NaNoWriMo Day #28 – How I became a storyteller

By Kate Watson 

I used to think that storytelling found me. One of my earliest memories is of my mom reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to my family on a road trip. I was on the edge of my middle seat in our cramped Suburban as the winged monkeys captured Dorothy and Toto. Not even my screeching little sisters or stinky, belching older brothers could distract me from hanging on every word of Dorothy’s story.

Not long after, I started writing, illustrating, binding, and selling my own books called The Heart People. They featured anthropomorphized hearts playing on a playground together, and I sold them for 25¢ a piece to my parents (I promptly spent all that hard-earned cash on penny candies at the local convenience store, but my love of sugar is a story for another day). The quality of my work declined as my sugar-motivated output increased, and too soon, my target audience began looking elsewhere for quality fiction. But I was hooked.

By second grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. By tenth grade, I had written a fantasy novel that I didn’t then realize was actually fan fiction of David Eddings’ Belgariad. I wrote in a journal daily. After graduating from university, I had a dozen word docs on my laptop with different story ideas and two or three abandoned WIPs under my belt.

This trend continued until I started a career in business. I didn’t write a word for years. When a story idea came into my head, I shrugged it off. I was married and had great friends; I enjoyed my job and my husband and I traveled a lot when we weren’t working. Meanwhile, my creativity joined my abandoned WIPs on a thumb drive buried beneath paperclips, a stapler, and an old MP3 player in a desk drawer.

I had lost storytelling.

A few years into my career, I was sitting in a particularly uninspiring meeting and I had an image of a girl crawling out of a storm drain into a strange world. The scene was so striking that I instantly flipped to the back of my work notebook and wrote it down: the feeling of the wet metal on the girl’s palms, the unearthly smells when she made it to the other side, the brightness of the sun when she’d just crawled away from a storm, all of it. Forty-five minutes later, the meeting was over, and I had several feverishly handwritten pages and a burning desire to find out what had happened to this girl and what would happen next.

Over the next couple of years, I completed the first draft of a YA fantasy trilogy that had more than rekindled my love of writing. During that time, I had spent hundreds of hours researching writing and studying different plotting, world-building, and characterization techniques. I’d scoured Query Shark and had basically moved into the Absolute Write forums. I knew I wanted to publish, and I was determined to make it happen.

When the trilogy remained unagented after a year or two, I moved on to new projects. I became a serial NaNoWriMo participant (and winner!). I joined a writing group and attended conferences. And I wrote. Sometimes every day, sometimes not. But writing had become as much a part of me as my freckles. It became a driving force in my life, and it remains so to this day.

Eventually, I found my agent, she found my publisher, and my books found their way onto actual bookshelves.

But more importantly, I found storytelling.


Kate Watson is a young adult writer, wife, mother, and the tenth of thirteen children. Originally from Canada, she attended college in the States and holds a BA in philosophy. A lover of travel, speaking in accents, and experiencing new cultures, she has also lived in Israel, Brazil, Utah, and the American South. She now calls Arizona home. She is the author of Shoot the Moon (Flux Books) and Seeking Mansfield (Flux Books). Her newest novel, Lovestruck will be published in Spring 2019 (Flux Books)






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