Playing in the Sandbox

Originally Published on March 27, 2012 on Beyond the Elms: Scripps College Career Planning & Resources Blog.

Recently, my high school celebrated its annual Writer’s Week, and I was more than a little jealous I couldn’t be there. As an aspiring writer, I savor the opportunities I had to engage in conversations with inspirations such as Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and novelist Gail Tsukiyama. And except for one strange experience with an author who buried her cat beneath her study so that its bones would be under her while she was writing, each writer I’ve met has reaffirmed my passion for writing.

Fortunately, Scripps is far from lacking in opportunities to explore my passions, and this week was no exception. Earlier this month, three Scripps alumnae (Fantasy author Melanie Rawn ’75, Web Content writer Julia Cook ’05 and Children’s Book author Stacia Deutsch ’91) volunteered their time to speak to eager Scrippsies about their careers in writing.

Like every other time I’d met with an author, I left inspired, but this experience did what none before had: It reaffirmed not just my passion, but also my conviction that I could achieve my dreams. Beyond practical advice for navigating the publishing world and finding an agent, the writers also encouraged us to never limit ourselves. Rawn encouraged us to be like children in a sandbox, building up castles and gleefully ravaging them until we learn what types of shovels we need to create a world that works best for us.

These writers all used a variety of metaphorical shovels to reach their current state. Their degrees (English, yes, but also History and Religious Studies) and previous jobs helped them to build a satisfying writing career from them. Melanie Rawn, for example, used her historical expertise as a foundation to create intricate, believable alternative worlds. Each of those women had sat in my place between seven and thirty-seven years ago, and if they could achieve their dreams, my own certainly couldn’t be out of reach.

Furthermore, each writer wrote in drastically different forms. While Melanie Rawn wrote fantasy, Julia Cook wrote for the web. Stacia Deutsch had ghost written Nancy Drew and transformed movie scripts like The Black Night into novels, and even wrote the Simon & Schuster young adult romance novel below, part of the collection that had been my guilty pleasure throughout middle school.

With so many available avenues to explore writing, I left confident that I would find at least one that would lead me to my personalized version of success.

Admittedly, as Melanie Rawn reminded us, “there is no type of writing that is easy.” Luckily for me, there’s also no type of writing that’s off limits, and there’s no type of writing that I’m not willing to try.

Besides, I’m willing to work hard so that when I’m done playing in my sandbox, my sand castle will be the best in town.

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