Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Hey, kids, look at the nifty prize I won a couple of weeks ago, over on the Red Room literary site!

This book was one of the prizes awarded to the three winners of the Creative Challenge, "When Did You First Know You Wanted to be a Writer?" In his post-mortem on the contest, RR co-founder Huntington Sharp wrote:

"We asked Red Roomers to blog about the time they first wanted to become writers. We wanted to know if there was there a "flash" moment when they just knew, or has it always been true?

A few entries stood out:

Member Lisa Jensen has always wanted to write, and her memories of how she's always blended verbal and visual art is fascinating."

Aw, shucks! Here's the post, in toto:

It's not like I ever aspired to "be" a writer. It's not like I had a plan. I never even had an epiphany.

I've just always written. Who knows for how long? Do you remember when you first started breathing?

I loved writing assignments in grade school. I loved to read, and when I got really swept up in a book—like the Anne of Green Gables series so beloved by my mom—I'd continue the euphoria by basically re-writing my favorite scenes using characters and situations I made up. That should have given me a clue.

When I read I Capture the Castle at about age 11, I had to start a journal. At 12, I was corresponding with two European pen pals because I loved to write letters. At  16, I somehow qualified for a Press pass from Teen Set Magazine as a contributing reporter (but I was too shy to ever use it).

But here's the thing: I also loved to draw. When I was a little kid, I kept an oversize, hardcover picture book, The Big Book of Dogs, Cats, and Horses, under the sofa, with a bunch of blank sheets of typing paper and a pencil tucked inside. Whenever I was sitting there at night, watching TV with the family, I'd pull out the book and paper and start drawing.

If I had any plan it all, it was probably to "be" an artist, preferably an illustrator of books, like my favorites, the Alice in Wonderland books, the Oz books, Mary Poppins. But it's funny, I don't remember that I ever aspired to illustrate somebody else's stories; I always envisioned writing and drawing my own.

To this day, I have to draw all my characters—endlessly—before I can even begin to describe them in a book. Worse, I have sketchbooks full of characters whose stories have not yet been written. If graphic novels had been invented back in my misspent youth, maybe I would have started there, although my occasional attempts to map out a scene in comic book-style panels, while entertaining, always took way too much time away from writing the story.

For me, art was all about illustrating the story. Actually telling the story takes words—glorious, aggravating, addictive words. And that's the part I still love most.


  1. if you're gonna have an addiction (or addictions), you've got a couple of beauts. And your character development through drawing is intriguing. You just need to do lots more!

  2. Ah, if only I had lots more time! But thanks for the encouragement...