Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Only Thing I Ever Really Wanted

Weekend Assignment #77: What do you want to be when you grow up?

This can be answered one of two ways: You can answer by saying what you wanted to be when you were a kid, or, you can answer by saying what you still want to be, one day, one way or another. It's up to you.

Extra Credit: What did your parents want you to be when you grew up?

One guess: then and now, the answer's pretty much the same.  I want to be a successful writer.

Tuffy isn't what I had in mind.Okay, I'll admit that there was a time, back around fifth grade, when I wanted to be a veterinarian.  Once I realized that involved blood and guts and dying animals, and that I was allergic to feathers, cats and horses, I decided to be a dog breeder instead.  My dream was to take the largest pomeranians I could find, and breed them back up to sled dog size.

But the writing has been part of my life almost since I learned to read.  I remember trying to type a poem on a paper plate, way back in first grade.  I thought it would look pretty that way, like a plaque.  By second grade, I already had my first rejection slip, from Jack & Jill Magazine.  I can still recite the rejected poem verbatim, but I don't think I'll inflict it on you tonight. 

In third grade I wrote a series of haiku about spring, and a poem about the digestive tract, which Miss Olds bowdlerized.  My original poem concluded with, "Then through the intestines/And out at the end."  It was amusing, and it scanned.  The edit by Miss Olds wasn't and didn't, but she meant well.

In fifth grade, I wrote blank verse about Jesus, and by junior high I was probably writing the beginnings of short stories that always fizzled after a page.  In high school, I wrote a few not-very-good songs, attempted a story about an alien who didn't understand why humans felt the need to keep secrets from each other, worked on a "Mary Sue" Star Trek screenplay, and actually completed a short story about a disc jockey who doesn't kill himself.  "The Disc Jockey" was rejected by Atlantic Monthly.  Think I aimed a little high?  Yeah.  I do, too.  Early notes for The Tengrim Sword.That was the same year Ed Ferman of Fantasy & Science Fiction rejected my terrible Mâvarin poem. 

pages of Mages.It was also in high school that I first attempted to write a full-length novel.  The Simian was to be about a man who gradually turns into an intelligent ape.  I remember working on it at the same time I was reading The Odyssey for class.  I didn't get far with The Simian, but its themes of transformation and alienation reappeared in the first scene of the next novel I started.  In those first typed pages, a boy named Rani met a monster called a tengrim [sic], killed it, and became a tengrim himself.  I attempted an outline, made lots of notes, and even got my neighbor to draw a map.  The working title of the book was The Tengrim Sword.

Nowadays, I call it Heirs of Mâvarin.

Rani.Thirty years have passed, and Rani still haunts my imagination.  The book is essentially done--I finished it fourteen years ago, aside from all the rewrites--but somehow I can't seem to get a block of time to enter the last few edits and corrections.  Nevertheless, this is what I care about in terms of career, personal fulfillment, self-actualization and whatnot.  I will get that book published.  This Karen swears.  And I don't mean a blip of a paperback, hitting the stands for a few weeks and then disappearing forever.  I mean that book to find an audience, and slip in and out of print for the rest of my life, supplemented by the sequels.  If it stays in print continually, that's all right, too.

On the "successful writer" front, I have made a few professional sales over the years, including some music articles and reviews, profiles of actors and a producer for Starlog, and four series of Doctor Who trading cards.  But I never really got anywhere near the dream of owning a bookstore and writing novels and screenplays between customers.  I did co-own a store once, but I don't think I ever hauled my Coronamatic typewriter down to Rockarama to get some writing in.

It doesn't matter.  I needed a real job, and it took me decades to find a suitable one.  It turns out that this ex-English major really enjoys accounting.  Figuring stuff out, improving spreadsheets and discussing accounting issues with colleagues is actually fun for me, most of the time. Who'd a thunk it?  That's the main reason I really do like my current job a lot.  Beats the heck out of owning a used bookstore.

a textbook and one of my Mages notebooks.But you know what?  The music and sf television-related non-fiction, the blogging, the good job I have now and the one that came before it, even the CPA designation that may still lie in my future...they're all nice, but they aren't what really matters to me.  My real career goal doesn't involve any of those things.

No, the one thing I want to be when I grow up is a published novelist, specifically the celebrated author of the Mâvarin novels. I don't have to be the next J. K. Rowling, but I'm determined to find an audience for the novels: thousands, possibly millions of people who are intrigued by Fayubi and hiss at Imuselti. If I don't get Rani and Carli and Cathma out into the world on their mass-produced pages, if only a few friends ever read their adventures, then I have wasted my talent and betrayed my characters. It would not be a life well-lived.  Period.

Please, God, let me sell these books!

Extra Credit: I don't think either of my parents ever inflicted any career goals on me.  However, it's true that when I was in college and shortly afterward, my mom used to say, "I think it would be fun to be a night auditor at a hotel."  I thought she was out of her mind!  Me, the English major, become a bookkeeper and work with numbers instead of words?  That's supposed to be fun?  Little did I know...!


Welcome to Mâvarin


cyndygee said...

Interesting where life takes us sometimes.

I PRAY you have at least one full-length book published.  I think that would make you feel successful, although I believe the success is in the JOURNEY!

All the Best,

ryanagi said...

I finished book working on book 2. One day soon I'll email you my comments. LOL

ondinemonet said...


I loved this entry. I have some pretty amusing stories from my attempts at writing when I was a child as well. God, it's like you and I grew up together...miles apart. Amazing. Delightful. One thing to remember and say to yourself daily..."YOU ARE A SUCCESSFUL WRITER." Just because you aren't on a shelf yet, doesn't mean there isn't a fabulous future New York Times bestseller just waiting to happen! :)

Love, Carly :)

cneinhorn said...

you were born to be a writer karen!


gaboatman said...

I just hope you offer your friends here in J-Land a chance to purchase a signed first addition when the Mavarin novels are published.  Notice I said when and not if!

monponsett said...

Send Scalzi this entry with a note: "If you want to see the Akita alive again, I'd suggest sending hardcover copies of the 'Old Man's War' series to a to-be-determined location." He'll check every room in the house... then try to act like he wasn't worried. You may get 2 free books out of it.