Ever read a book that’s as bright as morning sunshine? Bubbles with zest and ‘zing’ like a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade, with a touch of Tabasco?
William Garner’s Me, Boo, and the Goob is a book like that. It was one of the most original and entertaining novels we read all year. Here’s our review: How to Snort Sprite Out Your Nose, Southern Style, With ‘Me, Boo, and the Goob.
How does a writer come up with such memorable characters? What experiences helped shape his or her perspective and abilities? How and where does writing inspiration strike?
Author William Garner tells us this and more in this snappy guest post.
So pull up a chair. Put your feet up. Pour yourself a nice cold glass of whatever. Ready? Good! Take it away, Bill:
I have heard it said that a writer lives a tortured life. I’m not sure I agree with that. I didn’t begin as a writer. I began as a reader. As a child, my allergies were so bad that frequently I couldn’t go outside for recess and was sent instead to the library. There in the library, I consumed every book that caught my eye. In the third grade I read Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and The UDT. At some point, I became bored with the books in the stacks, and I discovered the World Book Encyclopedia and its accompanying Year Book. I actually read them A though Z. I read everything I could put my hands on. In the encyclopedia, I discovered not only the Titanic, but also the Sultana. I must have mentioned them to my parents because for my birthday, I received a book on each ship. Books are what I wanted for my birthday and Christmas. Forget model planes, give me books.
When I read, I could almost see the stories unfolding in my mind. I wondered about what the person in the story was thinking at critical times. I wondered what they could see or hear or smell as the action took place around them. I wondered if they noticed small details, or if they were panicked and glassy eyed. I could close my eyes and enter the story. Then, I could answer these questions.
Early in the fifth grade we were given a homework assignment to write an essay. We could choose any topic. I chose to write about the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II. I wrote a story about our agents, frequently girls, being parachuted into France in the dark of night from a plane flying through clouds. Can you imagine the courage it took to parachute into France?
I described the apprehension the agent felt as the plane took off. I discussed the growing fear as the plane flew across the English Channel. I described the jolt of reality brought home to the agent when the door of the plane was opened and the cold wind engulfed the plane’s cabin. I knew how the air smelled. With carefully chosen words, I surveyed the emotions and fears that the agent dutifully controlled as she stood in the door and looked out into the cold, cloudy, moonless night. The ride down beneath the canopy of the parachute was similarly detailed.
Becoming a Writer
I could write about these things because I could close my eyes and see the story. I could see the story because I had read about such mission. I received an “F” on that paper. My teacher, Mrs. Matthews, accused me of plagiarism. She, along with Mr. Smith, the Principal, told me that there was no way I wrote that paper, and that if it happened again they would have to have a conference with my parents. Plagiarism simply would not be tolerated.
We wrote another paper about a week later. Mrs. Matthews assigned the topic and we wrote during class. I don’t remember the subject, but I do remember Mrs. Matthews apologizing to me and revising my grade on the OSS paper. It was in that moment I knew that if I never became anything else, I would always be a writer.
A writer doesn’t necessarily have to lead a tortured life. A writer can lead a wonderful life. While Mark Twain focused on plain, clear English and well constructed stories, Edgar Allen Poe crafted his short stories with as much attention to the alliteration and sound of the words as to the story itself. Twain enjoyed life as much as any man while Poe suffered for his art much like Van Gogh suffered for his. Both found solace in libations of one sort or another. A writer’s life is perhaps as revealing as his writing.
In my lifetime I have been a cowboy, a carpenter, a diving instructor, a skydiver, and a successful Info Tech entrepreneur. I have climbed mountains and raced cars. I have worked in Search and Rescue and I have been a Weather Spotter. I rode a bull exactly one time. Through all the adventure and excitement that the river of my life has been, since the fifth grade I have always known one thing to be true: I will always be a writer.
Lemonade image credit: Public Domain