When I was a little girl, I liked to write. I was a creative kid and I loved books. I loved reading, and music, and poetry. I loved movies. Still do.
I love words, you know? The nuances of language and the power of the human ability to be vocal. I love the way we say "I love you," and the way we say "Good job." I even love the powerful words we use to express less pleasant things like "I hate that," or "I loathe you." I love the way words have the power to go into our ears, soak into our minds, and sink right down into our hearts. I love the way words can inspire or destroy. The way they make us feel.
I love words. I've been that way all my life, right from the beginning. During the day, I made plans (yes, even as a child) to go to school to become a lawyer. I wanted to use words to protect the innocent, to bring the hand of justice down on the guilty - because I had seen, even at such a young age, what it looks like when justice is not served, and the innocent are not as safe as they should be. I wanted to argue my case, and I wanted a chance, finally, to win it. I wanted to use words as a tool, to make a living on what I would say in that closing argument, what I would ask as I questioned a criminal. I wanted to see them break under my words, I wanted to see that breaking rebuild the spirit of the injured. I wanted to create magic with words, to create bars around the monsters of the world, to create wings under the fallen. During the day, I wanted to use words as my strength, because I hadn't ever felt heard. I wanted to use words as my power, because I hadn't ever had any.
But in the night (yes, even as a child) I wanted to explore love and sexuality and the powerful emotions that flow through the human heart as one human connects to another. In the most girly little-princess places of my heart, my favorite songs were always love songs, and my most favorite movies were almost always romantic comedies. I loved the witty banter, the power of the woman, and that moment where the man realizes he needs her.
I love the way words are art, and they evoke feeling in the exact same way as a painting or a sculpture. I love that I can take words and mold them, craft them, use them to create something from me that does something in you.
My first romance read was called Love Only Once, by Johanna Lindsey. My father bought it for me - I think I was in fourth grade. I'm sure he didn't know what was in it - my mom isn't all that much of a reader, and while my father would read to learn, I never saw him read for fun. Certainly, he wasn't reading enough to know what was between the covers of the book he bought me.
I read that book in one day, two sittings. I spent the afternoon reading it, falling in love with a headstrong young girl named Regina. She had a strong family that loved each other, a good support system, and she knew she mattered to the people around her. She had an uncle who adored her. She had cousins that she loved, who loved her. But she met a man (of course), a troublemaker (aren't they all), and he changed the entire course of her life by complete and utter accident. He was headstrong too, but had his own sense of dignity and strength that made him unbelievably attractive to me. Maybe as my first romance hero, he was supposed to be the character that made me fall in love with the "bad boy," but he didn't. He made me understand that every bad boy, no matter how bad he is, has a good side somewhere inside him. He made me see the other side of what makes people "bad" in the first place, and his vulnerability made me love him. His name was Nick.
At one point in the book, Regina was furious with him, and she called him a Bastard. Well, the book was a historical romance ... and he was a Bastard, a fatherless boy, a man without the leading example of a good father to teach him well. And it hurt him, but I felt it.
There was so much more to that book though, so much depth of feeling, so many pretty flowery words. I love the old language, the way people tended to say and express everyday things in beautiful ways. I fell in love with words while I read that book, in a much deeper way than I already had - and that book made me want to write my own stories.
I got my head in the clouds. I dreamed of a book cover with my name on it, a story that I had made up, characters that I had brought to life. I dreamed of seeing my book in a store, seeing someone pick it up and read the back, maybe frowning slightly as they read. I dreamed of smiling silently to myself as I watched them decide, as I watched them pay for the words I had crafted. I didn't need to know that they would see me and know me, that they would exclaim over me or recognize me. I just needed that dream, that feeling of knowing that my words, however few, might mean something to someone in a way that they never had before.
I read that book countless times, and so many others. By fifth grade, I was enrolled in a mail-order book box club from Harlequin, a gift subscription from my mother. They'd send me four books a month, usually with some sort of wine glass or other trinket, and I treasured those books almost more than anything else I owned. I'd read them over and over, organize and reorganize them.
I didn't know then how far gone I was, how hard I'd been bitten by the "writing bug." I mean, I'd write sometimes, a poem, or a bit of a song, or twenty pages or so of one novel or other that never got finished (I still have some of them, the pages printed in bold black comic sans). I'm not even sure I was old enough or mature enough to mean anything by it yet, not even when I pridefully insisted to Cornell Tulloch in fifth grade at Woodward Elementary School that I would be a famous writer by the time sixth grade started up in the fall. But I'd been bitten, and man, was my head in the clouds - and I'm sure a part of me did mean it, too, because it stuck with me.
By sixth grade we didn't know each other so well anymore and had drifted into different crowds. He only spoke to me once in middle school, to remind me that I hadn't done it and that I owed him for the lost bet between us. I told him I needed more time, and that just because I hadn't done it yet, that didn't mean I wasn't going to do it. When I found out a few years ago that Cornell had passed away, I cried for the boy I knew, and I smiled at the memory of the $10 bet I never got to pay up on. By then, I had written my first book, and my second, and they were both selling well - but we hadn't been in touch in many years, and I hadn't thought of him in a long time. Still, there was his name on a news website - two words. Cornell Tulloch. And my heart ached.
My head is still in the clouds, although now there's so much more to it than that. Do y'all remember that scene in Mary Poppins, the one where the old man was laughing so hard he floated up to the ceiling and he couldn't get down unless he thought of something sad? I have always been deeply touched by the poetic symbolism in that scene. Happy = high, and sad = low. I like to think that these days, I'm floating somewhere in between, too much of a dreamer to have my feet too firmly on the ground, but much too realistic now to be completely in the clouds. I want my writing to succeed now, not because I need to prove something to the world, or because I want to be rich and famous and live in a mansion. It isn't because I need recognition or acceptance, and it's not because I need to be heard. Not anymore.
It's to create a future my children can believe in. To pay the rent (or the mortgage), to buy my daughter her first clunker. To send her to college if she wants to go, or to help her set up her first apartment if she chooses another career path. To buy her prom dress without skipping the phone bill, to take her on vacation to celebrate her high school graduation. I'd like to be able to do those things with both of my daughters - because I'm a mother now, and I want to see them well provided for. But it's deeper than money, too ... so much deeper.
My daughters are dreamers like their mother, and one of them has this quiet little fantasy of a career that'll let her travel the world, that'll let her see and explore and take note of this beautiful planet we live on. She wants a camera in one hand and a plane ticket in the other. And I want her to believe that her dreams are possible, even as I encourage her to have a backup plan.
I don't want to just tell my children that the sky is the limit, and that they can be whatever they want to be. I don't want to feed them meaningless encouragement that we both know neither of us believe in. No, I want to show them that it's possible, to show them I believe - not just in me, but in them. I want to show them that hard work leads to success, and I want to show them that no door is closed to them. I want them to believe me, because they see me. I want them to be proud of the mother who attempts every day to lead them by example. And when I speak to them, I want my words to have power over them, to inspire them to create dreams of their own, to motivate them to work hard toward those dreams, to help them feel confident and capable of achieving their own version of success.
And I still want that for myself, too. So I'll keep my head in the clouds, and I won't ever come all the way down. I'll dream, and I'll encourage my children to dream with me. I'll press on, and I'll continue to believe. And I'll write. Because above it all, aside from the rent and the college tuition and the cars and the cameras, there are the words. And whatever they bring me, I'll love them always.
Until next week,