Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins Blogfest - Where It All Began

For this blogfest participants were asked to post your own origin story.  Tell us all where your writing dreams began.


I was six years old and just learning how to read when I was able to enjoy a book that I had owned since I was four. It was titled Ma Liang and the Magic Paintbrush. There have been hundreds of incarnations of this ancient Chinese folktale done over the years, as the story is not only enduring, but universal.


Ma Liang is a very poor young boy that loves painting, but cannot afford a paintbrush of his own. An old man gave him a magic paintbrush and tells him to help the poor, as whatever he paints would materialize and come to life. And that's what he does - he paints oxen to help with the fields and a river so his people could get clean water.


But a corrupt and greedy official hears of Ma Liang and his power, so he imprisons the boy and steals the paintbrush - which wouldn't work for him. So he forces the boy to paint a mountain of gold, but Ma Liang draws a sea surrounding it. The official orders him to paint a ship so he could get to the gold, which the boy does. And when the official and his soldiers climb on board the ship filled with riches, Ma Liang paints a massive tempest, which destroys the ship. And Ma Liang returns to his village where he continues to paint things to help those who need it.


I think it was the combination of the gorgeous artwork and the story of being bullied and the power of creativity and art. From that moment on, I was hooked on creating stories about similar struggles. Growing up, I was drawn to myths like The Iliad, The Golden Fleece, and everything King Arthur. I would make up stories and draw the illustrations, and then staple all the pages together to make my own books. And I've been writing stories ever since - and anyone who reads them can see what a strong influence mythology has had on my writing.


And yes, I still do own that old book. And I bought another (newer) version for my own kids. And now they're writing stories too. 

30 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You were doing your own graphic novels!

Leigha David said...

I remember that book! :)

Ellie Garratt said...

How wonderful that you can point to one book in particular and are now sharing it with your children.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

That book sounds wonderful. No wonder it captured your imagination. It's nice to meet you. Never saw your former blog before, (or this one, either!) but as a bit of a science nerd, I hope you include some of the weird science stuff on this blog from time to time, too. Please count me in as your newest follower. (Fun blogfest!)

i'm erin. said...

I was always drawn to books that had incredible graphics as well as myth type stories. But I think I leaned towards girly fairy tales. Go figure. Awesome book and story!

Emily R. King said...

How wonderful that a book sparked your love of stories. I started with a love of stories that grew into writing, too.

Julie Dao said...

Very cool! I love seeing how a love of books has led to writing for so many aspiring authors out there. I've never heard of Ma Liang but definitely know the feeling of having that one book from childhood that resonated with you. My copy of the Arabian Nights is one such book! Great story.

Rusty Webb said...

That sounds like an awesome book! It'd inspire me to write too.

Christine Rains said...

Awesome story! I love old tales like that. I hope the stories that inspired me will inspire my son too.

Jay Noel said...

Alex: I sure was!

Leigha: Makes you want to go back and rediscover all those cool books you loved as a kid.

Ellie: It is great being able to share with the kiddos.

Susan: Welcome! I look forward to reading your blog as well.

Erin: The incredible watercolors were so visually striking to me. Appealed to love of colors and art.

Jay Noel said...

Emily: It's like these stories get inside of you and never leave you alone. Such a profound affect writer's have!

Julie: I LOVE Arabian Nights too!!!

Rusty: As a kid, it opened the world of wonder to me. Resonated with me big time.

Christine: That's the best part, isn't it? Being able to share that with your child.

James said...

Hi, I'm a fellow campaigner stopping by to say hi. Its neat when the writing gene is passed down the family. I got mine from my mom and it will be interesting to see if I pass it on.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Jay,
It's wonderful that your children have developed a love for reading. I'm trying with my son, but it's a struggle. I probably should cave and let him read the stuff he wants to. :)

M Pax said...

Cool, Jay. I didn't read the Illiad until college & didn't have time to read it, so made do with Cliff Notes. I did go back later and read it. The short version was so good.

Neat story about Mi Liang.

farawayeyes said...

The stories from whence our stories come. Nice to meet you. I'll be back.

A thousand thank yous for the opportunity to use an awesome word like whence.

Jay Noel said...

James: Welcome! I think if you surround kids with reading and writing, it will rub off on the younger generation.

J.L.: Yes. As a former English teacher, you do have to get them reading anything. Eventually, their horizons will widen.

Mary: Crazy, but I read it on my own after reading the short version in high school. It was difficult but amazing.

Farawayeyes: A little Shakespeare!

Ciara said...

I love when a book inspires someone. That is a great story. I loved hearing how you began your writing journey.

DL Hammons said...

That's so great that your passing you passion onto your kids! Awesome ORIGIN story!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Wow! Incredible story! I love that it inspired you to write, and I love that it's inspired your kids the same way!

The Golden Eagle said...

The story of Ma Liang reminds me of a book we have called The Magic Horse of Han Gan--it sounds like an alternate version of the one you mentioned.

Great story of your writing origins! :)

Lydia Kang said...

I loved Greek mythology growing up and read the Iliad and the Odyssey in college. So I totally get that!

Elizabeth Twist said...

This is a wonderful origin story, Jay.

If you've got time, I've tagged you to answer 11 random questions over at my place. Questions are at the bottom of this post. Whee!

Jay Noel said...

Ciara: It's the magic of books.

DL: Thanks for creating this blogfest!

Peggy: It's something that we can share.

Golden Eagle: I've read that book too, as an adult. What's cool about buying books for kids is that I get to read them too!

Lydia: I read those abridged versions in our high school textbooks, and I wanted to read the real things. Just got lost in those epic stories.

Elizabeth: Fantastic, I will check it out!

Jess said...

Wow, what an original origin story! And it's nice to meet you!
Tag, you're it! You've been tagged in a game of 11 Questions being passed around by the Platform-Building campaigners. You can pick up your questions at this link: http://writeskatedream-jmckendry.blogspot.com/2012/02/11-random-questions-go.html

Jay Noel said...

Jess: Thanks for coming by! I was busy writing out my 11 answers to the semi-random questions right when you came here. How funny.

nutschell said...

How awesome that you still have that book that inspired you to read and write!
Great to meet you on this blogfest.

your newest follower,
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

LTM said...

Oh! I love the story of Ma Ling! But you know, I didn't hear it til I had two little girls who loved watching Noggin. It was done like a little short on that channel (which is now Nick Jr.).

But you write AND illustrate. Very cool~ :o) <3

Milo James Fowler said...

Very cool, Jay. I do believe I first saw/read the story of Ma Liang on Reading Rainbow. Good times. And SO awesome that your kids are writing stories now, too!

Pk Hrezo said...

Every child has those stories that just inspire them to be more, do more, live more. Love hearing about them.... also why I love writing for kids. :)

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