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by Hedgebrook Guest

At a recent Hedgebrook Alumnae Gathering, we were talking about the love of writing (what else?), and when did we first start, and how did we keep it going? When I was in the 4th grade, I won the Little Hot Spot medal for writing the best essay in the city on safeguarding the home against fire. I got the morning off school, and my parents stood proudly by, as we went down to City Hall, and the mayor of New York City pinned an actual medal on my young chest, as the Marine Band played. I thought This writing life is something else.

In grade school, I started a neighborhood newspaper, and in high-school, I was co-editor of the weekly Timely Turtle Types, distributed among friends, mostly mocking our strict teachers and making fun of our own teenage foibles. Writing stories took the sting out.

So, early on, I learned that life is grist for the writer’s mill. When you’re a writer, you never stop writing, am I right? As a new mom, I wrote book reviews for The Baby Diaper News—and got free diapers in return. As a mother of four, I was busy, busy, busy; I combined writing with raising my family. I couldn’t stop to write, so I never stopped writing. I wrote restaurant reviews, so I could take the children out to dinner; I took them on day-trips and wrote up our adventures for The Seattle Times (my favorite: “Port Gamble, a Sure Bet for a Sunny Afternoon.”)

When James, my first-born, started school, I wrote an article about how he brought his pocket teddy bear named Yai-Yai, to class. Leave no rock unturned. This is a lesson I learned from my son Peter at age three. We took a walk down the block—and he stopped to examine every flower and stone, and say hi to neighbors I did not know. “A Day at Peter’s Pace” was my first national publication. With two published articles under my belt, I started teaching a class at the University of Washington, “Writing Articles for Publication.” I was brazen. The students had to submit query letters weekly as part of the class—so, guess what?—a lot of them got published.

When Peter turned four, I staged the birthday party aboard the ferry—children under five got to ride for free. Packed up the cake and treats and toy telescopes in a picnic basket, took Peter and his friends for a free ride, and, of course, wrote an article, with pictures, for the Sunday Magazine. Years later, when Peter was preparing for the SAT’s, we would board the same ferry in Edmonds at 6 o’clock at night. He would sit at one table and study; I would sit at another table nearby, writing. We would go back and forth across the Sound, and get off at 10:00, with four solid, uninterrupted hours of work under our belts.

Emily loved clouds, so we sat down together and wrote a book about clouds. When Katherine was a brand-new baby, I wrote an article for a national parenting magazine about how lambskin helped her sleep.

Come to think of it, my whole book, Put Your Heart on Paper, is filled with stories about the fun of writing with my family: writing lists with Emily, the thrill of writing an award-winning play with Peter, the closeness of co-authoring a book about the stars with James, the sweetness of finding notes from Katherine tucked in a shoe. When Peter punched a hole in the wall upstairs, when James’s truck broke down when Katherine wanted to ride her bike off the block, when Emily wanted me to buy her an expensive sweatshirt, we worked it out in our interactive journals. (I wrote an article for Writers’ Digest Personal Journaling Magazine called “A Diary for Two”).

I often sing in my head, sometimes fiercely, paraphrased from The Chorus Line, “God, I’m a WRITER, a writer WRITES.”

I love Mary Oliver’s Instructions for Living a Life

Pay Attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

Wherever you are in life, look around you, write it up, send it in.

Henriette Anne Klauser, Ph.D.

Author and Speaker

Web: http://HenrietteKlauser.com/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/HenrietteKlauser/

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