craft under great duress, producing beautiful works that draw tears and evoke painful emotions because the writer himself was going through such hardships. Perhaps it’s a bit of a romantic notion to put myself in the same class considering I started as a seventh grader who was incredibly depressed, but I’ll throw in my own frustrations here.

By seventh grade, I’d already been the school outcast for two years, had more people gossiping about me than I cared to experience, and even incurred the wrath of teachers who saw my eagerness to please as vanity. I was the smart kid, too, always bringing in the highest grades and getting on the Principal’s List. And like many smart kids, I learned it was a double-edged sword. No one likes the kid all the teachers praise.

So I started a journal in seventh grade. I still have it, too. It was this bright green, half-inch binder full of notebook paper that I covered in stickers and wrote messages that no one could read what was inside. I’ve flipped through it since then, and it’s amazing what things I wrote. No, I didn’t come up with profound insights about life or anything like that, but I did write remarkably clearly about my frustration and pain.

And when the time came that I really suffered more than I had before, I began writing something different: poetry. Yep, tattoo a couple of stereotypes on me because I surely fit them! But in all honesty, poetry became my outlet when I was hurting and unable to tell anyone about it, and it grew from there.

Now I’d say I have a couple hundred poems I’ve written since then, and my style’s improved dramatically. I started out writing free verse, which I know sometimes catches the more critical eyes as showy and amateur, but I fell in love with it. And my own writing style really fits free verse because it’s a creation of rules by the author rather than someone else. (I’ll post later about how rules and I don’t get along according to my personality type.)

Eventually my poetry writing tapered off, but I still write the occasional poem, and it comes so much easier to me than those first poems did. Though I admit to having a few poems that wrestle with my brain, taking several days to write.

The thing about poetry is that I write it for myself. It’s the one thing I write solely for myself, and it’s the one part of my writing that really bares who I am. I can hide myself in other forms of writing, but poems bring out my vulnerability, insecurity, low self-esteem, and fears in ways that are almost palpable. And I’ve been told my poems also tend to draw those feelings out of others as well.

But I’m going a little too far in this post, so I’ll end it by saying that poetry, for better or for worse, is where my writing adventures began. It’s my first love in terms of writing, and I’ll always have a fondness for it.

Where did you begin? Was it writing journals and prose? Or did you start in poetry, too? Let me know!

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Things In My Room

Posted on February 12, 2010. Filed under: About Me, My Writing | Tags: , |

I have to admit; posting on a daily basis is causing me to reach for topics that relate to my initial concept of writing and reading related blogs. It’s not the easiest thing to come up with, especially since I’m not as interested in following the media for inspiration as I am simply letting the things around me inspire my ideas.

With that in mind, I have to say the picture of me in this room would make for at least a simple scene in a story. Setting it up for something exciting or dreary would be easy enough. I’m going to be silly today and write my post with a small writing exercise based on the things in my room.

The ticking of the wooden clock above the desk is too low to hear in the midst of murmuring technology. A laptop set in front of a larger monitor is silent but for the tapping of nails across the keys. To the right, two computers battle to see which can be loudest; the hum is soothing and familiar.

At the left, the door opens to the hallway, cream-colored carpet and stark white walls empty of decoration but for the circular smoke detector with its unblinking, red light and the small picture in a cherry wood frame. Inside the room, the carpet shifts to blue with no transition while the walls remain white.

The light-colored wooden desk sits awkwardly against the wall. It seems skeletal despite being covered with the requisite items of necessity. Along the top lie a row of similar books with uniform sizes and titles. Their colorful patterns brightening up the area. Atop the books perch two figures: a stuffed Snoopy from the Peanuts gang that once held a miniature Whitman’s chocolate box, and a rather bug-eyed, bobble-headed Darth Vader complete with red lightsaber and extending arm.

Along the front of the books lie various odds an ends. A planter converted into a pincushion has a variety of colorful pins adorning her pink ‘nightcap’ with her flowing gray curls falling out from underneath. She hides behind a yellow index card that manages to obstruct the view of a hand-painted blue glass. More index cards hide the jars of coins stemming out from this vision while a little further along the shelf sits a tiny gong.

She taps away with vigor, not noticing the day slipping away.

If messy eccentricity were enough to make an author, the combination of merely the few books and other trinkets on the shelf would condemn the woman sitting in front of the laptop, nails tapping away in quick succession as the world passes her by.

Aside from the fact that wasn’t done very well and I only paused to change one word after finishing, I’m just going to leave it as is. It’s not really enough to draw you in in my opinion, but at the very least, there’s enough offered up from the items on my shelf to make you potentially wonder what books I’ve stored there, why I have the figures I do, and what else might be on my desk.

For anyone who cares to know, if I continued with this, I might write about the Coca-Cola tin filled with notes from friends, the presence of Democratic donkey keychain, the Nebraska Book Company pink highlighter complete with bright grinning face, and the gigantic jawbreaker that cost $0.95 and is reminiscent of childhood lollipops.

There’s a plethora of things just on my desk I could probably write about if I were inclined to do so. I think that’s one of the advantages of being a writer: we see stories where others see objects. In my world, and not my fantasy one at that, everything has a history: from the Snoopy doll to the tin of notes on my desk. It’s just a matter of matching the history to a plot that gives you something worth writing about.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Critiques on my writing? Feel free to leave them here.

-Rae-

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Welcome to The Book Wyrm

Posted on January 27, 2010. Filed under: About Me, About This Blog | Tags: , , , , , , |

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve found your way to my blog, and I welcome you here. The Book Wyrm is my place to talk about all things writing, reading, and otherwise books.

My name is Rae Reneau, and I have some experience in both the writing and reading that I refer to. I’ll summarize. I’ve been reading since I was very young and have collected quite a few novels over the years that I reread with gusto when I’m experiencing a dearth of new, good fiction. In addition, I always have at least a few books on my to-read list, and I’m generally always reading at least one book, if not two or three.

While I don’t have a background in English (owing to my own decision to study business administration in college), I do have a bit of a background in journalism. Originally I was a journalism and business major and took classes in both fields of study. I’ve also worked in newspapers, most notably (or not) at my community newspaper where I served as a stringer for a year, writing stories about community events and drilling out front-page stories with some effort.

I’ve been writing for years now. It started mainly in middle school with a journal I kept, developed into writing poetry, and eventually manifested in a desire to write fiction. To that end, I began working on writing short stories, fanfiction (to my detriment), and novels.

For the past two years, I’ve been a member of NaNoWriMo, the one place I’ve felt truly at home with other writers. National Novel Writing Month is one of my favorite times of the year, and after having survived to win in 2009, I’m trying to actively pursue writing with more enthusiasm now.

So to make it simple, here is my plan. I’m going to join NaBloPoMo for the month of February 2010 in the hopes that I’ll actually develop a habit of regular blogging. I intend to make my posts writing or reading oriented and focus particularly on my rather extensive (read: 30+) book list.

If you’re still interested after all that, sit back and enjoy. I’m here to entertain.

-Rae

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