I think of myself as a story teller more than a writer. I have had stories swirling through my mind as long as I remember having thought.
I started writing them down and drawing little pictures to go with before I could read.
"Mom, how do you draw D-O-G?"
I was so intent on sharing my stories I didn't care how it was done. I would draw a picture, try to write it down, act them out for my little brother or simply let them rumble through my mind, saving them to tell another day.
I stood tall and proud as I told my first grade class about our family summer vacation in Africa. I told everyone about our camp set up in the middle of the jungle.
My heart pounded and my hands shook as I told of the wild herd of giraffes rampaging through our camp.
My eyes filled and I choked back a sob while I related the shattering experience of my father being run down, in a heroic effort to save his children.
I stared each one of my disbelieving classmates down as I described the giraffe hoof prints that travelled across his back, "...to this very day!"
My closest contact to the African velde was watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on Sunday morning. But as I watched Marlin Perkins send his good man Jim into one more lion's den I disappeared into the screen. I rode those zebras and wrestled the biggest crocs.
As I stood in front of Sister Mary Francis Brown's class at St. Thomas Apostle telling my tale, I could almost believe it had actually happened.
And so it went. As a second grader, playing in the woods of a suburb outside of Chicago, I became so lost in the forest I threw myself sobbing in a giant pile of leaves. I rolled over on my back, staring at the fading blue of the late afternoon sky, knowing for sure I was going to die alone.
A kind and concerned old woman stopped and tried to console me. I told her of my dark and cold days, how hungry I was, how I was looking for my puppy and lost my way.
She kindly offered me her hand, tears rolling down her cheeks, when my mother called from across the street, "Janet! Dinner time!"
There was no way to convince the old woman I was as shocked as she was, so I simply ran home.
I stood at the top of the stairs, listening to my mother explain to the embarrassed and angry woman how I had only been out for an hour. I was a little different, yes. No, I didn't have a puppy.
Her voice sounded tired. Maybe a little amused.
I wondered if I might be able to have a puppy.
I wrote story after story. As I grew older the horses played a more important role in all of them. I learned to keep my stories on paper. I wrote of wild stallions, magical unicorns, good old cowhorses.
In junior high I wrote of race horses who could never win, cowponies who died pining for their best friend, a good dog.
In high school I wrote a story about an angry girl and her beautiful horse Raphael. They travelled back in time and found the place they really belonged. I worked on it for two years. I drew hundreds of illustrations to go with it. It ended with the girl not knowing what her fate would bring. Her horse died.
As I grew into adulthood I still wrote the occasional story. I had to. The stories still raced across my mind. Sometimes I just scribbled a few notes so I wouldn't forget. Sometimes I would tell the whole story. They weren't about horses anymore.
I learned the difference between the reality of my life and the fiction of my stories. But they still protected me from the parts I didn't want to see.
Then I started this wild blog thing.
I wrote the truth, but only the parts that didn't hurt. Then I went ahead and wrote about some of the hard parts too.
It's funny. When I started to finally write about the real deal, things began to happen. I got a job as a writer. My real stories are what have begun to bring me success. My real life with horses is what has brought me into this new life as a writer.
But I still have these stories.....