Thursday, April 2, 2015

Calamity Rene and the great Northwest

I moved to Washington state from California when I was almost ten years old. The move was hard on my entire family, as seven of us had lived in the same house our whole lives. We quickly discovered we loved Washington though-- we got snow, great thunderstorms, there were horses in our neighborhood, lots of places to explore and we were allowed to go on walks by ourselves! (This was something we were not allowed to do in California, the area we lived in had a couple of gangs, and my parents worried something might happen to us.)
It was once we arrived in Washington that my great love of writing-- and horses-- began. It's also how I earned my nickname, Calamity Rene.



I'd written a story or two when I was little. My first story I have recorded is dated six-years-old. I wrote a one page story about running away from Captain Hook and escaping him. The second story I have takes place on Sodar Island with Thomas the Tank Engine and Indiana Jones. I was seven or eight at the time. Yes, you read that right! Indiana Jones and Thomas. I had a wild imagination.
Writing was something I never considered doing until I moved to Washington. One of my neighbors is a retired English teacher. She loved to have us kids over and hear my wild stories. I would tell her all about the ideas I had in my head, and she'd encourage me to write them down. The little girl down the road from me told me to write my stories down as well. She too, liked to make up stories, and she wrote them.
That's when I began my journey of writing. The first story I tried to type I ended up deleting, because it scared me so bad! The plotline was a girl who got kidnapped by German submariners during WWII. I actually had nightmares from that story, so I got rid of it and started another one. It was along the same basic plot, but this time the girl didn't get kidnapped by submariners. She got kidnapped by Nazi spies during WWII. So much less scary. (Dripping with sarcasm here.)
However, this one I finished. To this day I don't remember what it was called, but it was the very first story of the then Emily "Rene" Jones. Her name later got changed to Emily Anna Jones.
Thus it began. I wrote three more stories in Emily Rene Jones, ranging from a trip to Oklahoma where she meets a cowboy who turns out to be her cousin, to a run-in with some outlaws in Arizona. Nevermind outlaws and World War Two didn't usually mix, I was having a blast!
Because I'd begun to love writing so much, I got my best friend at church, Roy, involved in writing stories too. Together we made up things like Roy Rogers (the cowboy from the movies, not my friend Roy) was our friend and outlaws kidnapped us and there were evil cougars working for the Nazi spies. It was crazy, but it was childhood. Those are some of my fondest memories from that church.
Then-- oh joy! I began horseback riding with my siblings at a non-profit horse organization. What had always been a dream of mine became a reality. I was riding horses! Thus, horses were incorporated in the stories of Roy and "Rene". Roy had his own horse, so we always used his horse as the get-away horse in our Western stories.
There  came a day when I didn't see Roy anymore. Our family moved on. Their family moved on.
It was hard. I cried a lot. I threw myself into horseback riding and writing. I got in trouble for not focusing on my family or chores, because I only wanted to do horses and writing. (This was later resolved. Balance= harmony.) It was a pretty hard time in my life.
But it also shaped my life. Because of how far away Roy's family lived, I didn't see him anymore. I needed something to occupy my mind with other than my lost friendship.
Thus began my first novel, Then One Summer.
To date, I'm still very proud of Then One Summer. I started it when I was twelve, finished it when I was thirteen, and it was sixty-three thousand words. That's a lot for a tween writer to write! The premise of the story was much the same as my other stories-- Emily (now named Emily Anna Jones instead of Emily Rene) goes to her Grandpa's ranch for the summer and meets and Australian cowboy and a crazy shire horse named Lightning. Oh, and there were German spies that were spying on the bread basket of California.
It was crazy. It was fun. It was well-written for it's time. Then One Summer started me on my journey to become an author. I wanted to write more stories like that one.
It also was the beginning of how I earned my nickname, Calamity Rene. This is the name most of you know me by. I can somewhat remember how I got it. If you recall, I named a character Emily Rene, but then I wondered if Emily Rene should be Emily Anna (sort of like Indi-ana) and Emily should have a relative named Rene. I remember I was telling one of my sisters about Rene when my Mom walked into the room. Hearing part of the conversation, she teased, "You should call her Calamity Rene, the wild adventurer of the Pacific Northwest. And she rides a tri-colored Morgan-Shetland horse named Disaster."
It stuck. That was it. I became "Calamity Rene" the adventurer. I was known in my neighborhood as the very friendly, fast-talking and daring wannabe cowgirl. People who heard my Mom or siblings tease me about Calamity Rene loved the nickname.
"It's just like you!" they'd exclaim.
It was just like me. Calamity Rene was just like me. Calamity Rene became my alter-ego; the greatest adventurer in all of Washington. Move over, Indiana Jones, because Calamity Rene can fight bad guys, too!
I loved it. Calamity Rene became my way of pretending nothing--not friends I didn't see anymore, not moving from California, nothing-- could keep the great cowgirl from finishing up her ride. She got in trouble. She got into scrapes. She ran into bad guys. But she never lost her way.
When I made this blog two years ago, I knew from the very beginning what I wanted to name it and who would "author" it.
"The Wild Washingtonain: adventures in life!" I exclaimed to my Mom when I presented the idea of doing a blog. "And the author will be Calamity Rene, the greatest adventurer in the Northwest."
That's who I became. That's who you know me as. That's me, in a sense.
Calamity Rene had stood out to me as one of my favorite characters. When I attended that conference two weeks ago, though, one of the first things that I heard repeated over and over again was this--
"Authors need to write under their real names. They need to blog under their real names, they need to realize that to be an author, they need to accept that they have to use their real name."
Not use Calamity Rene? The thought was terrifying. I loved Calamity Rene! I love what she's done for me! I love being her.
Calamity Rene is a wonderful girl. She's still nine years old. She lives in the 1880s in Washington Territory. She was adopted by her cousin, Jake, the Australian cowboy. Her best friends are a redheaded cowgirl and a redheaded Indian. She has a cool horse that acts a lot like another horse I know named Bodie...
In short, Calamity Rene is me. But Calamity Rene is also my childhood. She represents a kid's innocence and imagination, a little girl who didn't want to grow up and who wanted to stay nine years old forever.
That same kid has grown up, despite her best efforts. That same kid realizes that, though she will always love her childhood, she can't bring it with her. Only the memories. That same little girl now knows that she can't be someone else and live someone else's life.

Calamity Rene will always be one of my fondest memories. But Calamity Rene has to grow up now. Even if she doesn't make this blog public, even if she never becomes an author. It's time for her to face the fact that-- though growing up is hard-- it also has it's great rewards. It's okay to be a kid at heart. But it's also important to mature and grow older, not cling to the things that you're convinced are what make you who you are. You'll never lose who you are. You are one of a kind. And maybe you can't be your alter-ego, but that's okay. Because you're you. And God made you one of a kind.

Calamity Rene would like to announce that she is now going to be herself.

Emily McConnell.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, I really enjoyed reading that! I honestly can't pin-point one thing about it that spoke to me, I think it was the post as a whole. It was encouraging to me. :) I can't wait to see what you post, Emily!

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    1. Thanks, Jesseca! I had fun totally reforming this blog to make it look "cool". B-) Thank you for coming along side of me during this journey I've taken! :D

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  2. I'm liking the new look and I loved this post! Growing up is hard and not as fun as we thought it would be :P haha But it is part of life and like you said, there are great things about growing up :-)

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    1. Lauren, you sound exactly like me. :) Except I wasn't planning on growing up. I announced I wouldn't when I was nine years old. Glad you're liking the new look. :) I LOVE it. It's so professional looking. :D

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