Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Told My Brother Stories

Wish I was still that cute.
                                                                                I told my brother stories
                                                                                when we were tucked in bed.
                                                                                I told my brother stories
                                                                                I made up in my head.

                                                                                I told my brother stories
                                                                                after we had said our prayers
                                                                                and our father kissed and left us
                                                                                in the room we shared upstairs.

                                                                                I told my brother stories
                                                                                when tell me a story I’d hear.                                           
                                                                                We should have been asleep but
                                                                                he’d beg from his bed so near.
                                                                                I told my brother stories
                                                                                Once upon a time, I’d say
                                                                                or continue one I’d started
                                                                                before sleep took us  away.

                                                                                I told my brother stories
                                                                                in a voice so soft and low
                                                                                so our parents couldn’t hear us
                                                                                in the living room down below.

                                                            I told my brother stories
                                                                                when we were tucked in bed.
                                                                                Now those stories are all gone
                                                                                that I made up in my head.

In almost all interviews of writers the question is asked “When did you start writing?” So many writers say they started writing when they were quite young – eight or nine, even. I didn’t start until I was a teenager, and even then it was only in a three-ring binder used as a journal, one story about a great-aunt and several poems. It seemed that I should have been writing in my classes at school, but I can’t remember being assigned an essay or anything that involved writing. In case it was a faulty memory, I asked my cousin’s husband, who was a year behind me in our school. He had to pause and think about it, and then said no. He couldn’t remember any of our teachers requesting written assignments. Then I asked a man at church who was a year ahead of me, and he didn’t think we’d ever written anything, either. In fact, I only remember two books assigned to be read; Ivanhoe and Romeo and Juliet, and there wasn’t a written assignment connected with this. As far as I remember we only discussed the books.

I might not have been a writer, but when I was quite young, my brother, Jerry, and I shared a room in the two-bedroom Cape Cod house my father built for us on a lot next to my grandparents’ farm, and I told him stories each night. In those years, we were sent to bed around 7:30, before the good shows on the radio came on like Inner Sanctum or Fibber Magee and Molly. Not that we didn’t often sneak down to sit on the steps  and listen, but we were usually caught and sent back to bed. My brother was sixteen months younger than me, and he’d ask me to tell him a story every night. More than likely I would have started with once upon a time, but from then on I made them up. I remember times when I’d pause to consider what would happen next in the story I was inventing, and he’d prompt me saying “What happened next?” I’d tell him “I’m thinking.” Sometimes we’d hear one of our parents downstairs telling us be quiet and go to sleep. If I fell asleep before I finished the story, or he’d fall asleep, the next night I’d continue that story and sometimes they’d stretch out for several nights or more.

My mother, father, Jerry and I

My sister Elaine was born when I was seven, and she slept in a crib in my parent’s room. When my mother became pregnant with my sister Suzanne my dad added a large kitchen/dining area on the back of our house and turned the small kitchen we had into a bedroom for Jerry, and then my two year old sister shared my bedroom and the stories I told my brother ended. I wish I could remember those stories, but I can’t. However, even if they weren’t written down, I still was a storyteller at that young age. Although we weren’t taught the rudiments of writing a story in school, apparently, all the books I read over my lifetime fired my imagination and made me into a storyteller and also taught me how to write those stories.   

My handwriting was so much better then than it is now.
The day after I’d written this blog above and sent it for review, I was cleaning out a cupboard in my library I hadn’t touched in years because there wasn’t anything I’d needed in there. It was sort of out of sight, out of mind.  Imagine my surprise when I found a somewhat tattered spiral composition book I thought had been thrown out almost forty years ago when our basement had flooded. In it were four short stories I’d written, seven poems and an essay on my nine best friends all written between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. Some of you may have read the blog I wrote this past May 8th, “Serendipity, Coincidence or Whatever.” It’s certainly another example of that. I sat down and read the first short story. New Family is rather amateurish, but has all the elements needed in a short story; a fourteen year old girl is facing a problem which makes her unhappy and then the problem is nicely resolved in the end. I haven’t read Horror at Midnight yet, but it looks like even then I was destined to be a mystery writer.

When did you first start writing or telling stories?



E. B. Davis said...

My father told us stories although they tended to be a bit off-color. By the end of the story, my mother would be exasperated telling him the story was inappropriate for children. He ignored her. We were glad because they were usually about when he and his brother were younger and got into trouble. Mom probably thought it would give us ideas.

