Before I learned letters and numbers, I drew pictures of princesses and cats. The drawings had unusually great detail. The doctor explained to my mother that I was drawing what I saw. He said, "Her life will not be easy--and neither will yours."
Based on my art, at four years old, the world was messy, crowded, and so colorful that we need all the crayons. Also--your piece of paper might not be big enough for the picture you're making. Never fear, just tape on extra paper and keep going. It's your art. It will be grand.
Writing is pictures with words. Little pictures are nice, because you can take them in all at once. Huge murals are something to get lost in, like 2,000-page novels.
When I was five, I drew a campaign poster for Geraldine Ferraro. My father taught politics, so she was a big deal in my house: the first woman nominated to a major presidential ticket. In 1983, Ferraro ran for Vice President, with Walter Mondale. One morning I woke, delighted, and raced down stairs, yelling, "Is it true? Did she win?" My parents were confused, then laughed at their small child's overnight dream. Ronald Reagan later trounced Mondale.
My dad kept that drawing taped to the wall of his office for twenty years. After the funeral, I peeled it from the wall, fingernails sticky with sun-yellowed Scotch tape.
To me, my dad was the first reader--and the first writer. The ritual of my childhood was reading at bedtime. Dad's favorites were scary stories. Why ease your child to sleep when you can put an edge on it? When I was a baby, his greatest hit was Where the Wild Things Are. He rumbled in a booming bass, "We'll eat you up, we love you so!" I believed him.
When I was a bit older, my dad began to read horror and fantasy to my brother and me. Mostly, we read Stephen King. We also read Lord of the Rings and Mists of Avalon (King Arthur). My dad skipped the sex parts but never censored violence--it was essential to story. When he began passing the books around, to practice reading aloud, my brother and I realized what he was skipping. We suspected that the parts left out were equally important. Maybe more.
My father was a terrible writer who loved to write. He crammed every sentence with sixteen clauses, meanings layered like delicious cakes, ready to topple from crazy architecture. His sentences were fabulous, impossible wedding cakes; they celebrated and joined words.
You cannot string a thousand weddings together to make one marriage.
My father's writing was complex, and problematic, because he was a perfectionist. So am I. Perfectionism is a compulsion to strive--and fail. If my story were a book read at bedtime, then for fifteen years, I was the part that I skipped.
Now, I am writing myself down.
About the Author: Anna Kander is a writer and licensed counselor in the Midwest. Her contemporary poetry and fiction have appeared in Gone Lawn, Ellipsis, Leveler, Train, and other magazines. Her speculative poetry has appeared on the back cover of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. Her first chapbook, Slide a Mirror to Me, is forthcoming. She edits poetry for 1932 Quarterly and hosts 51 Writers, an online writers’ group for folks writing strong female characters. Her writing sidekick is a fearless blue fish who doesn’t realize he’s one inch tall. Find Anna here.