One Day I’ll Write My Memoirs–Part One


And when people read it five hundred years from now they’ll say, “No wonder he wanted to be a writer.”
Whether or not I’ll be published one day, or famous, or rich, or hell, even making a living as a writer will never remove my love for the craft. I love telling stories. Period. It doesn’t matter to me if I never get published. I’ll never give up either way. This is something that is so much a part of me that to remove it would likely kill me. Yes, it is that extreme. I love to write. It’s the only ‘hobby’ (for lack of a better word) that ever made sense to me.
I imagine none of you know that I used to want to be an astronaut. Then again, I imagine many kids under the age of 10 want to be astronauts. Nobody who knew me then told me that they don’t hire asthmatics. So, like many kids, I gave that little dream up, although I would love to go to space one day.
Then I wanted to study astronomy, because the stars have always intrigued me, even if I don’t understand them or the nature of the universe. Space is such a fascinating place, and I figured if I couldn’t see it for myself, I could at least study it from the ground. I’m not sure if this dream ever disappeared or if writing science fiction took away the need to peek through a telescope, but I suspect that writing about the stars and aliens and what not turned me away from that.
But what got me onto writing as a passion? First, I have to say I’ve always liked writing stories, but it was always just something to do for no apparent reason. I wasn’t originally interested in developing my skills, whatever they may be, but only interested in telling silly stories. The actual turning point was senior year British Literature in high school. For those of you not from the U.S., high school comprises of the last four ‘grade levels’ or years before you go off to college/university. Senior year is the last year of those four, so it’s somewhat the most important.
We were reading Beowulf (I don’t know what it has to do with British Lit., but we were reading it nonetheless) and Ms. Smith (that was our teacher’s name) assigned us to write our own poetic version of the story, in groups if we wanted to. Somehow everyone in the class thought a simple 5-10 pages would do, and so it was that everyone else turned in 5-10 pages. But my friend A.J. and I had other plans. We sat down and looked at maps of old time England, or what looked like old time England, and developed our own short English mythology that used the basic Beowulf theme of a warrior fighting off an evil monster as a backdrop. We created a couple cities that never existed, but maybe did, and we wrote a story where all the characters had special abilities. There was a mighty history between one of the villainous characters and the main character, and so much more. It turned out to be significantly more in-depth than I think either of us intended, and when it came down to it we had to come to a decision on how to write it. Everyone else was going to use typical language, but we wanted it to be more authentic. After all, with all the work we had done, why would we want to sully it with standard free-verse poetry? We decided to write it, as best we could, as one of those old time, cryptic-style epic poems. We turned simple things like swords into poetic images and invested great time into the characters, turning them into real creatures, as real as you can get in a poem, rather than cardboard figurines.
And when we started writing it we realized that with one week left to go for the project, we were in for a wild ride. We’d plotted the whole story, to some extent, and when we looked at it we knew that this wasn’t going to be 5-10 pages. it turned out to be 32 pages. For a bunch of high school kids…well, you can imagine what it must be like to get a bunch of rebellious teenagers to put so much work into something. A.J. and I always worked well together I think. If he were a person with the mind to be a writer, I think we both would do well to work together, but he now serves our military, the brave and wonderful man that he is, and I think that despite my opinions of the war and our President, he belongs there. The military is his calling and I can’t imagine anyone more qualified to serve our armed forces than he.
In any case, you can imagine the surprise on Ms. Smith’s face when we flopped that 32 page manuscript down on her desk. Her eyes literally went wide. I’m not joking here. Her jaw dropped, she looked at it and looked up at A.J. and I, and we were both grinning wide.
We got an A, though I think we both thought we deserved a better grade considering the work we had put in. This project, however, sparked me to begin my first fantasy novel/series entitled “Revival of the Ancients”, which was a modified, deeper version of the 32 page poem we wrote, which then was called “Paladin”. “Revival of the Ancients” was a dead project from the start, but it was an amazing project nonetheless. I wrote a good 63 pages, single-spaced, in Times New Roman. That amounted to a whopping 36,500 words! But I didn’t know anything about writing then. I had read fantasy stories before and I really enjoyed building a world from scratch, but I didn’t understand POV, sentence structure, and general style. But it was my first attempt and it was the first time anyone ever praised me for something and there wasn’t anyone to ruin the joy for me (as had happened in my playing trumpet when the concept of competition came into play and I lost all interest in being professional). Writing doesn’t have any real competition. I’m not competing with any fellow hopefuls, or even published authors. In fact, a lot of the people that do write are people I really enjoy reading. Tobias Buckell is not competition for me, but he is a role model. As is John Scalzi, James Clemens, Obert Skye, and even Dana Copithorne who has taught me so much with her prose, much of which I’ve applied to Marx Ignatia, which I think is a far more difficult work than I have worked on before. So, there’s nobody there to ruin the love of the craft for me. If somebody I know gets published, say my girlfriend or my friend Andy who runs YWO with me, I’ll be happy for them and will look forward to reading whatever it is. Sure, I might be a little jealous, but that’s sort of an envious thing when someone close to you succeeds at something you love too. But I would still be happy.
So it is that Ms. Smith got me started on the path to learning about creative writing, and also got it in my head that I might one day want to be a teacher, which is now a goal in my life. On a side note: there are a lot of little tidbits to the story about “Paladin” that I didn’t include and I think perhaps I’ll put them in as an appendix to this strange series of posts entitled “One Day I’ll Write My Memoirs”. This concludes part one of some random series about me, which won’t be frequent I imagine, but might be of interest to somebody who cares about me and my writing.

One an additional side note: I’m going to have an interesting contest coming up that involves “The Spellweaver of Dern”, the second volume of the Satin Bag series/sequence/duology/etc.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

5 thoughts on “One Day I’ll Write My Memoirs–Part One

  1. Gr-8 beginning & it makes me think back to Advanced English upon reading Tale of Two Cities & Les Miserables.

    Looking forward to Part 2 and the contest. Maybe I’ll give it a whirl … tis exciting 🙂

    Glad to see life moving forward for the New Year in 2008 – Happy Holidays!

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