When my children were little, I told stories about them and created animal characters to represent each. My daughter was Kitty, the kitten who found the Turtle, my son, in the backyard. Kitty and Turtle had many adventures together. Of course in the stories, my character, Mom, went along for the fun.

Love your poem, Gloria.

Gloria Alden said...

E.B. those stories your father told you probably had a lot to do with you becoming a writer. You were lucky to have a father like that. I know my parents told us stories about when they were young. As for me telling my children stories, I don't think I did, but I did read to them. More than likely having four children in less than five years, I was too busy changing diapers, feeding them and taking care of boo boos.

Warren Bull said...

Like reading, I don't remember a time when I did not tell stories. In the third or fourth grade I tried telling a story without the slightest hint of a plot. It didn't work. Ever since I have used plots.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, most of us learn through our mistakes. Glad to know you did. :-)

Jim Jackson said...

My sisters were 5 and almost 11 years younger than I so we did not share any nighttime storytelling. But we are all readers and that was certainly because our parents read to us.

~ Jim

judyalter said...

Probably I was about nine or ten when I wrote a series of stories about an elderly spinster whose blonde cocker kept getting her in trouble. I wanted a blonde cocker spaniel in the worst way-my parents finally got me a rust-colored cocker mix with an unreliable disposition.

Shari Randall said...

What a lovely poem, Gloria! Thank you for sharing it.
When I was young, I wrote diary entries, poems, and short stories. One story that came to light a few months ago was a ripping car race adventure starring an alligator named Albert.
Mostly I played with Barbies, which as most kids who played with Barbies know, involved lots of plotting.

Patg said...

Story telling is something we kids did until TV came along. One of my English teachers in junior high only homework was giving a list of words and you write something using all the words. Did that once a week. I decided to become a mystery writer when I got an A for writing a blackmail letter.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, my parents read to us, too, but even more important, they read books lots of books before those years of TV. They were good role models.

Judy, it's funny that you wrote a story about an elderly spinster. Were you reading Miss Marple stories at that time? As for me about wanting a dog, it was a collie I dreamed of. I wanted one so much and that first story had a girl, my age, with a collie puppy. I'm sorry your doggie dream didn't work out too well. I got a stray collie when I was sixteen, and from then on over the years I've had a collie much of the time. I still have one.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you, Shari. That must have been a funny story when you reread it so many years later. My girls played with Barbie's, too, and spent hours plotting as you called it.

Pat, you were so lucky to have a teacher like that. I think the blackmail letter was funny. All I can remember our English teachers teaching us was grammar. I'm sure it had to be something more than that, but it wasn't enough to remember. We had the same two English teachers through Junior high and high school. Maybe we weren't even required to take English after two years of it in high school.

Sarah Henning said...

That picture of you two as kids is the best, Gloria! I was never good at telling verbal stories (I still screw up the pacing and punchlines) but my English section in fifth grade was very writing intensive and I just loved writing stories for it. I've never stopped.

Kara Cerise said...

I hope you rewrite Horror at Midnight, Gloria. The title sounds intriguing.

I wrote my first mystery when I was eight, but didn't keep it and don't remember the plot. I vaguely remember that my second story was about solving a mystery using time travel to catch a criminal on the run.

Gloria Alden said...

thank you, Sarah. I'm terrible at telling verbal stories or jokes. Either I forget something, or like you say, my pacing is off and sometimes I even forget the punchlines and even when I do remember them, I only get a weak smile from the listeners. There is a talent for being a good storyteller, but somehow, I managed to keep my brother entertained - maybe because there was no alternative then.

Ann G said...

Lovely post, Gloria

Apparently I used to tell my brother stories too, along with feeding him worms. I don't actually remember this, but apparently I told him that in dreamland I was Queen of the Fairies and he would have to do everything I told him there. Oddly he doesn't have any trouble sleeping now, while I am the insomniac. Perhaps it's karma :-)

I started to write stories soon after I started to get hooked on reading. I wrote adventure stories first, like my favourite Malcolm Saville Lone Pine Adventures. I sent one of them to him, together with a request to join the Lone Pine Club, and I had a lovely letter back from him, apologising that the club was no longer active, but encouraging me to write.

Lovely to have these memories jogged, Thank you


Gloria Alden said...

Ann, I had to laugh about feeding your brother worms. It brought back a memory of me making sand/mud pies in our sandbox and feeding them to my brother before our mom stopped it. What a special memory of having an author write back to you encouraging you to keep writing. I'm glad you took his advice.