top of page

S. Johnson

In the fourth grade, I still had a first grade reading level . When it came time for reading class every day, five students and myself were taken out of our respected classrooms and was placed with Ms. B. By this time, I had been in summer school for the past two years just for reading. Ms. B. was nice and taught us to read it slowly; it wasn’t a contest, even though all the other kids in my grade raced each other to the end of a sentence. Ms. B. had been my helper of reading since first grade, and she wasn’t going to see me fail. By the time I left Red Oak Elementary school, I had one of the highest reading levels in my class.

In my hometown, middle school is bringing all the students together in one large school with changing classes, where it is rare to see the same students in any class. In sixth grade, I was thrown into this mess. After the first day of school, kids had already found their groups, and I had no one. By October, the talk of the school was the movie Twilight, which was to come out in November. Most of the girls in my grade were reading the books, and in a desperate attempt to fit into the school, I went to the library and tried to check it out. The library had four copies of Twilight, and all had long waiting lists. The second one had long waiting lists as well. The third book had no waiting list, and I thought to myself, “It can’t be bad to start with the third book.” I was confused out of my eleven year old mind. For anyone who was or is a Twilight fan, then it is known that Eclipse deals with “newborn vampires,” and I thought it was infants crawling around as vampires. I went home and asked my mom for Twilight, and the next day, it waited for me. My mom did not ask me any questions; she was just happy that I read—and I did read the Twilight saga eight times.

Vampires were a fad at time, and there were so many vampire books out there. My mom’s attempt to get me off of Twilight came with Rose Hathaway with Vampire Academy. (It is a bad title for a book teen fantasy book and series.) Rose Hathaway is what I wanted to be: confident and a badass. Bella Swan represented what I was: awkward, alone and just weird. Rose Hathaway offered a new avenue, and I chose her to make many of my teenage choices, asking “What would Rose Hathaway do?”

The vampire fad died out, entering the new genre of dystopian novels: Hunger Games, Shatter Me, The Darkest Minds, etc. I entered those fads too. The dystopian novel died out to be replaced by princesses, not the usual ones that wait to be saved but the ones that knew how to speak multiple languages, knew how to fight and didn’t fall in love with the first man that they met: The Selection, Tyrelle series, Grave Mercy, etc. In high school, I averaged one book read per week.

In junior high school, I had started my writing with contemporary and poetry. By the time that high school hit, I realized my love of writing came from adventure and fantasy. Much of the reading that I do is not contemporary because, when I read, I want to escape: new places, new people, new languages, new foods—new everything. This led to my love of traveling to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany and Italy, where every experience was done and then written down. All the things that I dreamed about doing when I read, I experienced firsthand when I traveled. No longer did I dream of being a princess in a palace; I lived in a palace for a summer. No longer did I dream of kissing the Blarney Stone of Ireland; I bent across the cavern. No longer did I dream of speaking another language; I spoke German in Germany. No longer did I dream of traveling the old cobblestone streets of Rome; I walked down the cobblestone streets—in heels no less.

Each of these travels has added to my story that I wish to share with the world. Each of these experiences bleeds into my work. Each of these moments inks my paper. These are the moments that I want to share with you.

When it came to university, I took this passion of trying new things to start doing profiles of people, like a profile of the Superior Fire Department from Superior, Wisconsin. I was able to follow them around, where I was almost a firefighter for a day. (My dad is proud since he is a retired fire captain.) I worked in classes of rhetoric, with my focuses on sexism and racism in rhetoric and the devices that are used. I worked in classes of non-fiction writing, where I spent my days finding stories from my life to bring alive to the world. I worked in classes of fiction, where I dived into my mind to weave together stories with strong female characters. I took a number of courses that were of no need for the writing that I want to do, but all of the classes I took added to my knowledge when it comes to writing.

I learned from reading that if I wanted to be a good fantasy writer and powerful profiler; I needed to experience the lives of the people in the region. In Scotland, I learned history and rebellion from the writers of the time and the monuments that stand to document. In Germany, I learned fairytales from the expert of the Grimm Brothers himself. In Ireland, I learned folklore. In Italy, I learned romance. My travels seep into my writing to weave a story with multiple elements.

With these teachings and the numerous books that I have read—and will read—I have chosen to become a fiction writer. While everything cannot be based in fiction, using experiences to create a world around me makes it stand stronger and longer. I use my experiences of travel and willpower to create worlds. Even if the worlds do not see the light of day, I will always remember them.

bottom of page