I've loved mystery books since I can remember. We had an impressive Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew collection at my house. I have a great picture of myself the year I was hooked on Meg mysteries--around my tenth birthday. Then I discovered a very well-used book in our family bookcase--an Edgar Allen Poe short story collection. I adored it. The same bookcase held Stephen King's short story collection, Night Shift which I read when I wasn't reading the Poe collection. I think I read those two books a zillion times between 5th and 9th grade.
I've mentioned in interviews that I knew I wanted to be a writer for the first time when I was 14. But I think I, like a lot of writers, had more than one ah-ha moment about this before I finally decided to do it. After 8th grade, the next time I knew I wanted to write was right before I left college (the first attempt.) Then, in art school in Philadelphia (second attempt) when I was working on my final portfolio, I was taking pictures and writing essays to go along with them. I didn't show anyone the essays. But it was a way to handle being a photography major when I really didn't want to be a photographer. I wanted to be a writer. I just didn't know how I was going to make that happen yet.
I got married soon after college and ended up in Philadelphia again. My husband and I had started making "the plan." "The Plan" was simple. Save enough money to somehow move back to Ireland (he's from there) where we would start a new life and eventually buy a derelict farm and maybe live off the land and do what we wanted. (Let me repeat that part because it's important. Where we could do what we wanted.) No big job stress. No having to live without health insurance and be worried all the time. No more 8am-7pm days working for people who paid us peanuts, treated us like cattle and didn't appreciate our awesomeness. We lived in the Art Museum area of Philadelphia, just off Spring Garden Street, but we both worked more than 15 blocks east of there, so sometimes, when we' d walk home together, we'd go past this place.
|Edgar Allen Poe Historic Site 7th & Spring Garden Street, Phila, PA|
I shared this "I want to be a writer" idea with Mr. King and he and I would talk about our future--gardening, chickens, goats. Me making quilts and writing books and him making awesome furniture and the two of us free from The Man. That's the nostalgia that hit me today. Those moments in life when you allow yourself to dream and plan things that might not come to pass, but you dream and plan them anyway. When you can look back and see those moments clearly knowing full well that you achieved every one of those dreams, that's some strong freaking nostalgia.
|Mr. King & the typewriter|
I'm not sure why, but I took a picture of the day we went to the store to return the typewriter, and every time I used to see it, I'd get upset that I'd been stupid. I probably hurt his feelings by making him return it and I was probably just protecting myself. Because I wasn't ready to start writing yet, and I'd feel embarrassed if that typewriter was going to sit there in the living room watching me not use it. And every time I walked past the Poe House after that day, I'd get this horrible, messed up feeling like I was running away or denying something or lying or that I was just wrong. I was just plain wrong. I've never told anyone this part of the journey because this feeling of sheer fail was enormous. This is going to sound stupid, but I kinda felt like I was letting Edgar Allen Poe down.
|The garden at the farm circa 1999.|
And now, January 2011, I am here. Last week one of my books became a Printz Honor book. Today, the same book has been nominated for an Edgar Award. Something tells me that Poe would forgive me for waiting a little while longer to start. Now I can see that sometimes, it's not the right time to do a thing. And sometimes, it is.
A huge thank you for all the congratulations you've sent in the last weeks. Every kind word has meant the world to me. And a HUGE thank you to the Mystery Writers of America for this amazing nomination. I am stoked beyond belief.