“What do you want for Christmas, Karena?” my dad asked me once upon a holiday. Like any good novel, my answer was unexpected. “I want a typewriter.” I was nine, and the only thing I wanted – the only thing I asked for – was a typewriter. I didn’t want the clunky ones that actually require force from your fingers and thwack the paper with long alphabet arms. I wanted the new electric typewriter that acted almost like a modern computer, logging each line then printing it when I was ready to move onto the next line. It made the most beautiful sound. It was the thwack of the old and high-pitched hum of the new. What did I want to be when I grew up? A writer, of course. But things change.
Within a few years, I quickly learned that I had a love/hate relationship with one subject. English. My grades weren’t the problem, English came easily, but it introduced the concept of required reading. I liked creating stories, but the books I was forced to read were meant to make me think about characters, plot, and setting. How dare they? I had better things to do with my time, like play Barbies and pretend. My make-believe stories were far better than the ones in…books.
Luckily, that line of thinking passed. It began with Tuck Everlasting in the 4th grade and came to a head when I read The Giver in 7th grade. Life is a funny thing, I finally learned to love reading – really love reading. Unfortunately, during that time, I had an experience that diminished my love of writing. I received a D on a major writing assignment, with the words “See Me” scrawled across the cover. When I approached her, she accused me of plagiarizing my project because I couldn’t possibly write “that well”. I’d never heard anything so insulting and so complimentary in all my life. But I was young, and sadly, took it as a blow. I chose to be discouraged. Writing, other than required work, was eliminated from my life. What did I want to be when I grew up? A mom. A wife. Honorable pursuits, yes, but I lost my drive to excel. Writing was left to the experts.
A couple years after high school, I met and married the coolest person ever. Yep, the coolest. Shortly after we were married, we discovered that I have Bipolar Disorder. It was a very dark time for me. I struggled to identify myself as an individual. I felt like a walking mental illness, that it defined me. And that’s when I began writing again. It started out as poetry. The versed words were the best way for me to express my inner battle, to voice the darkness that no one seemed to understand – or wanted to understand. My husband encouraged me to keep at it. The poems became an outlet that helped us better understand the illness. Writing became a prescription, until it was time to take the real stuff.
After a few years, a couple kids, and some meds, an idea popped into my head. By the end of the day, I had written The Perfectionist. I wrote another one soon after, The Worry Wart. I never took them seriously. They were fun, but I wasn’t a…writer. At best, I was a poet. Then I had a dream, one of those dreams you wake up from and try – beyond hope – to fall back to sleep to re-enter that world. It was a stunning scene. I remember thinking how interesting it would be in a fantasy novel, never thinking that I should be the one to take that on. Novel writing was for other people, talented people. I ignored the dream for years, but the idea grew in my mind like a spiderweb, spreading slowly around and around, gaining dimension and complexity. Finally in July of 2012, I couldn’t ignore the idea any longer. I began writing that scene and before I realized what was happening, I had written a book. And I’ve been writing ever since.
I am the mother of four charismatic children, who keep me busy and motivated. My husband puts up with my long hours and the multiple proof-reading requests. My kids come up to me with quizzical looks. “Mom, are you published yet?” I answer with, “Nope, still editing.” Then they let out exasperated sighs and ask how much longer it’s going to take. My husband tells me how someday my books will be made into movies, to which I reply, “Fat chance,” but the support is amazing. No matter how anxious they are for me to succeed, I’m still more impatient than they are.
After moving from Utah to Illinois, to Ohio, to Iowa, to Arizona, to Texas, and having all of our children born in different states, we moved back home. I live in the Lehi, UT where I wake up to the towering mountains that surround the valley. I can’t think of a better place for inspiration. On my desk is a vintage Royal typewriter to remind me of my young desires to write story after story.
What do I want to be when I grow up? Everything I am. A mom. A wife. A writer.