1) When you stole those books. Your first grade reader, “Janet and Mark,” and then later, your aunt’s thesaurus.
2) When you questioned the A’s you always got in English: “How could my writing really be that good? What’s wrong with this teacher?”
3) When writing notes to your classmates was a literary event mandating rough drafts, revisions, and the never-ending “workshopping” of jokes.
4) When you stopped liking a boy because he spelled “beautiful,” “beuaty-full,” even though it was in reference to you.
5) When you could barely handle the stress of waiting for someone to return The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the library.
6) When you read every single thing on your mom’s bookshelf and you really didn’t think Jonathan Livingston Seagull was that good, but The Godfather definitely was.
7) When the aunt you stole the thesaurus from gave you a copy of A Child’s Christmas in Wales for Christmas and you volunteered to do an oral report on it in class. But all the other fourth-graders just sat there, bored.
8) When you petitioned your 5th grade teacher to let you direct and produce the play you’d been working on, an adaptation called “The Wizard of Izod.” And she let you.
9) When all your childhood memories tether to what you were reading at the time. The trip to Crater Lake was The Little Prince. All of second grade was just “Roald Dahl.” That month in Los Angeles with my aunt was Gone With the Wind. That day we had the garage sale, The Phantom Tollbooth. When my cousin died: Judy Blume.
10) When you were a member of that all girl band in junior high, but your role was just songwriting. Not the music, the lyrics.
11) When the guy who wrote Gentle Ben, Walter Morey, visited your elementary school and you wanted to go up and talk to him, but you were too shy and embarrassed and jealous.
12) All those lists of words on all those note cards. Words you liked and words you didn’t know. Didactic. Cabal. Mollify. You read the cards while watching T.V. Because this was what you did before hand-held devices were a thing.
13) When you copied all the cool passages from your mom’s Cosmopolitan magazine into that tiny journal with the pierrot doll on the cover.
14) When you read The Great Gatsby and Wuthering Heights and you just didn’t get the hype printed on their paperback covers: “An American Masterpiece,” and “Classic and Unforgettable.” And then later as an adult you read them again and felt sorry that your kid self used to be so oblivious.
15) When you felt secretly superior to all the other kids in English class. And sometimes even the teacher.
16) When you had a bunch of strong opinions about the properties of pencils, pens and paper. And you got really animated and intense about the topic of stationary.
17) When you hoarded change so you could buy every new issue of Mad Magazine. And then when you savored every word of each issue like it was aged scotch.
18) When you would pull out your grandmother’s giant dictionary from 1895 and sprawl across the floor reading it while your relatives played poker and drank whiskey. And then when you opened your high school graduation gift. There it was. She’d had it rebound in leather. Your name embossed in gold on the cover. And you knew then. This was the best gift you would ever receive.
19) Because that feeling that you get from books, the jostle between admiration and envy, that started when you were a child.
20) And when you wanted so desperately as a kid to announce to the world that you were going to be writer, you decided not to speak of it. You decided to wait. To hold out. To just show them all someday instead.