Please welcome guest blogger and middle grade author Mackenzie Reide to the Reading Room today.
THE OBSESSION OF WRITING
by Mackenzie Reide
Recently, I began revisions on the third book in my middle grade trilogy, The Adventurers. I described the process of writing and revising with my editor to someone.
She looked surprised. “Wow. That sounds like a lot of work. Why do you write?”
I was taken aback by the question. I blurted out the answer, “Why do you breathe?”
Writing is not something that I ever really thought about. I just do it. It’s always been there lurking around in the back recesses of my mind. That is, until I published my first children’s book, The Adventurers: The Mystery of Troll Creek.
So why do I write? Is it because I scribble ideas on a napkin? Am I supposed to crank out a novel the size of War and Peace? Is there an age limit like getting a driver’s license? I pondered these questions late at night until my head swam.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me, I thought. An addiction, perhaps?
I can’t seem to stop.
I remember reading a biography of Sting and how he was asked to describe his music. He realized that he couldn’t call it a hobby because that description was not strong enough, yet he couldn’t call it a business because he was at a job interview. He knew in that moment, music was an obsession. It was such a deep part of him that he couldn’t live without it. Of course, he couldn’t tell that to the interviewer, but it was a revelation on his part.
That struck a deep cord within me. I realized that I have been writing ever since I could pick up a crayon. I wrote short stories all through elementary school and even won a few awards along the way. Everyday I wrote something. Sometimes it was a diary entry or a journal. Other times an idea would just pop into my head and I would write about it.
But I was always writing.
While I was growing up things were not pretty. Many of my early stories involved characters working through problems and trying to find solutions to difficult situations. I puzzled out the confusing behavior of the adults around me and the mean kids in the classroom. It was, in hindsight, a coping tool to observe and try to navigate my way through a scary and hostile world.
When I could get my hands on a book, I searched for characters I could relate to. The very first book that I took out from the public library was The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. I immediately fell in love with Miss Bianca and her sidekick Bernard. This was the beginning of my love of adventure but also stories of friendship and loyalty. These were characters who forged deep friendships and always had each other’s back. I stumbled upon another British author, Enid Blyton, and The Famous Five series. I read my way through all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books and the Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I gobbled these books up as I was trying to fill a longing that was buried deep within me.
That longing made me crave finding more stories with smart kids who had to solve their own problems with minimal or no adult support. I was excited to find Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. She was such a relief to read about. She got angry. She braved many challenges and traveled to a world still unique today. I wanted more of that. I desperately wanted to connect with characters like Meg, but I found it very frustrating as there were very few Meg type characters to read about. Most of the books I found in the library had the boy characters doing all the adventure and fun stuff and it felt like the “girls” were not supposed to have thoughts or ideas that would lead them beyond a trip to the mall.
I felt very isolated and lonely (like Meg) and reading became less comforting the more books I devoured. I felt like the girls were being held back. Books that claimed to have feisty and spirited girls seemed to contain an invisible rein. Even in my favorite Famous Five books, the main character, George (aka Georgina) hated being a girl. This was because everything she liked to do, such as rock climbing, biking, navigating tunnels underground, and rescuing the other kids, all of that was supposed to be a boy thing. And she was constantly lectured about how she was not a boy and that she was supposed to stop. She was expected to grow out of this tomboy phase and become a real girl.
That’s when my writing became an obsession. A full on, Sting-sized, obsession. I wanted to tell stories so other kids like myself could read them and have that feeling of relief and joy like I had in finding Meg in A Wrinkle in Time.
It would take many years, a mechanical engineering degree, and lots of stories later, before Dana, Amy and Jack would fully grow on the page. I scribbled on napkins. I typed on every electronic device I could get my hands on. The stories I wrote when I was between eight and twelve years old became The Mystery of Troll Creek and The Mask of the Troll. There is no doubt these characters are my obsession, as my editor knows so well. But I believe that it is characters like George and Meg, and Dana, Amy and Jack, who challenge young readers to question, to be angry, to explore, and to create life long friendships. Children’s books are a refuge and an inspiration.
So, to answer her question, why do I write? Because I want to inspire, to be a role model, to entertain and encourage, and heck, because I’m obsessed. But, to me, that’s all in the day of a writer.
Mackenzie Reide started out as a girl who loves rock climbing, exploring tunnels, riding bikes, and being very good at math. She grew up to be a woman who loves rock climbing, exploring tunnels, riding bikes, and has an honors degree in Mechanical engineering (with a minor in Aerospace). Along the way, she never stopped writing.
If you’re curious to know more about Mackenzie and her books, you can visit her website at mackenziereide.com
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Book three of The Adventurers will be coming out fall 2018. If you would like to buy the first two in the trilogy they are available in print and ebook formats:
Thanks for reading! If you love to write, please consider sharing this post on your social media. If you love to read, or have kids who do, please consider trying out her series!