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Why I Write

Jack London’s portable typewriter, House of Happy Walls Museum, Jack London State Historic Park. Photo by Author.

When I was ten years old my Aunt Shirley gave me $5.00 for cleaning her living and dining room, a fortune. Cash in hand, she accompanied me to the drug store and stationer where I purchased a Garfield diary complete with a miniature lock and key. My first shopping excursion and personal purchase.

In the small book I began recording my observations and obsessions, which focused largely on girls that would play with me and boys that I found attractive. I wanted to write to remember, I worried that with all the events and situations of even one 24-hour period, I would forget what really happened. As I grew older and my years on the planet increased, my anxiety that I would lose my memories grew. I wrote first-person observations, stories about situations within my family, and learned to write poems with the California Poets in the Schools program. In high school my classmates and I wrote essays and our first rudimentary research papers. I also submitted articles for the town and high school newspapers. I loved meeting and interviewing people, being treated like an adult, and seeing my byline in print. Fiction was my preferred genre, followed by features highlighting impressive and successful people. In college I wanted to hone my short story craft, as well as publish poetry.  I dreamed of publishing a book of stories or a novel by the time I was 30 years old.

My Aunt Shirley and me, Owens River. Photo by Wanda Zeigler.

My third decade came and went and though I published in small literary magazines, I was not finding a publisher for a collection of stories. I started writing groups wherever I lived and began teaching writing workshops from home on nights and weekends. I treated myself as an author, even if I did not always feel legitimate. Then came the indie makers and independent authors movements. Instead of giving big publishers most of the royalties, authors are empowered to take control of their creative output. With the popularity of eBooks, access to print on demand, professional editors, and coaches, I eventually published my book and realized my new dream: to use the power of the word and story to understand and influence others to make mutually beneficial and healthy decisions as we reckon with a changing planet.

Self-portrait, Alabama Hills, Owens Valley.

I write now to understand where it’s all going, to imagine different futures for myself and others, to play with time, space, and possibility. In my head and on the computer screen, I can create worlds and characters that respond to the natural and human-built world in various ways, and test the systems of fiction to see what resonates – first for me, then for my readers. Fiction reading builds empathy and deep understanding, and that’s what we need to adapt to the heat, the fires, the floods, the tornadoes, and the wild emotions of being a human at this time in our planet’s history.

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