Where we began

0615092011I had a coworker over for dinner the other night because she wanted to learn how to make gumbo. As a fellow lover of cooking, Julia and I agreed that I would teach her some Cajun dishes if she could show me how to do some authentic Italian dishes. I didn’t worry about the fact that I had never actually made a gumbo yet (only red bean gumbo, which is different), but I have never really failed at cooking yet, and I figured with the success of other Cajun dishes, it would be fine.  It was delicious, as determined by Julia, my boyfriend, and the other coworkers I brought samples in for, so was pretty happy. I also was fair to them and kept the spice levels down (although I added more later to the leftovers because I can’t ever have too much Tony’s or Tobasco sauce).

This isn’t about the gumbo though. Julia is also a writer, and we often talk shop on different ideas, writing styles, and the like. I even shared with her a story I wrote in high school that was a hit with my family (and that also helped me earn class credit for my college application) called Cajuns, Crabs and Comfort. What was great about Monday night was going back to where we both began as writers.

I shared with her my two Young Authors books, these little stories some students would write as a library project in elementary school. You would write a short story, illustrate it, and moms would come in to type them up and bind them. My second grade story was about my first dog, Rocky. A year later, I modeled a story The Babysitters’ Club series, naming the girls in my “job-care club” after my cousins, drastically improving upon my illustrations, and using big words and lengthy dialogue. Julia had a good time ribbing me about these books, but it was funny to think of how far I’ve come as a writer. I keep those books because they are a reminder of where I started – of my first achievements. I also still have my first-ever published article- a story about my neighbor who served in WWII, and that was one of 6 student stories chosen to be published in the local paper. Julia and I both knew we wanted to be writers at the age of four or five, and except for us each having a slight detour of the imagination in high school down another career path, we’ve stuck with that dream ever since.

Now, we’re both working in online communications at a non-profit. It may not be exactly where we envisioned ourselves, but we’re still writing. And we both know that someday, we’ll be doing what we always thought we’d be doing on a more full-time basis. Julia hopes to write children’s books, and I hope to write a book and maybe be a writer for a magazine.

There was a time when I couldn’t rest from writing poetry and fictional stories. I wrote fake newspapers about my family and stories for my cousins. I wrote endless lists of the titles of the books I was someday going to write. Of course, much of this was when I was younger, and didn’t have a job, or a boyfriend, or other things I was involved in. But, everytime I look at those little bound books on my shelf, I remember where I came from, and remember that my bio from back then still rings true: my favorite food is still macaroni & cheese, I still love baseball, and I still want to be an author when I grow up.

Where did you begin?

2 thoughts on “Where we began

  • You neglect to tell your audience that while I did tease you about near-plagiarism of the Babysitters Club series, I was also VERY impressed by your attention to detail, character development, and vocabulary at such a young age.

    So *I’m* telling them so they don’t think I’m really mean and ungrateful and show up to people’s homes just to eat their gumbo and destroy their childhood dreams.

    And I’m also telling them they should show up at your home to eat your gumbo, read your stories, and talk to you about writing. Because it made for an evening that fed the body and the heart — the best kind of hosting!

    Thanks again for a wonderful dinner and an even better blog post, Jenna. Let me know when you and Dan are coming for your lesson in Italian cookery.

    P.S. Look for a response post on my blog this week!

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  • I began as a 15 year old girl writing 3 stories a day in a little yellow notebook. They were mostly full of teen angst. I would write in the margins of the pages, on the cover, anywhere, because I saved every penny of my money for the moment in which I would need it to make my dreams come true.

    I read Michael Moore and Ralph Nadar books in my spare time. I now make fun of these people and use a computer to write. Things change, but I don’t believe people change very much or very often.

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