It all started with a cucumber.
From that moment, a love affair that would endure for the next twenty-plus years was born. That cucumber's name was Fred and he changed my life. You see, Fred was the main character in the first book I ever wrote when I was in the third grade.
Ask any writer and they will most likely remember the first story, article or book they wrote. It was the turning point for most. It's when we discovered our love for creating characters, placing them in tight situations only to battle their way out and discover their happily-ever-after.
Okay, so Fred's struggle was finding his way to the store to buy a book. But, I remember shaping Fred and his desire for this book and how he couldn't buy it because he was afraid to walk to the store by himself. He struggled with his fear--of crossing the street alone for the first time, of being independent and braving something he'd never attempted before. Finally, Fred conquered his fear, or rather he moved forward in spite of it, left the security of his home and travelled to that bookstore. He not only obtained the book, but he discovered the courage to do anything he put his mind to. Riveting stuff, I know, and with twenty years distance, that story seems so much deeper now than it did at nine. But, it stirred something that exists even today.
The love of the story. Of drawing the emotional struggle we often experience when faced with obstacles that seem insurmountable. And, of course, celebrating the triumph of the human--or vegetable--spirit.
I'll never forget Fred, who unfortunately looked more like an amoeba than a cucumber by the time I finished drawing him. While the thought of being an illustrator died a quick death, my dream of being a writer never did. He will always hold a place of honor in my heart and the actual book will always have a home in a dusty corner at the bottom of a deep trunk in the back of a dark closet...