It's October 20, 2011... Happy National Day on Writing! So, the question has been posed: Why do I write? Let's take a trip back to memory lane, shall we? Fade up on my first creative writing class in high school. I loved the challenge of each assignment, from haikus to short stories. I still have that writing journal somewhere. Here's one of my haikus: Platypuses are... ducks and beavers and cats and... well, maybe not cats. Awesome. Come on, give me a break, I was like 17!
At the time (1989), the movie Dead Poet's Society was in theaters. A couple of my best friends and I formed Squinch Club and met off and on to write more silly poems and such. It was in those days that I discovered my own imagination and sense of humor. I also developed a youthful fearlessness to write absolutely anything that I wanted, no matter what. Through high school and college I also became a songwriter, screaming my vocal chords bloody in punk bands, then writing quirky lyrics and playing accordion for my post-grad alt-rock band, Snap Floosie.
Then, it happened. Around 1995, some buddies offered me a 15-minute slot to write and perform anything I wanted for our theatre collective's upcoming show. I ended up creating a one-man sci-fi musical comedy called Henry Noodle and the Radar Blip. It was a hit sensation (for my parents and friends). But man, I was hooked. Musical theatre combined everything I loved: music, performance, and of course, writing. Smash cut to New York City, 1997. I spent two amazing years at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Following that experience, I revived and rewrote The Cosmic Calamities of Henry Noodle, where it was marvelously performed by a cast of four in the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival to rave reviews.
Smash cut to Denver, 2008. After writing a dozen or so folky children's songs, some ad agency colleagues and I formed a band called The Hobo Nickels, playing festivals in and around Colorado's front range. Sure, Henry Noodle had been generally fun for all ages, but I wasn't really thinking about kids when I wrote it because, frankly, I didn't have kids then. But now I had two of my own, and they seemed to influence my writing more and more. I just can't help writing for kids now. It's my voice, I suppose. Those days of playing original kid songs and having children wiggle and dance and laugh in front of the stage were just too cool. My daughter still requests "daddy music" when she's in the car.
Smash cut to Mountain View, CA, 2010. If writing kidzy musicals evolved into writing songs for kids, then songwriting naturally evolved into children's book writing. And, in a way, all that I have learned from music and musicals is distilled into my manuscripts. When I compose 32 picture book pages worth of text, all the musicality and drama is there. I hope. But why? The question is why do I do it? I write because I love creating worlds from scratch. I write because I enjoy the jigsaw puzzle of wordplay. I write because I seek to entertain. I write because sooner or later, I'll get it right. I write because writing continues to be a big part of the story of my life--and I've still only discovered the tip of the iceberg.
Slow fade to Mountain View, 2011. My 6-year-old son quietly sits at a table with colored markers and one of many, many blank stapled booklets I've made for him lately. "Daddy, what should I write about now?" he asks. "Anything you want, buddy," I say. "Anything you want." Blackout.