As I've mentioned before, I started writing at a very young age. I was 5/6ish when I penned a series of one-page hand-written stories on teddybear stationary, which I cleverly titled Teddy Tales. The highlight of my second-grade year was making a book in class—story, cover design, everything. I chose teddybears having a picnic, even though I wasn't familiar with the song. The cover was crafted of orange construction paper sporting an appropriate graphic drawn in crayon by yours truly.
I read every interesting book that came into my elementary school library, devouring The Babysitter's Club series in addition to anything about ghosts or things of that nature, which were taboo in my fundamentalist home. Even though I didn't realize it at the time, writing about ghouls and boys (which were also taboo) was my way of rebelling in secret. I was committing a sin every time I picked up my pen, and I knew it. But no one else did. I'd finally found something that was all mine—a way of escape that no one could take away. I could be the quiet, quirky girl at Christian school AND anyone else I made up in my head.
It was in junior high, after transferring from public school (because my brother was on the verge of expulsion) to a non-denominational Christian school, that I made some of the best friends of my life. My self-esteem at that time was pretty much zero, and it was their acceptance and encouragement that kept me going. Although we don't keep in touch, my memories of you are fond and often.
It was because of those friends that I really got into writing, shaping most of my stories around them. They each got to pick out a character name, and a boyfriend's name, and then salivate over the pages as their love stories came to life. Their eager satisfaction was all the feedback I needed. I started writing more and more, and by eighth grade, I had finished a novel. (Well, 164 hand-written pages, but come on, I was 13.) Finally, I wouldn't have to wait for whatever story R. L. Stine came up with next—I could write my own stories. And I did.