How I Became a Real Writer

Hello, internet friends. Newly hatched Emu Adi Rule here, optimistically flapping my vestigial wings. Bear with me, as I’m still learning which forms to fill out, where the cafeteria is, and that a “Wordpress” is NOT a type of helmet that squishes brilliant drafts out through your eyeballs.

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Line edits HURT SO GOOD.

Last year around this time, I was asked to be on a panel at a high school. Answer questions about Being a Writer. Judge student work. Free sweatshirt.

So I went. And I talked the talk. Query letters this and protagonists that and blah blah critique groups, whatever. But little did the students know that, unlike the poet laureate on my left and the successful author on my right, I was an IMPOSTOR.

Shocking, I know.

I grew up in a writing household. My friends and I were more likely to be found at a reading than a roller rink, not necessarily by our choice. My mom taught fiction at a nearby university. Sometimes I would go with her and draw dinosaurs on the blackboard.

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An ancient beast that struck fear into the hearts of small creatures everywhere. With a tyrannosaurus rex drawn on it.

As a kid, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Poems, short stories, my own NASHNUL NOOSPAPR (“TODAY AT THE RULES HOWSE, BABY DUCKS GROWD BIGR”). My first play was produced at my elementary school when I was 13, and garnered rave reviews from everyone’s parents, who were probably just relieved it was only 17 minutes long. (After all, you never know what sort of Hell an elementary school gymnasium will hold.)

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Dante and Virgil just wanted to support the arts. Two cacophonous hours later, GO FOR THE THROAT.

At 13, my road to writerdom seemed reasonably assured. Then more plays, more prose, a novel, an MFA, a blog, and two more novels. And four cats, who are lousy editors.

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Seriously. Look at them. Dipsticks.

So what was my terrible secret, a year ago, at that high school writing panel?

I wasn’t published.

It’s true. I’d had several plays produced, but not published. And I’d just gotten a short story accepted, but the anthology wasn’t out yet. I had no agent, no other contracts, no shiny books to sign and sniff and make piles of in the yard to roll around in (that’s what authors do, right?).

So every time a student asked, “What’s the matter with adverbs, really?” a small part of my brain squeaked, “Don’t answer that. You know nothing about adverbs.”

Fast-forward a year — or, um, skip ahead? Do we say “fast-forward” anymore? — to this past October, and I’m at the same panel. Sitting in the same chair. Eating the same doughnuts. Only now I’m represented by a fabulous agent and I’ve got a two-book deal at a bighuge press. I’ve gotten The Call.

Sparkles and rainbows and ponies and sunbeams and puffy stickers!

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My life after The Call.

My induction into the Writers’ Guild was glorious. One humid July day, Joan met me at the airport, and we flew first class to a secret location. I was, of course, blindfolded, which did ruin the in-flight movie (Thor), but I sensed we were going north.

Two flights and a helicopter ride later, we began our trek into the heart of a dense forest. Imagine my surprise when, after several hours, Joan stopped before an unremarkable tree and fitted her signet ring into a knothole to reveal a secret door. We had arrived!

All the real writers were there, each one wearing a glittering tiara sized to represent their commercial success (J. K. Rowling and Stephen King couldn’t even stand up under the weight of theirs, and had to lie in a corner conversing softly). The evening was a blur of toasts and speeches and ritual sacrifice. Particularly touching was the moment when William Faulkner impaled himself on his National Book Award as a tribute to the bleeding souls of writers everywhere.

And then it was my turn. I received my tiara (very small), drank from the Cup of Ink (minty), and groveled at the feet of the Writer Queen (identity protected), who smiled with refined condescension. And when she touched her gilded scepter to my nose, I became a real writer!

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Ah, the majesty of tradition.

Actually, I’m lying.

What can I say, it’s the only thing I’m good at.

What I wish my 2012 panelist self could have told my 2011 panelist self is that publication does not make you a writer. The hours you spend with a keyboard under your fingers or a book in your hand do that. Believe it or not, you will know exactly as much about adverbs the day you sign your contract as you did the day before.

And you were a real writer then, too.

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26 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Happiness, Introduction, School Author Visits, The Call, Writing and Life

26 responses to “How I Became a Real Writer

  1. This is a wonderful, funny, heartfelt post, Adi. Your books will be fantastic!

    Like

  2. Adi! I can’t believe you told people about the secret writer tree!!!

    Um, I mean… So glad you’ve joined the Emus! I’ll be looking forward to your posts (secret-revealing though they may be).

    Like

  3. Funny, meaningful stuff — as usual. Your choice of graphics never disappoints. 🙂

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  4. LOVE! and sooooooo true.

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  5. Joshua McCune

    Seriously, though, what’s wrong with adverbs?

    Like

    • They think that if they don’t like the chocolate once they bite into it, it doesn’t count and they deserve another one. Sorry, adverbs, that’s the one you get. Why don’t you consult the guide on the inside of the box cover next time?

      Like

  6. Fabulous, funny, and touching. Oh-writers.

    Like

  7. sweeeet.! (I made up that word. You can use it because I love you.)

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  8. Mike Jung

    No fair, Joan made me drive my own car to the secret forest. (And welcome aboard!)

    Like

  9. This is wonderful. Ah, the fantastical fraternity
    of writers.

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  10. Funny! So, after your books arrive do you get a bigger tiara? I never noticed Joan’s ring before.

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  11. “What can I say, it’s the only thing I’m good at.”

    Well, clearly you’re pretty handy with Photoshop, too. 🙂 AWESOME first post–welcome to the EMUs!

    Like

  12. Adi, welcome to Emu’s Debuts! I don’t think that Jeannie Mobley will be at *all* threatened by your Photoshop skillz. Really. Until you can put Mike Jung in a FALLING FOR HAMLET skirt, I think she’ll just eye you warily from underneath the banquet table, but she won’t bite. Probably. 😉

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  13. Whoa! Way to do an intro post! I’m guessing your tiara will strain your neck once your books start coming out.

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  14. Thanks all! 🙂

    And don’t worry, no one needs to feel threatened by my Photoshop skills. I’m actually so terrible at Photoshop that I managed to destroy the entire program. Now I use Gimp, because it’s free, so I can be as incompetent as I want and still make my daily quota of pasting my head onto other things.

    Like

  15. Pingback: Trust the Process | EMU's Debuts

  16. Wow! What a great post! And so much to look forward to, when (if) someday I too join the Writer’s Guild…

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  17. Laurie Boyle Crompton

    Welcome fellow Emu!! You’re lucky you got the gilded scepter to the nose – the Writer Queen knighted me with a red pen and I still have the bruise. 🙂

    Like

  18. God…I just Googled you to find you address for our holiday card (didn’t come up, aren’t you relieved?) but found this blog post. Yay for you! And for me, for now I get to hear your voice again. And, send me your address if you want your card.
    -Your long lost friend,
    Jasmine

    Like

  19. I laughed. I cried. It was much better than “Cats”! I’m going to read this again and again!!!!

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  20. Adi, I knew it. You’ve got the gift. (You are not allowed to cry. Well, okay. But only happy tears.)

    Like

  21. Adi, welcome to the Emus! This was an hysterical post- I loved reading it and am looking forward to reading more from you. The J.K. Rowling and Stephen King reference had me in stitches!

    Like

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