My teacher had asked me if I could write about something other than ponies. He seemed to think I could branch out a little. What he didn't realize is that I had challenged myself to write a pony or a horse into every single English class assignment. I was really doing great with my goal. I told him I planned to write about horses. All the time. It's what I do. I don't remember if he had an answer for that.
On the last day of summer, I'd been out in the pasture field with my two little pony mares. I patted their necks and ran my fingers through their thick black manes. I explained to them that I had to go to school, and wouldn't be able to spend the whole day with them. But I could still come out and see them after school. It wouldn't be so bad.
Writing about them all day eased the pain of parting, just a little bit. It made me feel like I was still with them, while I sat there in the white classroom.
So I told my Daddy every little detail of this epic story I was planning on writing. The horse in it was probably wild, since I'd been reading lots of wild horse epics at that time. He listened patiently, although now I wouldn't be surprised if he'd only heard half of what I said. Eventually my babbling slowed (maybe I had to hand him a tool or something) and I asked, "Daddy, do you think anybody would read a book written by a nine year old?"
I don't think he even looked up when he answered. "Maybe by a thirty nine year old."
Looking back now, as a thirty eight year old, I'm kind of thinking his answer was everything at once: crushing, motivating, realistic, and disappointing. At the time, I was silently defiant. I made up my mind that somebody, somewhere, don't care when, is going to read my book!!! And I am not going to wait until and thirty nine!!!
But on the way here, like a lot of girls, I got sidetracked. I fell into that sucking hole of self esteem that so many teenage girls fall into. I didn't believe in myself. I still wanted to write... I secretly wrote my poems and kept journals, invented stories, but only held onto that goal as something far away. Other people achieved the title of "writer," not me. Not sad lil me.
It never left.
After the schooling and wedding and birth, the kid with the braids in her hair and pony dirt on her hands was still there. She never grew up. When the baby slept, I started typing a long story about a pregnant woman and her toddler and her husband and a whole field full of other people's horses. Years later, after another baby, an unrecognized mental breakdown, a move to a house of our own, more stories bubbled up. I finished a few of them.
So I'm 38 now, and next year it'll be thirty years that I got my first dose of writer's reality, from a man who likely doesn't even remember that conversation. He's outside right now, teaching my son how to demolish a wall or hitch up a trailer or something. He also told me a couple of summers ago that I don't need to write trash, that anything full of cussing isn't worth writing because "people who talk like that are illiterate, they don't read!"
I might have a long way to go yet before an actual book exists with my name on it. I hope not too much longer. I hope it's the one I'm sending out into the world now. I think it's pretty good...
...even though it has no horses in it.
Although it does have some dogs. And Axl Rose, sort of.
I doubt my folks will like it, but that's okay. They don't have to. Someday I'll write something they'll read, that they can be proud of.
Besides, I'm still that scrawny 9 year old with the hair in two braids and the pony-dirty hands. That epic horse story is in there somewhere.