Friday, August 5, 2011

Why I Write

Another "new to here" post.  

If you're interested, you can still find this one, along with a lot of other good stories in the 2010 Writing4All Anthology:

http://originalwriting.ie/bookshop/fiction/general-fiction/writing4all-the-best-of-2010/

Check it out, and tell 'em Henry sent you.

No, it won't get you a discount.  Sorry.



Why I Write

by Henry Gaudet



Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. They had a place in the Middle of Nowhere, a few acres of woods and a small lake. Thirty or forty years on, thanks more than anything to a mythic sense of nostalgia, that place seems idyllic now, my own personal Narnia, my Hundred Acre Wood. But all that came later, after being fitted for my grown-up pair of rose-coloured glasses. Back then, it was just Grandma's.

Grandma's did indeed lie over the river and through the woods, where neighbours were friendly, but far flung and rare. Back then, the world was just a little bit bigger, and the Middle of Nowhere a little further from the Edge of Anywhere.

Not a lot of company for a young boy who wanted to play.  There weren't any other kids for miles around. My sister was there, but well, she was my sister, so clearly that wasn't an option. I was going to have to find another way to amuse myself.

What I did have was one big honkin' playground. The woods were filled with trails and hidden clearings to explore. The rest would have to come from imagination.

And so, during my time there, I chased monsters, fended off super villains and cosmic disasters, and generally defended the world from Bad Things which tended to show up in the woods, just out of sight of the house.

Between alien invasions and crime waves, I spent my time drawing. Sometimes, I illustrated my own courageous deeds, or came up with new adventures based on these earlier exploits. Sometimes, I just drew stuff I saw on Saturday morning television. I went through my share of crayons, markers, pencils, the odd bits of chalk, just about anything that would leave a mark.

There was no doubt that stories were going to matter to me. There was just no escaping it. But the clincher, the deal-closer, the reason I decided that I would have to tell my own stories, that was Grandad.

Late one evening, just a little before bedtime, I was sitting on the front porch swing, watching the fireflies and looking for all the world like a scene out of Andy Griffith. Grandad came out and joined me, sitting in his rocker. We sat there in the twilight for a few minutes before he lit up a cigar and he started to tell me a story.

He spun this amazing tale, about a farmer with a talking dog who fended off giants and dragons and became a hero by accident. It was funny and scary and magical, and he had me hooked from the very beginning. It was years later that I learned the story wasn't his own.

Tolkein's Farmer Giles of Ham was one of Grandad's favourite books. He knew the story by heart, well enough to tell me off the top of his head and make it his own.

Grandad would tell me lots of stories over the next few years. Some were his, some weren't. Over the course of a summer, we followed the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. He told me stories over the dying embers of campfires and in the flash of thunderstorms, stories of Arthur and Perseus and Coyote. He told me stories of his youth, the kind of true stories that never really happened.

He showed me how to make magic.

Of course, over time, kids outgrow Neverland. Mostly. Oral storytelling will always be something special to me, but I adore a well told story, regardless of the medium. A good story, out loud, in print, or on the big screen, is still magical and can bring me right back to that porch swing.

I’ve spun a few yarns of my own over the years, but it’s only recently that I began to create my own stories that might be worthy of the fireside.  Stories to share with my little boy, and stories to share with strangers.  I took the scenic route, but I was always going to wind up here. 

It's in the blood.