My gateway drug was ridiculous.

It was an unwieldy book with one of those hard green covers.  The paper cover (if it ever had one) had been lost.  I remember finding it in a library, though I don't remember how or why -- it's possible the book itself lured me through some magical agency.

The book was not the sort of thing an elementary kid usually goes for: light on illustrations, heavy on annotations.  But I sat in the library and fell in love.  I brought that dense thing home, you know I did!

It was a book about Robin Hood -- yes... stories... but also history, apocrypha, and so on.

That heavy green monster was my first hardcore experience with "folklore."  It lead me to Mythology.  I ate up tomes on myths and legends, both expository and narrative.  Which lead me, ironically some may think, to comic books.

Course, I was a kid!  I thought the stories in comics were real!

That was how my love of tales began.  I don't remember if there was stuff before that, and I don't remember how I got into fiction from there, but in my mind, that's how it all started.

Telling tales is a different thing.

My grandma (on dad's side) used to visit from Arizona.  Giggling, my younger sister and I would climb into bed with her.  We were happy.  She was kind, nice, generous.

Grandma had lived in the era of "the first airplane."  She had been an actual, real cowgirl.  Not to mention that Arizona was a climate and environment very different from the places I'd lived.

She had a lot of stories.

After telling us a story, she would demand that we tell a story.  We were children!  We didn't have much in the way of stories, or so we thought.  So we made stuff up.

It may sound silly, but that, as far as my conscious knowledge of myself is concerned, is where my love of creating fiction began.  In that giggly-till-you-get-sleepy, make-anything-up, love-warmed space.

My mom was a writer.

I discovered this years later (read: junior high).  I was developing a more "mature" interest in both fiction and writing and she told me all about her habit.

She refused to let me see her work.

Her stories were steeped in violence, in sadness and the darkness of human depredations.  She had scratched and punched (on a typewriter: no computers back then) the worst sorts of things onto a few stacks of pages.  She called it "fiction" but they were glimmers of near truth.  The torments of a young Black girl growing up in the ghetto, around people who simply did not give a fuck.

She was never published, and I never did see those stories.

But there was something about that connection, about having come to a desire on my own that mirrored the needs in her.  You can analyze it if you want, but to me it felt (and sometimes still feels) like destiny.

There were other things I thought I wanted to do from time to time.

Besides, in my generation, it was commonly known that only fools pursued arts of any kind.  Telling people I liked to write was a bit like coming out.  Sometimes people would say "great," sometimes people would laugh; they often scowled.  "It's good to have a hobby" was a standard reply.

More common: "But what are you going to do with your life?"

Guess what?  Those doubters convinced me.  That, and the paralyzing insecurity that ties my will in knots.

I took courses on writing and literature here and there.  And then, having met consistent skepticism, despite encouragement from writers and teachers, I completely gave up.

I gave up several times.

This... this is why it's not so much of a joke, calling that book my "gateway drug!"  I really was addicted.

I love(d) writing.  I tried to walk away, tried to focus on other things, but I always went back.  The constant craving pulsing through my heart: being in a cafe, hunched over a brand new notebook, with a brand new pen.

I took a pad with me to Nepal and wrote stories.  I wrote stories when I was homeless.  I wrote stories when I didn't want to... because I had to!

When I went to Pitzer College, I majored in something other than Literature, or Writing, or anything that you might expect.

Why???  Two reasons: first, I told myself I can write without making it my degree.  But the real reason was that I still didn't believe there was any future for me in writing.

The power of both my insecurity and the reactions of people I'd "come out" to still poisoned my creative spirit.

Oh, I still wrote, but I couldn't think of it as anything more than just one of those crazy things one does.  I told people that I wanted to get published.  Who wouldn't want to?  But I played it off, like, who cares, when really, deeply, truly, I wanted to pour my life into writing.

After college I ended up *back* in the service industry, in restaurants.

I was transformed!  Into a "manager."  And being a manager became an all-consuming thing.  To call it a "drain" is to utterly fail in comprehending just how hard any manager who cares about their performance actually works.

Daily I was siphoned of all time and energy, left unable to breathe, let alone write.

Well.  I still poked at it from time to time.  On vacations, a weekend here or there.  It was my addiction, nagging, chewing -- I was gristle and those jaws were determined to break me down.

While I was between jobs I realized something.  I realized.  That I.  Always.  Wanted.  To write.

I mean that in the sense of multiple tenses -- I had always; was always wanting; did always; and so on.

It was there, under my skin, dying to take over.  Fuck that... I NEEDED to write.  The more I acknowledged the feeling, the more it took over.  And at some point, allowing myself a "bump" or two of scribbling, I understood that this was what I'd wanted to do all along.

That I'd just been scared to admit it.

So... I admitted it.  And here's what happened:

In the past couple of years, I've written four "first drafts" of novels, all over 80K words.

I've drafted over 200 shorts of varying lengths, some getting into the 20K length and others being flashy flash.  I have bits and pieces of other things, too... incomplete projects, chapters of books, and so on, that we don't need to count.

I even started a blog and hit up some conventions.

I've sold a handful of stories (WOOT!!!) and I've received early acceptance into the Odyssey 6 Week Writing Workshop.  (Again, I say thee WOOT!!!)

I *will be* at the upcoming World Fantasy Con, and... (drum roll) I plan to have my #NaNoWriMo novel ready (I think I finally got a couple of things "right"!) so I can NOT annoy editors and agents by brandishing it and shaking it around.

Yeah... I love writing.  = D

Next?  What now?

No idea.  I'm going for it!  I hope it goes somewhere.  If it doesn't, at least I tried, I gave it what I could, I climbed over my fear -- at least in long enough periods to get words on the page.

If I'm honest: very few things in life make me happier than getting words on the page.

Let's hope this all ends somewhere good.

-- Arley

Ultimately, I'm glad I'm on Twitter!  And yeah... I'm still a NOOB!