How do you know you are a writer? I had clues as to my future career as early as the 7th grade. There was a writing contest in which we had to answer the question, “What does the Bill of Rights Means to Me.” My English teacher encouraged me to enter, saying I had a gift for writing. Frankly, at 13 years old, what did I know or care about the Bill of Rights. But I did care about the prize that was attached to winning this particular contest…a $100 dollar savings bond.
When I saw the kind of money they were giving the winner I suddenly became motivated. So I went to the library (no Google back in ‘62), found and read the Bill of Rights, and went to work. Trying to liven up what I considered a boring document, I wrote an essay comparing the Bill of Rights to something in everyday life. Unfortunately I can’t remember what that was, only that I won! Although I didn’t know it at that time, winning that contest was the first step in my becoming a professional writer.
From writing award-winning essays, (I won the grand prize the following year as well) I moved onto working on the high school paper as a reporter. The stories were pretty boring but it was fun interviewing teachers and going behind the scenes for a story on how the drama department produced the annual musical. But my creative juices didn’t bubble to the surface until we published an underground newspaper that almost got us all expelled.
It was 1971 and the drug culture was making the news from stories of the flower children of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to President Nixon officially declaring a “War on Drugs.” I was a sophomore at a Catholic high school in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. At our school, students were divided into two camps…smokers and drinkers. I was in the drinker camp but had plenty of potheads for friends. Our school’s mascot was an Indian chief and our paper’s name was the Pow Wow.
One of the student editors had the brilliant idea to change the name of our paper from Pow Wow to Wow Wow and write satirical articles on pot and drug use. Of course our teacher advisor would never have approved, so we took our project “underground.” We each took a section of the paper and rewrote it with drug innuendos such as changing teachers names and course descriptions into drug related names. I created a crossword puzzle with drug terms and wrote a review of a fake movie all about smoking pot. We printed the paper using a copy machine and funds collected from friends.
The day we distributed copies of the Wow Wow was the first time I was really excited about being published. While we were all quickly rounded up and sent to the principal’s office, the accolades from our peers was worth the 3-day suspension we received. And while our teacher/moderator officially was angry with us, she did let us know that she thought we’d done a great job of putting the paper together. Suddenly all of us geeky writers and photographers were instantly cool. To get an idea of how big a deal this was, our hijacking of the school paper was still being talked about at our 20-year high school reunion.
Besides becoming infamous for a week, writing satirical articles for the Wow Wow showed me how fun writing could be, especially when I could choose what to write about. Ten years later, I used writing as a way to outsmart a controlling husband.
Christie Walker Bos lives in Big Bear Lake, California, with her husband Robbie, her very own Magical Man. She has four published novels: Magical Man List, The Write Man for Her, and Getting Back to Delaney. And writing as Susan Ashworthy, she has the first novel in the Hot PurSuits series of erotica, Stealing Hearts. She has two Web sites: www.ChristieWalkerBos.com and www.SusanAshworthy.com