My Letter to Wattpad Users

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When I was five years old, my mom helped me write and publish my first book. I dictated. She transcribed. We did a print run of one (with a cardboard cover and a two-hole punch binding). I titled this masterpiece: “The Giraffe, the Pig, and the Pants on Fire.” 

It was really just a silly tale of three friends, but it got me hooked on writing. I wrote nonstop in elementary school, high school, and college. And today, after years of practice (and some good luck), I feel deeply grateful to be a writer as my profession.

And so, as young writers and readers, you might ask:  

How did I go from writing my first stories… to becoming a professional writer?  

Well, for me, it all started with a paradox – that is, something deeply confusing and contradictory… something that made no sense to me at all.

You guessed it… my parents.

When I was a child, my mother was our local church organist and choir director, which meant there was no escaping Sunday morning church services. I didn’t mind church. I liked the music, the people, and I really liked the free donuts. 

But as a kid, all those hours in the house of God had a powerful effect on me. And why wouldn’t it? Church is potent stuff: thundering pipe organs, passionate sermons, the tolling of huge bells, and the magic of a candlelight Christmas pageant. 

In the summers, my family lived in a little cabin in the White Mountains on a very quiet lake. My mom had this great idea that rather than going to the local church up there, we would have our own little family services and use as our church “God’s house”—the beautiful woodland setting around us. 

So on Sunday mornings, my parents, my sister, my baby brother, and I would get in a pair of canoes and paddle to a deserted spot on the lake, tie the boats together and float as a family. We would read scriptures, sing hymns, and give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon us. 

Admittedly, a pretty nice idea. 

The problem was I was 10-years-old – and these family services were excruciatingly boring! They had no pipe organ, no choir, and above all, no donuts. 

So early one Sunday morning, dreading what was to come, I lay in bed and prayed to God, and I asked him how to make these unbearable floating services less boring. And God spoke to me. He said: 

“Bring a fishing rod.”

It seemed perfectly logical to me, but my mom felt it was “disrespectful to God” for me to fish during Church. I cleverly argued that if God didn’t want me to catch fish, he wouldn’t have made fish so delicious. 

I lost that battle. 

My mom ended the argument by telling me there was no fishing on Sunday because Sunday was a day of rest. I later got the last word by invoking the “day of rest” rule and boycotting paddling on the way home.

So there you have a little snapshot of life with my religious mother.

At the same time I was growing up with my mother’s spiritual influence, there was my Dad, who was equally attentive and enthusiastic about his passions and beliefs, which were more scientific in nature. My father, a math teacher as well as a math textbook author, also revered the beauty and majesty of world around him, but he tended to see it through a different lens.

When I was a teenager, he would take me out at night, we’d look up at the billions of stars in heaven, and we’d talk about space, the universe, and the concept of infinity. Infinity, we agreed, was impossible to imagine… and yet, if the universe were not infinite, then what did the edge of the universe look like? A big brick wall in space? A sign saying: Nothing Beyond This Point? (As a kid, these were the kinds of thoughts that kept me up at night.)

Whenever there was a lunar eclipse, my dad would prepare me for it by pulling out a soccer ball, a tennis ball, and a flashlight and reenacting the earth moving between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow. 

And then there was math. Everywhere… math. 

At dinner time, baby carrots were an opportunity to teach us about conic sections. We learned that depending on how you cut your carrot, you could create a cross-section that was a circle, an ellipse, a parabola, or, if you were really good with your knife, the holy grail of all dinner-time carrot-cuts —the hyperbola. 

And, of course, whenever we ordered pizza, my dad would gather us around the big pizza pie (that’s pie -- “PI”), and teach us about degrees of arc, diameters, and areas of circles. My dad loved math so much that he wrote more than a dozen textbooks used in schools all over the world. So check your math books, everyone – there’s a very good chance it was written by my dad, Richard G. Brown.

So…as you can see, I grew up in a strange household that taught me  both religion and science. Even so, I was quite happy living in these two worlds.

For a while, at least…

Eventually I matured—to the all-knowing age of thirteen—and I started to realize that these two different world-views of religion and science posed all kinds of contradictions. The Bible said God created the universe in seven days, but in school I learned about the Big Bang. The Bible said God made Adam and Eve and all the animals, but I went to the Boston Museum of Science and saw fossils and heard how everything had evolved

And so, I asked a priest how I should reconcile these inconsistencies. Essentially I asked him: “Which story is true?” 

And this particular priest replied: “Nice boys don’t ask that question.”


Well, nice boys may not ask questions…but I did.

And my parents encouraged me to keep on asking… and asking… and asking. And so I did.

For me, the simple act of “questioning” was the beginning of my writing career. I started writing stories as a way to explore my own uncertainty and curiosity about life…about people, religion, science, and the world we live in.

I encourage each of you to ask questions – not necessarily about science or religion, but about anything at all that makes your head spin. That is the ideal experience of writing or reading. When I sit down to write, instead of asking myself “What am I trying to say?”… I ask, “What am I trying to figure out?”

 I am often surprised by the answer.

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⏰ Last updated: Nov 03, 2014 ⏰

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