Beginning of a Lifetime
By Alexandra Cruz
I wrote this while thinking about my experience with Girls Write Now and where my love of writing started.
I hit the trackpad, hearing the loud plastic click once more—another failed recording. There I was, ten minutes into reading aloud the short story I had written for Girls Write Now, and I was nowhere near completion. I took a deep breath and reread the same words again. I knew exactly how I wanted my story to sound, but my mouth wouldn’t cooperate. I felt ashamed recording myself in my bedroom at two in the morning, fearful my family, fast asleep, would wake up. When authors read their work, I admire the unique way they deliver their stories. They know which lines matter and which make the audience feel something. I read it one more time and correctly inflected the sentence that mattered.
I exhaled a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding and stared at the last word. After fifty chapters, I finished my first full story. Beneath my initial joy were already thoughts about the prospect of starting another story. Although staring at a blank document isn’t fun, I do relish typing out the last triumphant sentence. The feeling of elation outweighs the fear and keeps me writing. I never thought I could accomplish this as a teenager.
I remember in elementary school sitting on the multicolored rug listening to the teacher read. Some kids had far-off looks, imagining each scene in their heads. Others glued their eyes to the book: if they stared hard enough, maybe they could see what happened next. My mind would wander accompanied by faint pictures. My fourth-grade teacher Ms. Pecoraro was one of the best readers. She read Because of Winn-Dixie and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Some left a warm feeling in my chest, while others left me blinking away tears. I loved listening to her read. The stories came alive akin to watching a movie.
One day Ms. Pecoraro asked the class to bring in a book and promised to give us a surprise. My options were limited, and I toiled over which book would be perfect. Finally, the day arrived, and I begged my sister to borrow her favorite book, Dork Diaries. As I walked into the room, I smelled something sweet. My teacher was mixing instant hot chocolate into paper cups—the chocolate aroma mixed with the smell of our books.
Girls Write Now On the Other Side of Everything: The 2023 Anthology
Do you know what it’s like to communicate with your family across a salty ocean’s divide? Do you want the sun and moon to enter your home with stories written in embers? Do you seek voices that will punctuate the darkness? Welcome to the other side of everything. It’s the other side of silence, the other side of childhood, the other side of hate, the other side of indifference, it’s the other side of sides, where the binary breaks down. It’s a new paradigm, a destination, a different perspective, a mindset, a state of openness, the space between the endless folds in your forehead, hopes for tomorrow, and reflections on the past. This anthology of diverse voices is an everything bagel of literary genres and love songs, secrets whispered in the dark of night, conversations held with ancestors under the sea.
The class spent the day reading and sipping hot chocolate in the cozy, quiet classroom. Ms. Pecoraro taught me the special simplicity inherent in books. All you need is a quiet room, a good book (and some hot chocolate) to discover the adventure of a lifetime. I remember that day every time I crack open a new book.
One day Ms. Pecoraro handed me her copy of Maniac Magee. It still had her bookmark and a paperclip stuck on one of the pages, a prominent crinkle in the middle, and a textured gold medal on the lower right. The paperback was worn and warm in my hands—a gift for our shared love of reading.
A decade later, when I thought about writing my own stories, a little voice in my head told me I couldn’t, but I remembered that book and the teacher who believed in me. I’ve never been a confident person; it was hard to compare my work to what I was reading. Sometimes I wanted to quit, but I remembered my joy in reading. Writing isn’t a job. It’s something I do for myself.
When I joined Girls Write Now, the world of literature opened up to me, and the confusing pieces of the writing puzzle felt attainable. I started writing stories I was proud of, and I showed them to anyone who cared because I couldn’t get enough of the feeling. A feeling I can’t wait to keep chasing.
I started this by writing out long tangents of what I remembered about elementary school and Ms. Pecoraro. After that, I chose the parts that stood out the most and worked them together to create a cohesive story. It took me a while to write this and I had many different people look at it—each giving their own edits. It was a difficult process, but I like how it turned out so it was worth it.
Alex Cruz is a junior in high school in Brooklyn, NY. She likes to write fiction across multiple genres. She was born in Brooklyn.