Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I guess you can say I’m all caught up…

It was spring or it was early summer. I was 16 or 17 years old. Okay, so much of it is a blur but the things I do remember were that we were all standing at the top of the stairs in front of Valley High School’s auditorium. Roy Johnson, only a couple of years older than me but more self-assured than any age would make me capable, was showing off his new short story. It was called Snails or something. The important thing was it was genius.

And everyone was saying so.

And I was so desperate for attention back then that I said something like, “So? I can do that.” I was so young that my brain hadn’t quite caught on. Now, if I said something like that, my brain would immediately be asking, “What? When did this happen? I didn’t know about this!” Which is probably why I don’t say things like that any longer. In fact, now when people ask me if I’m a writer, I tend to shrug it off.

But not back then.

And everyone knew it. The guys up there on the top of the steps weren’t just my friends in high school but the other guys from theater, who knew me well enough to know I was full of shit. Talented? Sure. Smart? Maybe. But without a doubt completely full of shit. They turned on me like a crown of young men will and very quickly had me saying things like, “Yeah, I’ve started a novel at home. I just haven’t shown it to anyone, yet.”

Nestor, a big guy who could be your best friend or most vicious adversary depending on lunch or which was the wind blew, suggested he’d really like to see that book. Yeah, Ken, why don’t you bring that book to school and we’ll let you know how good it is…

My stride was calm and confident as I walked home that afternoon, all the while wishing to run because I knew I hadn’t started a novel. In fact, I’d never written a thing in my life.

Oh sure, there were those articles and goofy comedy bits I did for the school newspaper way back in junior high. (This was before My Side, the column I had in high school and so on.) But that would hardly count. No, I had to come up with the beginnings of a novel or fess up to being full of shit.

So, I went home and wrote the beginning of a novel. I wrote several chapters of a book I’d never finish – but there it was. And it wasn’t bad. And, I thought, I really could do this. Imagine!

Roy Johnson never became a famous writer but odds are he became happy. At least, I hope he is happy wherever he is. If it weren’t for him, I would never have become a writer… and I’ve been trying to prove it ever since.

This memory popped back into my head the other day, as I put the last lines down for a new play. That makes six full-length plays I finished this year. Six. Wow. And a sudden, strange inclination had me counting all the books and plays I’d written.

One by one, I counted off the books:
My Side
This Land is My Land
A Hex Upon Rynia
The Sons of Rynia
: A Rynia trilogy whose books I never got around to naming
Vampire Society
A Grand Canyon
No More Blue Roses
With Eyes to See
Climbing Maya
Love of Your Life
Daughter of a One-Armed Man

Last Ditch

Sixteen. Sixteen books.

One by one, I counted off the plays:
Everything Changes
Whatever Happened To Me?
After You Fall
Murielle’s Big Date
Murder, Zombies, the Devil… and stuff…
Sometimes We Find Our Way
Diamonds to Go
The Death of Ethics, etc.
Friends, First
Happily After Ever

Twelve. Twelve plays.

That makes 28 full-length books and plays. This doesn’t include the short plays or short stories or poems or essays or (god forbid) blog entries…

And then I did a bit more math… and I realized that for every year after Roy Johnson and that first moment when I boasted that I could write, I’ve completed writing one book or one play. One a year since the age of 16… still trying to prove myself.

And another memory pops into my head. Ms. Von’s English class… a girl named Michelle asked, “Ms. Von, do you think Ken will ever make it as a writer?” Ms. Von tilted her glance over at me. “If he remains prolific, he will.”

If he remains prolific.

Well, a book or a play each year for 28 years… that’s gotta count, right?

And I thought of this… and I laid down the opening of a new book. This one’s called The Wrong Magic and it’s about how we rely on magic in our lives, in our relationships, and how unreliable it really is… Of course, that’s not all. I’ll tell you more later…

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