The Pinocchio Process by Warren Moore
I’ve been writing since before I knew how to write – no, really. There are reel-to-reel tapes of a three-year-old me reciting songs and stories. My dad asks, “Did you make that up?” I say I did, and he says, “Pretty weird, kid.”
It really hasn’t changed too much since then. Although my parents aren’t around anymore, I still make up songs and stories, and sometimes, they’re pretty weird. One thing that has changed a bit over the years, however, is that some of them have been published, both traditionally and online. And in fact, that’s happened often enough in the last five years or so that I’m kind of having to reassess some things.
I have a day job: I’m an English professor at a small liberal-arts college in a small town in South Carolina, and I’ve been doing that for almost fifteen years. Make no mistake – that’s how I make my living. But since I started placing stories, and since my novel came out a few years ago, I’ve started thinking of myself a little differently. I’m still an English prof, but I’m coming to realize that I’m something else as well.
I’m a writer.
At this point, you can take a moment to shrug and say, “Well, duh.” But I think some of you may know what I mean. Five years ago, I saw myself as – I was – an English professor who did other things as a hobby – playing drums, writing stories. I still do those things, so what’s different?
Well, the way the world and I see what I do, for one. And examples of that form what I call Pinocchio moments, when I start to realize that I’m a real boy – I mean, a real writer. My stories are published (sometimes) alongside writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Stephen King. I get paid for that work. (And that’s a big one – when someone tells you that they like the stuff you make up so much that they will make you a gift of money for it? That’s an affirmation.) I’ve had stories positively reviewed in USA Today and the New York Times. I’ve appeared on panels at conferences and conventions, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest at a signing at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop. Perhaps best of all, some of my favorite writers, the folks who inspired me to write, have told me they like my work. I’m a Real Boy, it seems.
But unlike Mr. Collodi’s fictional puppet, there wasn’t a Blue Fairy to effect my transformation. I had been a Real Writer all along, even though I didn’t recognize it for a long time. What caused those Pinocchio moments? The fact that I put the work in, and that I put that work Out There. Once I did that, the world let me know what I might not have been willing to admit. And if you’re writing, you should do that as well. Reach out – let people see that, whatever else you do, you’re also a Real Writer. You may very well have been one all along. Pretty weird, huh?
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WARREN MOORE is Professor of English at Newberry College in Newberry, SC. His novel Broken Glass Waltzes was recently republished by Down & Out Books, and his short fiction has appeared in several online venues, magazines, and anthologies, including Dark City Lights (2015), In Sunlight or In Shadow (2016), and Alive in Shape and Color (2017), all edited by Lawrence Block. He blogs as “Professor Mondo” at http://profmondo.wordpress.com, and tweets as @profmondo. His work is available via Amazon and other retailers.