My maternal grandmother went off to college at the age of 17. Her roommate, a much more mature woman of 20, was named Lucy Johnston Sypher. Ms. Sypher went on to write four widely read (at least by me) children’s books about growing up in Wales, North Dakota. When I was little, Ms. Sypher gave me a subscription to a new magazine for children called Cricket Magazine. Ms. Sypher had excerpts from her books published by Cricket, and I adored the magazine so much that at Girl Scout camp one summer I was nicknamed Cricket by my troop.
Cricket Magazine has changed; it’s now four-color and glossy (back then it was a tiny black and white thing). But it was such a great format for budding readers; if words or concepts were complicated, the page edges where lined with drawings of little bugs that both told their own story but also would give definitions and explanations about details of the print story. They also featured poetry, both for kids and by kids. Each month they had a poetry contest.
I was six years old the first time I wrote two poems that I wanted to submit to the magazine. I don’t remember much, except that they were supposed to be on the theme of magic and I wrote about the mountains in Albuquerque that were a stony purple-gray by day but turned a flaming pink when the sun went down. I don’t remember if I actually ever submitted the poems, but it was then that I was bitten by the writing bug.
I kept putting pen to paper. In sixth grade, I won a poetry contest with the following poem:
I am a cat, stalking a bird.
I am a bird, fleeing from a cat.
I am a tree, watching it all.
I am fortune for the cat.
I am death for the bird.
The prize wasn’t much–I think it was published in some school journal or something. But I’ll never forget my teachers face when she read the poem. She was moved and, most importantly, impressed.
In high school, my poetry sucked. It was filled with typical teenage angst and drama, and lovelorn soppy bullshit. But I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I still have a lot of those poems.
The one thing I didn’t do was read much poetry. I read a lot of fiction that impressed me greatly, like The Color Purple which was actually forbidden at my school but my teacher slipped me on the side in a desperate attempt to get me more involved with school. Because of course, alcohol and boys had me very distracted, and I was no longer interested in much else.
I was still writing teen-like love poetry when I first met Charlie. He saw me sitting at the bar writing (at 19, I was already getting into bars quite easily), and came over and struck up a conversation. He’d just begun to write as well in the Bukowski style and was already getting poems published. When we met up again, he read my poetry politely but was more interested in "dating" me than reading my work. We did go out a couple of times but it was clear it wasn’t going to work out.
Years later, when Charlie and I did become a couple, poetry was at the heart of our relationship. Charlie and I began going to poetry readings (and hosting one) and for the first time I became exposed to a wide range of poets and poetry. I began reading poetry, and, naturally, my work began to improve. I became deeply invested in the poetry scene and I wrote constantly, often four or five new poems a week.
But with the rise of poetry in my life came the rise of alcohol, the introduction of drugs, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t cool anymore. I was sticking needles in my arm, contemplating fucking a dealer so I could keep getting my drugs, and then BAM! I overdosed, got sober, and the words stopped coming.
It took a year of sobriety for me to clear up enough to write again. The good news was the poems were much better–tighter, concise, and tough. I loved them. But they came rarely, and as we became less interested in being part of a poetry scene and more interested in growing the fuck up, they stopped coming completely.
Many years later, we were beginning to think about starting a family. I was still reading extensively (I was working for a bookstore), and I finally began reading memoirs. First I read the memoir by Anne Sexton’s daughter (Anne Sexton being a favorite poet at the time). Then I discovered Anne Lamott, who is still my writing hero. Ms. Lamott was sober, struggling with politics and God, and I adored her writing. Luckily, at the same time I was also working with author Rachel Simon, who became my mentor in many ways (she worked for the same bookstore at a different branch). Rachel took the time to help me perfect my writing and taught me a great deal about choosing words carefully, and how to say exactly what I meant.
Not much later, I discovered blogs. I was reading a lot at various forums here, and since I knew we were dealing with a male factor issue I frequently popped in to the "donor sperm" forum (although we didn’t end up using donor sperm). Someone there posted a link to Dooce, Grrl, and Julie (I am forever grateful to that person).
I read all three of their blogs avidly, and went back through their entire archives (at that point, they weren’t that old–Julie had only started blogging about six months before I found her). This led me to Danae (gone), and Karen (Naked Ovary, now defunct) and many others like Tertia.
We were just launching into our first IVF cycle, and I began sending funny emails to my friends updating them with the latest steps in the process. It was already clear that bloggers were effecting my writing style, and I finally emailed Julie and asked her how to do this blogging thing. She kindly showed me the ropes, and viola! My first entry appeared.
When I started this blog, my intentions were simple: share what was going on and try to become part of this amazing community of bitter and funny women that were sharing my struggle.
But something else happened during the last three and a half years: I became–more fully and completely than I had ever been before–a writer. I found my voice. I found the way I wanted to write, what I was best at writing, and was able to tell people with confidence that I was a writer. I stopped trying to write poetry (although I joined the editorial board of a local poetry magazine to keep my hand in) and focused on writing the personal essays that became my best blog entries.
Since Tori was a few months old, I’ve floundered here. Without a current election, an impending FET cycle, or impending birth, I didn’t know what to write about. I’ve tried to keep the blog relevant, and I am so honored and grateful that you all keep reading. I didn’t want to walk away, as so many of my favorite bloggers did after they had kids. I was–and am–committed to this blog.
But. Of course there is a but; there always is, right?
But as a writer, I am at a crossroads. I know what I want to write, and I’ve been hoping to get a paid blogging gig to give me the forum to do it, leaving this blog as it has been–a blog of personal meanderings. But that clearly isn’t going to happen anytime soon, so that leaves me with a choice.
Do I keep this blog as it is, or do I take this opportunity to try my hand at some writing that not everyone that reads here will enjoy? Stuff that is more topical, and maybe a little less personal–still in my voice, but not as much blog-like. More essay-like.
I timidly suggested something like this months ago and was deluged with emails and comments begging me to "not change a thing." But I’ve changed. My life has changed. This blog has changed, and not in a good way–at least not in a way I’m proud of.
So, at the risk of offending some of you, I am going to make some changes ’round these parts. I’m going to write about less "inside" stuff, and tackle more "outside" stuff. Stuff like body images issues, and being a fat girl in America. Politics. Books and movies. Issues about choice, infertility, and other medical stuff. Of course parenting (obviously) and issues surrounding parenting.
There will still be plenty of Tori, and, I’m sure, a lot of me. But as a writer, I need to challenge myself, and I need to take the next step down the path to being a professional, capital W, Writer.
Bear with me.