Hello. I make it a point to start everything I write with hello, because no matter how many people read it, it’s still just me and the one reader, and you would greet someone if you’d talk to him personally, wouldn’t you?
Every book, whether it’s a work of art that changed the literary world like David Copperfield to something like Twilight, is based on one idea, a skeleton that pops in the writer’s mind. The idea affects him so much that the writer is helpless but to care for it. Care enough to construct a body for it, give it life and then send it out into the world.
I mention this because when I was asked to write an article about my story, by Grasping for the Wind I agreed but quickly realized that writing an article about my story is impossible unless you want a blog. And nobody wants a blog. So I will write this article as an idea, a skeleton that I give you the reader to hate or love enough to make up your own body for it as you go through it. I give full permission to draw outside the lines.
So when I say I learnt English by watching TV, I leave it to you to imagine a little boy standing in front of a television set, associating words with what the characters were doing. Imagine two parents fighting behind him, and him wanting to turn the volume up but too afraid to do so because then he would be noticed. Is it sad that they’re fighting or a bit happy because they’re too busy to change the channel? Or maybe the parents are at work. Maybe they’re watching the cartoons with him. See what I mean?
I’m Romanian. Do with it as you will.
I learnt how to write when I was five from my sister, who was nine years older than me and replaced her baby dolls with her baby brother. Sadly, she only bothered teaching me how to write in capital letters, and not how to actually arrange them into words. So I’d love to tell you what the first word I ever wrote was, but it was in a language only I could speak… and I could speak it only when I wrote it, so reading it was impossible even for me. At six years, I wrote my first poem, inspired by a national poet from whose book my mother used to read to me. That’s what made me want to read, to fill in the many evenings in which my mother was too tired or busy to do so. So I returned to my sister, the sage, with an honest plea.
“I’ll only teach you once.” She’d jokingly say, but as any child would, I took that very much to heart and thus, learnt them quite quickly.
I was born in Romania four years before the revolution which overthrew communism. So my parents, having lived in that period, had stacked the library with the works of Great Russian writers. Imagine a kid at kindergarten reading Crime and Punishment. Of course I didn’t understand it, but I could read it, and from time to time I would actually see the main character, through a fog of unintelligible phrases. So it didn’t make much of a difference if it was Crime and Punishment or the phone book. Even though the phone book didn’t have murder in it.
I grew up on those kind of books, voraciously going through all the classics, since at the time, Romania still hadn’t opened up culturally to the West, and I was in my teenage years before I was even aware of the Internet. I didn’t mind though, since I felt, and still feel that they offered me everything I needed. They taught me of human nature, humor, suffering, and as I grew that fog began to lift and I could not only see the characters but go through their story with them, as an unnoticeable extra in the background. The library wasn’t much help either regarding new literature, but once more, I didn’t mind grabbing foreign authors that had died a century before.
At seven, when I started school another major event happened. We got cable, or at least a bastardized version of it. We were just happy about not having only two channels to choose from. The miracle was when I saw my first cartoon on SKY1 – a British TV station. I could tell you what it was, or you could just fill it in with your first cartoon. The problem was that the cartoon show only started at seven in the evening and ended at eight so the window of opportunity was small. In order not to miss it, I spent most of the day with an eye on the TV. That meant that I learnt my basic English from the first cast of The Young and the Restless, when they were actually young. Now they’re mostly Restless.
Scrolling down, to when Cartoon Network appeared. It was heaven. Cartoons all day? A layer of dust on the books later, and I could speak English. All throughout I was still writing my poetry, and by my poetry I mean just that. The only ones to read it where my frequently changing muses, each of who had the title as “my only one”. And often, my “first” one.
I’ll pass over my introduction to the internet and through it to music, movies and everything nice, which was of course all in English, even the people spoke it. I’ll pass over learning how to write English from movie subtitles I’d download for deaf viewers, just to get the names of the sounds right. I still get melancholy when I see “Jazz music playing”. Scrolling over a two year relationship in Greece with a girl who I’d only speak to in English, and pause it there. The first poems I wrote in English were of course, for a Greek girl. Scrolling down. The relationship ends, more or less tragic, but very Greek, and I return from Athens aimlessly, for the first time thinking of writing books.
The first book I wrote was in Romanian, so I guess I could say that my first book in English was a translation. That was at twenty two, the same year I returned from the land that shaped modern western civilization to a land where the most known character has fangs and is afraid of the Sun.
Twenty three, there were two books, and a hopeful heart sending them out to literary agents. The ones who were interested, told me I was a hard sell because of my ethnicity and should consider a pseudonym. I had heard the Universe is open to messages, so I sent one out, with those agents address on it, and decided to self publish. Which, by the way, I still think is a fancy term for printing out your own books.
I met an amazingly talented Brazilian artist, who drew the amazing covers for me. Are you drawing out of the lines yet?
And here I am, still writing, but this time, trying to get my hands on books in English to polish my writing in such a way that people can’t tell the difference anymore. I don’t think the current snags in my prose will deter any reader who finds my ideas worthwhile, but I’d rather not have them hit those snags in the first place.
I stay away from modern authors because I don’t want them to influence my own ideas and style, because any reader knows how easy it is to get drawn into a world, and that you never leave that world the same way you went in. So, ironically, I’m back to reading my classics, this time, in English. Maybe I’ll read the moderns in a Romanian translation…
If you’re still here, you’ve just read a drop over a thousand words. That’s the idea. An article on my story… You fill in the blanks.
Take care, I hate Goodbye.
Zarioiu Dorin Cristian is the Romanian author of “The Labryinth” an English language fantasy that was reviewed favorably by Fantasy Book Critic. You can find out more about this novel and his next at zdcbooks.com.