By Valerie Chandler
Almost every writer is asked, “Why do you write?” Many writers have lofty answers, but mine is, “Because I have to.” I love telling stories. I have to tell stories. I think it’s something I got from my dad who was a natural-born storyteller. He used this gift in his job as a college professor. He loved to entertain his students.
I wrote my first stories in first grade and I loved it. During my elementary years, every time a teacher said, “Get out a pencil and paper. It’s time to write a story,” I practically jumped out of my chair from excitement while the rest of the class groaned. As I grew older, writing exercises turned from writing stories to writing essays. I felt the school system was conspiring to squash our creativity.
Then in eighth grade Mrs. Cunningham read a story called “The Spanking Machine”. My heart raced. When I was in kindergarten, my older brother teased me that Principal Rockefeller of the elementary school where I would attend the following year, had a spanking machine and she accidentally killed a kid with it.
The story that Mrs. C. read was not about that, but it brought back a vivid memory of my run-in with her spanking machine. I knew that was the story I had to write. (You can read what happened here.)
A few days later, before Mrs. C. returned our stories to us, she said, “You all wrote really good stories, but there is one I’d like to read to you. It’s called ‘The Spanking Machine’.”
The students protested, “You already read that to us!”
“No, this is a different one. A story that one of you wrote.” I couldn’t believe she was going to read it to the whole class! I was nervous and curious as to how they would react. I remember looking around the room, pretending I didn’t know who wrote it, in case they didn’t like it. As the story progressed they leaned forward in their chairs, got nervous as the tension grew, and laughed at the end.
To have an effect like that on someone is fun, intriguing and addictive. The idea that a writer can reach through the words and grab a reader is a powerful and fun feeling, but it’s also a compulsion. I have stories constantly swimming through my head and I want to share them with the world. I hope readers will still lean forward with anticipation when they read my stories.