When I was four, I read a book on my own for the first time. It was BAMBI. That was when I fell in love with the written word.
When I was eight, I wrote a short story called THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLDEN DOUBLOON, and I won the National Young Author’s Conference for my school, entitling me to go to State, and meet with other young writers. There, I also met Shel Silverstein; and as I sat on the carpet square, listening to him read from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, I realized that was a job–that someone paid him for his words in that book. That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer.
When I was nine, I had a teacher who made us look through a bunch of cards, which had job titles printed on one side and descriptions on the other. I was supposed to pluck my dream from them and pronounce my future plans… in the fourth grade. I read through all of them, but none of them said anything about fiction or poems like Mr. Silverstein wrote. None of those dreams seemed to fit. I did find “freelance writer”, however, and it was something to do with magazine articles. That was as close as I could find to what I wanted, so I picked that. When my turn came to share with the class, the teacher gave me a rather pitying look and said, “Oh, honey. That’s not a real job. Why don’t you pick something else?”
But I never did.
When I was fifteen, I wrote my first novel on a typewriter. I found books in the library about where I should send it, so I typed up my query letter, which was mostly, “Hi, I hear you publish books for teenage girls. I’m a teen girl, so I’m sure I know what they want to read. Here’s my novel!” Nine months later, at the age of sixteen, I got my first rejection.
From that point, until I was thirty-six, I got hundreds more. Some were kind, encouraging even. They told me to keep trying. The most crushing rejection (and yes, I have it memorized) was from a respected editor who said, among other things, “Miss Aguirre may wish rethink her desire to become a professional author.” That one almost drove me to do what I’d never even considered, not for one moment since I was nine years old.
To pick something else.
Yet I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Have you ever clutched a dream so fierce and tight that if you let go of it, you don’t know who you are without it? That’s me. Writing is my passion, my soul, and my central purpose. So after that soul-shattering rejection, I soldiered on.
And in 2007, I sold my first book. Since then, I’ve sold 30, give or take. But in my heart, I’m still a kid in love with words. I’m full of wonder at all the magical worlds I can find in the pages of a book, including the one created by Mr. Silverstein.
What’s your “in the beginning” story? What happened; and how old were you when you knew this was the dream you could never yield?