My name is Justina, and I love words.
It sounds silly, for someone to proclaim such a sentiment. But it’s true. Numbers confuse me. The rules bend in and contradict themselves, until I feel like a figure in an M.C. Escher sketch, taking the up staircase down. Math is composed of the same mysterious customs that guided the ultra-cool group in high school. Never call a boy first. A squared plus B squared equals C squared. Always use contrasting eye shadows to highlight your eyes. Parentheses, then exponents, multiplication followed by division, and finally addition then subtraction. Never cry in public. If you aren’t an imaginary number then you’re nothing but an integer.
Math may not be my friend, but words? Words have always been there for me. Words I understand.
Kindergarten. An older woman teaches us to read by showing us a picture of a cat and the corresponding word underneath. “Cat. C-A-T. This is how we spell cat.” We read along with her as she flips through the chart, dutifully repeating after her. Hat. Sat. Mat. Then she gets to a blank page, one filled with just letters. “This is kind of a hard one to remember, because there’s no picture to go with it. This word is ‘the.’ T-H-E. It goes in front of words.”
I stared at those letters on the easel, terrified I would forget “the”, that I would somehow let the word down by not remembering how to spell it. And as I went through school that was the relationship I had with words. I was terrified to forget one, like the word’s feelings would be hurt if I did. I couldn’t let the words down, could I? I loved them better than anything else. They gave me stories and songs, riddles and rhymes. The least I could do was return the favor by remembering them.
And I did. Every word that I heard or read, I remembered. I studied them, conjugated them, threw them out in casual conversation even when they didn’t quite fit. I cherished those words like a beloved childhood toy.
Until one day my head was so full of words that I felt like it would burst.
And that’s when I started writing stories.
My first stories weren’t the greatest. They were chaotic, a rush of words straining to get out, to communicate, to show not tell. The words were out of order, or too pushy, or the wrong words. But that didn’t stop me.
I kept writing. The words found their place. They told their story. And even though I was sometimes afraid that I would run out of words there were always more to take their place.
Chapters became books. Books were revised, new words injected into the body of the story. Query letters and synopses and three chapter summaries all paved the way to this.
Now, my first book is published.
I want to thank the words for always being there for me. I still love them, even though now I probably don’t appreciate them as much as I should.
And today, I hope my words will find you. I hope they fill your head. I hope you enjoy them and share them. I hope you hate them and rail at them for being less than or not enough.
And one day, when your head gets too full of words, I hope you write them down. I hope you share your words with others. I hope your words make you feel brave and scared and everything else in between.
But if not...thanks for being a reader. Most of all, thank you for loving words, too.