Guest Post by Author, Tim J. Myers
One of the greatest things about being a writer is discovering your own life in your work.
You can’t help writing about what’s important to you, and your experiences often show up in different forms, whether you intended that or not. Art often is, among other things, a window into our deepest human selves. I write for adults and young people, in multiple genres, and in my 22 published books and many individual pieces, I continually find glimpses of my life that worked their way in naturally. I love how art is so inevitably self-revealing, and that’s one of the reasons I love writing.
Many of my books, for example, are multicultural in one form or another. My family and I lived in Japan for three years, and, although I didn’t plan it, five of my children’s books are on Japanese themes. One, I’m proud to say, was a New York Times bestseller for children’s books and was read aloud on NPR; Basho and the Fox are also about how important poetry is to me.
As it happens, I’ve recently been thinking about two childhood memories that, I realized, pushed themselves uninvited into my newest book, Yao Bai and the Egg Pirates—memories that reflect something basic about who I am.
I didn’t come from a reading family, and I was, at best, an indifferent student in elementary school. But I can remember like it was yesterday the day the teacher passed out our first “reader”—it must have been in third or fourth grade. For some reason, I went through the book on my own at home, and found in the back of it a palace of treasures. Our teacher never had us read any of those stories, but I read every one more than once–which was not like me. Why such uncharacteristic behavior?
They were fairy tales.
The second memory is of a longer period. I grew up in Colorado Springs, “in the shadow of Pikes Peak” as the phrase goes. I can hardly describe the natural beauty of the Pikes Peak Region. The mountain looms over the entire city, and it was always there in my life, a manifestation of the physical grace and power of the natural world that I imbibed with mother’s milk. The Utes call Pikes Peak “Sun Mountain,” and it’s sacred to them. I think of it as a grandmother, and it’s sacred to me too.
So here were two towering impulses in my life: the love of Story and an unwavering sense of wonder, which I first experienced through the wonder of the natural world and fairy tales. I could give many other examples of how those impulses shaped my life and work. Suffice it to say that my new children’s book includes both.
Yao Bai is historical fiction, the story of a Chinese boy during the California Gold Rush. When I first visited China Camp here in the Bay Area, a state park that’s preserved a Chinese shrimp-fishing village from that time, I could almost see a boy running across that beach back in the 1850s.
I recently saw a period photo including a Chinese boy in Monterey and thought, There he is! I knew his life was important, both in itself and to America as a whole—so I knew I had to try to drag that forgotten story out into the light. Chinese Americans have made incredible contributions to American life, and too often that’s forgotten or dismissed.
But I couldn’t write the story without some wonder in it too. So I’ll leave it at that. I love stories, after all; I’d never give away the ending!
So here’s to reading and writing—may we all keep on discovering ourselves in the magic of the printed word!
Tim Myers is a writer, songwriter, storyteller, and university senior lecturer in English. His Glad to Be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood (Familius) is in both e-book and print form; it was featured on Parents Magazine’s website, Disney’s BabyZone, and won the Ben Franklin Digital Award. His full-length Dear Beast Loveliness: Poems of the Body (BlazeVox) earned an excellent review from poet Grace Cavalieri, and Nectar of Story won praise from Cavalieri, Chase Twichell, Ron Hansen, and Joseph Bruchac.
Tim won the 2012 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Fiction and, as a fantasy/science fiction writer, he won a prize in the Writers of the Future Contest, and his work has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Worlds of Fantasy and Horror, Space & Time, Weird Tales, Abyss & Apex, Futures Mysterious, on the Astropoetica website, and elsewhere.