There are many paths that lead to writing. Some people write because talent sprang from their fingers the moment they wrote their first poem. They knew they wanted to be a writer. (Not me!) Others tried their hand at writing in high school and became the editor of the school newspaper. What promise! But after graduation, life carried them along in new, practical directions that had nothing to do with writing, so writing simmered quietly on the back burner. They promised themselves they’d get back to it one day. Some never did. Others dusted off their writing ambitions when grandkids came along. Now they had a cherished audience to write for. (Still not me!)
So why did I start writing? The answer isn’t as lofty as I would like it to be. I often think it would have been cool if I’d been one of those colossal writing talents just waiting to be discovered. Then one day--viola! “My gosh!” someone would gasp, “Where has she been all this time?! The world has been waiting for someone like her to illuminate the world with her words.”
Ha! The truth is, no one was waiting for me to writing anything.
I unearthed my writing passion when I was a stay-at-home mother of three. Up until then, I’d earned my degree in Dance Education, subbed at my former high school, and been the secretary for everything under the sun--accountants, engineers, attorneys, school districts, and temp agencies. I’d made a career out of typing boatloads of everyone else’s stuff.
I’d always looked forward to marriage and motherhood, so it was a blessing to be able to stay home with my kids when they arrived. However, in between the loads of laundry, piles of dishes, and diaper changes, I longed for something separate from my role as mom and wife. I didn’t know what it would be, so with my precious snippets of time, I took a smattering of classes at community college--interior decorating, sewing, gardening, and canning. It was interesting, but not inspiring.
Then one day, I took a creative writing class--and a light bulb went on. What was this terribly wonderful thing that opened a door into my literary soul? Writing was one of the most challenging and exhilarating things I’d ever tried.
While I was home with my children, I’d also been reintroduced to children’s literature that I’d loved since I was a kid. I still remembered the day I checked out Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak from my elementary school and brought it home for my birthday celebration that night. Imagine! A boy surrounded by monsters. I couldn’t wait for my mother to read it to me. When I learned to read, my nose was always in a book and I spent countless happy hours at my local library. But I never imagined writing myself. Writing was something other people did that lived far away from my ordinary home on Jennie Drive.
Once I began writing, the more I wanted to write.
I’ve been writing ever since.
I write to see what develops. I write because there is a mountain and I’m determined to scale it somehow. I write to coax a thought into existence that unexpectedly catches its breath and magically flits away--a new thing in the universe. I write because it is a joy to get something right, like balancing a wooden spoon on the edge of bubbling pot. I write because it’s darn fun. I write because it makes me crazy. I write because it keeps me sane.
I write because life would not be the same without it.
Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s book author of more than 70 books and over 350 stories and articles. A member of SCBWI, Lori speaks at schools, SCBWI conferences, and has worked as a writing instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature for the past eight years. Recent picture book titles include Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, (Clarion, 2013), Cindy Moo (HarperCollins, 2012), Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Léon Foucault (Random House, 2010), and In the Trees, Honey Bees! (Dawn, 2009). To learn more about Lori and her upcoming books, visit her website at www.lorimortensen.com, or read her blog at http://lorimortensen.blogspot.com.
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