An essay on the topic of my first attempt at writing should, if we’re following the rules here, focus on a plethora of poorly plotted fanfics about The Beatles that I wrote when I was between the ages of twelve and fourteen. I imagine that no one is interested in a middle schooler’s vaguely romantic thoughts about John Lennon, so I’m going to break the rules and skip forward to when I was eighteen. I’ll focus on my first real attempt at writing. Trust me, you’ll be happier this way, and my (relatively) unscathed sense of pride will be, as well.
I was all dolled up at my high school’s prom my senior year when a freshman came bounding up to me in her high heels. She cried, “Jenny, you won!”
I was busy picking useless bobby pins from my hair. “What? What did I win?” Certainly not prom queen. Drama club nerds hardly qualified.
She chattered that I had won first place in the senior division of a state-wide scenario-writing competition and that this qualified me to move on to the national competition. I had missed the actual judging and awards ceremony that day because I was more concerned with my aforementioned hair style than driving three hours to the ceremony.
In the long run, the win has meant more to me than my insufferable hair.
The piece in question was a short fictional story on the death of traditional animation in which a man loses his job because his wing of an animation studio is being shut down. It was called, “That’s All, Folks!” I wonder if I should shudder at that title or not.
It was littered with sneaky cartoon and pop culture references, dialogue that I, at the time, thought was just clever as Hell, and some sense of social awareness.
I consider it my first real attempt at writing not because of the massive, weapon-like trophy that I got because of it, but because I feel like it was my first attempt where I stumbled into something like my style of writing today. It was shaky, a little heavy-handed, but the building blocks were there. It wasn’t too long afterwards that I started on the first draft of These Hellish Happenings, my first novel. It would take countless drafts to get the novel where I wanted it– and several years, at that– but my success with this scenario competition was a driving force in my pursuit of writing as more than some light hobby.
I later watched a video of the awards ceremony where an emcee read my piece out loud. While she couldn’t quite get the rhythm of the dialogue down right, it was stirring to hear my words read to an audience, an audience which received the piece well judging by their laughter and applause. If you’re wondering, I did terribly at the national competition and learned rule number one of the industry: art is subjective.
Oh well! At least it was better than juvenile love stories about The Beatles.
Read more from Jennifer on her blog Jennifer Rainey: Author