Back to school

Studying wasn’t always my forte, in fact I was a dreadful student in high school. I spent most of my class time daydreaming about worlds inside my head. My teachers noticed, even my eighth grade math teacher who suffered from the thickest coke bottle glasses in the northern Illinois area. He told my parents I couldn’t or wouldn’t concentrate, that I kept looking out the window rather than the chalkboard where he was teaching something. Math was a subject I had no love of, let alone algebra or geometry. Among the things I could do in my perceivable future, I didn’t see where math would be that helpful. If X has so many problems, why can’t X figure it out on its own?

In an eight hour school day my brain did two hours of hard school work and another five dreaming of what my characters were going to do next. My off hours were spent between my Cousin Scott’s house and my future editor Darius’ place just east of downtown Rockford. Both places had cats, which tripped off my allergies on a regular basis. I didn’t care, but I’m sure it affected the time I spent with them, all the Kleenex and sneezing probably drove them mad. I wandered the city streets with a gang of kids and their backpacks, hauling D&D books when our groups got too big for anyone’s house. I did my best to keep my school grades on track, doing just enough to not end up in big trouble.

This didn’t always go to plan, and when my grades tanked my daydreaming was supposed to come to an end. Of course that never came to pass, because my youth wouldn’t let me give in to the reality that I had to do a better job at being a student. I managed to squeak by, taking on extra credit to bring the failing grades up to passing. Transitioning to high school didn’t change much, except that it changed everything. As the summer months between middle and high school rolled along I got the bad news I wasn’t going to the same school as all my friends. The violence and gang problems in Rockford’s west side high school had filled my parents with enough concern they decided to send me to the school attached to the church we attended. A parochial environment put the clamps on my creativity to say the least. I rebelled – no shock there – and soon found myself in the principal’s office on a daily basis. I wanted to be with my friends, I wanted to continue my adventures with them, rather than hear about what was going on at their school in our after hours gaming sessions.

In my writing life I didn’t have a choice to study, even with a love of reading and stories. With years of creating stories on my own in the relative safety of readers who enjoyed what I create, I’m moving into a new school – screenwriting. I’m not being forced by some parental entity this time, but by my own hand, which might be worse. I have no idea if what I’m creating will have the lasting effect I’m looking for, but I don’t have any choice. Change is part of the business of living, and in my mind you either evolve or die, and the former is much more amenable than the latter.

I’ve spent the past month with my head in books, spending my off hours trying to formulate a new plot and viewpoint on a subject I know well. The world of Julius and Lyra won’t look the same on film as it reads in the book, but that’s out of design. There was always more to tell about Julius’ past – how he got through his post graduate time at Brown and what really propelled him to go on the journey to India in the first place. At the core the story will stay true to the threads readers have enjoyed so far, but the change in medium will allow me to add new tentacles to pull at the viewers’ sanity