Monday, February 15, 2010

How High School Influenced My Writing Career

High school. sigh.

I went to one of the two "gifted" high schools in Baton Rouge. The other was Baton Rouge High. BRHS was distinguished by having a (really cool) radio station run by the students. My school was distinguished by having a (really nerdy) engineering program run by the engineers at Exxon (where my dad worked).

Not all us arts and literature geeks could go to BRHS. The school was only so big. And there might've been zoning issues, but it seems like a lot of my school friends lived clear on the other side of BR from me. So I don't know.

My point is this: There were some wickedly creative kids at my school. I mean blow your mind creative in art, literature, music, drama. There were also some serious nerds. (Says the girl wearing her "Team Zuko" t-shirt.)

I was always the quiet one back then, and being surrounded by all those kids who would deliver those completely out of the box ideas about literature and writing was very intimidating. The art kids were pretty amazing, too. And of course, I was always in awe of my big brother's dramatic stylings. We actually had a show choir at my school. He was in it, too. And it was cool.

What we did not have:
-Football players
-Team sports of any kind (other than intramurals)
-Hot guys... OK, there were a few. (Sorry, former classmates.)

What we did have:
-Lifetime sports, which included golf, ballet, and fencing (fencing?)
-Drafting class
-Piano lessons
-Amnesty International

Yep, that was my high school experience.

So like most writers, I've been writing all my life. My first graphic novel I wrote and illustrated when I was about seven. It was called Fury Woman, and it was about this pretty female scientist who accidentally dumped acid on herself or something. Well, it tranformed her into this hideous creature with giant black eyebrows and a protruding mole... I don't remember exactly what Fury Woman did, but I do remember my drawings of her and how much ink I wasted on those eyebrows.

The next book I wrote was illustrated by my best friend/sister (and fellow Airbender lover) Dara Rush Bartee, who is a fabulously gifted artist still. Back then she was just getting started. We were about eight or nine, I guess. That book was called Dignity and Detriment. I used the thesaurus to look up alliterative synonyms for Pride and Prejudice. I don't recall D&D having a lot in common with P&P, and I'm not sure why we went with that. I think I just liked the sound of the words, and Dara couldn't care less so long as she was getting to draw.

I didn't mind my unusual HS experience, but looking back, I realize that being surrounded by all that edgy creativity did get in my head. I decided I'd probably never write like Phillip Roth, so why bother? At my HS, you didn't settle. Instead, I spent the first 15 years of my career in editing and news writing. No books. Not me.

Is that an excuse? I don't think so. Just being honest.

Now, of course, I realize how silly that was. So listen up, high school kids, take it from a nerd: do what you love and don't look around and compare yourself. The world is full of different tastes, and you really don't know what you might do. You just gotta keep doing it. Keep putting pen to paper or fingers to keys or whatever.

And to my HS peeps, I love you guys and continue to be amazed by your creativity scattered all over the world as you are today. I'm esp. grateful for my musical education, and I love that art rock is making a comeback. As well as the new twist on the classic techno stylings of Kraftwerk. Good stuff.

Moral (Mom would say): You're only limited by you.


JRichard said...

No cheerleaders, too bad. Look, nobody writes like Philip Roth except Philip Roth. BUT, not a lot of folks (in the grand scheme of things) read Philip Roth. He has made much of his money from licensing for film (Goodbye, Columbus, The Human Stain). But, frankly, more people like you SHOULD read Philip Roth. Try The Counterlife, published in 1986. It is a good bridge between the early confessional Zuckerman works and the latter observational trilogy (American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and THS). I have a copy in paperback if you would like to read it. But I don't care so much for Kraftwerk.

LTM said...

you're wrong about Kraftwerk. But then again the only album of theirs I had was "Electric Cafe," and it was really Gregg's. Interestingly, it was released the same year The Counterlife was published... coincidence???

TeresaGaller said...

Can I get a witness? Hollaaaahhh! Counting myself extremely lucky to have taken ninth-grade English with Tim Parrish--who imprinted himself on my soul then went all New-England-literati-in-flannel. Looking forward to your stories and wishing you much success! Teresa

LTM said...

Mr. Parrish! Lucky girl. I had Ms. Clayton. (Thoughts kept to self.) I did, however, get to see the Lower Chakras perform at the Library that time. Good stuff~

Thanks, lady! :o)