Forever Nerdy by Melanie Conklin
I’ve always been a nerd. From the very beginning, my favorite time of day was any time spent reading. My parents read Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook aloud so many times that I can still remember the words and pictures. Those scrawled, hairy illustrations were my favorite. So much to look at and think about. So many questions to explore.
Growing up, I loved nonfiction books about dinosaurs and horses. I read every kind of fiction, too. The Babysitter’s Club. The Secret Garden. The Hobbit. Black Beauty. The BFG. I didn’t write stories as a kid, but I was full of questions and answers that I felt compelled to share with the world. My favorite question: WHY? My favorite answers? Those came from our bound, leather encyclopedia set, full of text and illustrations that I pored over for hours, careful not to mar the pages.
In middle school, I achieved new levels of nerdiness. When other girls were busy discovering makeup and boys, I read an enormous, early edition of O. Henry stories that I bought with my own money at a flea market. The paper was ghostly thin between my fingers. I was amazed that one person had written so many stories, and that he was capable of using so many awesome words so well. I collected strange words the way other kids collected rocks (although I collected those, too). Garrulous. Loquacious. Obsequious. I took it upon myself to teach my little sister these words, writing one per week on her chalkboard and quizzing her, much to her delight (she’s a teacher now).
I talked with my teachers about the books I read. My friends were rarely interested, though there was that one girl at summer camp who showed up with more books in her trunk than clothes! Still, I never felt ashamed of loving books. People seemed to understand. My parents let me roam the shelves. My teachers let me write epically long book reports. My friends called me a nerd, but in the most loving of ways. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that if anyone bullied me, I missed it because I was too busy reading.
In high school and college, I continued to explore new realms. I fell in love with Vanity Fair and Wuthering Heights. I took courses on Science Fiction and Fantasy. I minored in English Literature—a truly nerdy achievement! All along, I enjoyed writing critical papers, but I didn’t feel the call of writing, not yet. I spent a decade working as a product designer, combining art and engineering to create the products that people use every day. I reveled in the research and the creativity—anything was possible!
It was only after my children were born and I decided to stay home that writing found me. One day, I woke up with the idea for a story in my mind. And it occurred to me that I could write that story, if I wanted to. So I did, during naptime and in between grocery shopping and homework duty. The book came to life, seemingly of its own volition.
Then another book. And another.
Those early works were my training wheels. They taught me to think in story form. They tested my love of character. They pushed me to learn a whole new set of skills. After all, isn’t that what this life is about? Learning. Living. Trying. Discovering new paths.
Now that Counting Thyme is out in the world, I am writing another new story. That story is teaching me other new things. I am growing again. Learning. Trying. Failing—and trying again. The path is a little clearer, but the turns are still delightfully unexpected.
I still read every day. I’m pretty sure I’ll be forever nerdy.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books and those who create them. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs, who are thankfully booklovers, too. Melanie spent a decade as a product designer and approaches her writing with the same three-dimensional thinking and fastidious attention to detail. Counting Thyme is her debut middle grade novel, coming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons on April 12, 2016. You can find her online at www.melanieconklin.com and on Twitter as @MLConklin.