I was going through a box of old stuff the other day, and I ran across my very first ‘book’—Rainy Day Thing—a how-to about paper snowflake making.
I remember creating this book, back in 1979 in the weekly gifted class my school district bussed me to. I remember folding the snowflakes to use as examples in the book. I remember the smell of the rubber cement I used to glue them on the pages. I remember the excitement of making a real cover, and having my About the Author page laminated (Laminated! Can you believe that? This was back in the days when very few schools had laminators—we were still using mimeograph machines and chalkboards.) I even remember posing for the author photo in the school library.
I don’t remember writing my author bio, however, and 42 years later, I’m amused at what I wrote: Robinne Weiss likes to draw, play kickball, read and play baseball and play basket ball. She is 9 years old. She has a sister and a brother.
First of all, the grammar is shocking—no huge surprise there. My 9-year-old students are at least as bad. But writing isn’t on the list. (And basketball is? I don’t even remember playing basketball at that age.)
I know that I published my first poem at age nine, and at age ten I recited my poetry on the children’s television programme, Christopher’s Magic Cocoon.
I know that somewhere in those years, I wrote a poem for my dentist, and he hung it on the wall in the waiting room (much to my later embarrassment).
I know that I took a creative writing class in high school, and a poetry class at university. In my junior year of university, I wrote a children’s picture book (long gone, now), and published a few more poems in literary journals that no longer exist.
While in Peace Corps, I poured out poems, and even published a few, printed out at the Peace Corps office in Panama city and posted to magazines on my weekly trips to town. I started writing a novel (never finished).
As a Masters student in entomology, I answered essay questions in verse (I’m sure my professors thought I was nuts), and wrote regular articles for the PSU Entomology teacher newsletter, Bug Bits.
After graduation, as a professional heritage interpreter, I wrote articles for trade magazines and local newspapers (one even won an award). I wrote curriculum materials for teachers and other interpreters. I started writing another novel.
I’ve never not written.
But if you’d asked me if I was a writer, I would have said no until a few years ago. And when I did decide to close down my interpretation business to write, the decision was fraught with emotion, because even though I wanted to give writing a go, I wasn’t a writer.
I’m about to release my 11th book (not counting Rainy Day Thing). My writing has improved a great deal since 1979, and my covers are no longer made of wallpaper-covered cardboard. I no longer list baseball and basketball in my author bio.
But after decades of denial, I admit I’m a writer. And I’ve been one for a very long time.
Oh, and yes, I still remember how to make a paper snowflake. Maybe I’ll write a book about it someday.