Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Write?

All the years I was in school, I loathed history classes. All of them. World history. U.S. History. Ancient history. Chinese history. South American history. It didn't matter. I despised them all.

While studying Ancient Rome in middle school, my teacher told us about Mt. Vesuvius erupting and covering Pompeii with lava and ash. People buried into time. He described how the city literally disappeared until it was discovered, accidentally, over a thousand years later. And then he went on telling dates, facts, and battles of Roman history.

But I tuned out. My brain was buried in Pompeii. I was creating a story - there in my head - about a twelve-year-old girl living in the shadows of Mt. Vesuvius. But I had to free myself of the story or I'd fail the class.

Several years ago, I began reading middle grade historical fiction aloud to my kids. Ancient Egypt in The Golden Goblet. Prohibition in Black Duck. Biblical times in The Bronze Bow. The Great Depression in Esperanza Rising. Turn of the century America in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.

I finally got it. Light beamed from the heavens. Sun poured through the forest's branches. History was a story. It wasn't a chronological time line stretching from then until now. It wasn't facts written into my notebook. And it wasn't a series of battles that changed society. For me, history became real when it became a story.

Reading middle grade historical novels changed my life. It grew a love of history and erupted my writing life. What is your writing muse? Your "I need to write" moment? Your "why I write" story?


  1. I write to get the voices out of my head and I love to make stuff up.

  2. Thank you, Jenny.

    BFav: I hear that. When characters start talking their stories, I can't help but write.


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