OSWALT ELEMENTARY – WALNUT, CA
Reading and writing were never my “thing.” As a young child, I actually despised both.
I used to say, “Who has time to read?” and “WHY would someone read for fun?” and “WHY write anything more than your name down on a piece of paper?”
In the first grade, I was enrolled in RSVP (Reading Speech Vocabulary Program). Every day, twenty minutes before lunch, my teacher, Ms. Gata, would crouch down at my desk to dismiss me. “You can go now,” she would whisper.
It was a walk of shame to the door, and across the quad to the RSVP building. I was convinced I was the dumbest one in my class. None of my other classmates had to go. Just me.
As my tutor and I sat side by side, she spoke of the tools that I would be given to improve my reading and writing skills. I was always sidetracked by the small room, and by the other students who were also with their assigned tutors. It was a strange place and I was never in the mood to talk, but my tutor was very kind and she, ultimately, got me comfortable enough to read aloud my assignments to her.
That was the moment when my curiosity had peaked for reading.
I would re-read the take-home stories from RSVP, which were anywhere from ten to twenty pages with pictures. My favorite story was the one about an orange being passed around as a good luck charm. It was told in the first person—the orange. I thought that was a cool way to grab a reader’s attention.
The more I read, the more my reading and writing improved. Like my peers, I moved on to the second grade.
CHILDHOOD HOME – DIAMOND BAR, CA
My childhood movies revolved around Disney and Nickelodeon, until one school night…I saw Ghostface on TV. My mother forgot to change the channel before leaving the family room. She was not too happy when she saw me watching the infamous Drew Barrymore opening sequence. But with my calm demeanor, not flinching or crying like most children my age, mom kept the film on.
That was the first time we watched Wes Craven’s Scream together.
LOCAL AMC THEATER (EVENING) – DIAMOND BAR, CA
On December 24th, 2003, Mom took me to an early screening of the family film remake Cheaper by the Dozen starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and their rascally bunch of twelve kids. I was familiar with the cast since Steve Martin was fresh off the Father of the Bride reboots. Back then, Hilary Duff was Lizzie McGuire and Tom Welling was Superman.
Being the strange kid I was, preferring the latest slasher or the one film where Mark Wahlberg played the guitar (saw Rockstar a few years later), I was shocked as soon as I had left the two-hour family film. I was consumed by the “bug” and my life had honestly changed from there on.
VARIOUS LOCATIONS – SOUTHERN, CA
The following week, my mind kept wandering back to Cheaper by the Dozen – the acting, dialogue, and overall story. It was a bit jarring, wondering why a certain character did this, and not that. My mind played a series of “What ifs” and “What if the film had gone a different route?”
It was my first writing-related epiphany that I had acted upon because, only months prior to this, I had to complete an end of the year project. In order to graduate from the fifth grade, I had to write a book, and make it look like one. I had dreaded the amount of time that would go into it.
But that was the beginning of me wanting to become a writer. Cheaper by the Dozen was my moment to tackle it head on.
HOME (THAT NIGHT) – DIAMOND BAR, CA
It had been seven days since watching the film. Winter break was coming to an end and I was to return to school in less than a week for my final semester of the sixth grade.
One night after dinner, I found myself sitting on my bedroom floor for about an hour, replaying the film in my head, especially particular scenes. It was overwhelming, and getting on my last nerve. My solution was what I had least expected…
I got up and approached my Hello Kitty theme desk—stickers that my mother was not fond of because her dad built the desk from scrap. Then, out came the stacks of lined pieces of papers and number two pencils. It was going to be a long night.
That was the moment my affair with writing began.
It was a big secret. People had wondered why I preferred to stay indoors, instead of seeing my family and friends. I was lying to everyone, making excuses that I was suddenly “tired” or had to rush home to “finish some homework.” I became known as the “flake” or “grandma” because I had always canceled or missed out on events.
It felt impossible to hide when my mother had shared some writing award I got to my guidance counselor, who then told the faculty. One of my teachers made the announcement in class one morning. I was embarrassed. My moments of isolation were how I wrote/worked and not a lot of people understood and/or supported that.
THEN, NOW, AND ONWARD:
Writing is difficult and can be one of the most isolating jobs. Some days, I pat myself on the back for finishing a draft, or asking for feedback. Other days, I hate it and want to quit. I ponder pursuing something else because I think I suck at writing, and will fail, etc.
But, what I have learned is that any work put on display will not always be liked, and that is okay. One is not “bad” because of rejection. Rejection is daily, work-related or not, and should never be taken personally.
A journey has many downs, but also multiple ups. Focus on the ups, like me. I am now a professional writer and filmmaker.
Natalie Rodriguez is a writer and filmmaker from Southern, CA.
In 2014, she graduated with her B.A. in TV-Film from CSUF. Her work
has been featured on James Franco’s “Sex Scenes” Studio 4 (LA)
master class; Zooey Deschanel’s HelloGiggles; Huffington Post; AXS;
Dime Show Review; Defeat the Stigma Project; Fictional Cafe; FlockU;
Short Kid Stories; Thought Catalog; and Winamop Poetry.
The Art and Craft of Writing and Editing
Writing is a constant dialogue between author and reader.
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