Gina Linko has a graduate degree in creative writing from DePaul University and lives outside Chicago with her husband and three children. Gina teaches college English part-time, but her real passion is sitting down at a blank computer screen and asking herself the question, "What if...?"
How Did I Become a Writer?
Reading and writing. That's the short answer. And then reading and writing some more. Like anything else, it takes a lot of practice.
Did I always want to be a writer? Even when this was me?
No. I didn't. I wanted to be a doctor or maybe a regular on Saturday Night Live. But, yes, secretly I did want to be a writer. I just didn't know it yet. As a kid, my sister and brother and I made movies. Serious, hilarious films with soundtracks and elaborate credits and, of course, only us three playing all the parts, dressed in ridiculous costumes (there were lots of mustaches) with completley serious accents and indie titles such as, The Struggling Ballerina, I Love to Bowl I Hate to Bowl, The Transyberian Railroad. Truly artists at work. And God, they were funny. And entertaining. (Someday I'll post one and regret it eternally.)
In college, I started writing screenplays for fun, still majoring in biology, and I think I came to writing through the back door, because what I really loved was story. Eventually, I realized that to tell a really good one, it was easier to do it with all words. It was easier, better -- more alive even-- than a movie shot in your basement with an early camcorder roughly the size and weight of a spare tire.
Anyway, that's how I started to write. That, and a deep love of reading, which really didn't start until I was in my late teens. It might be an excuse to say that none of my early teachers turned me on to reading just for fun. Maybe I was just a lazy kid. The truth is probably that I didn't sit still that much. I was always playing some kind of sport, with scraped-up knees and a tom-boy attitude. But then in my late teens, I had some great teachers who made us read great stuff -- Austen, Hemingway, and --especially -- Stephen King. And I kinda felt like, where have these books been all my education? All my life?
And then, I just read and read and read. But story. It hooked me in. It took a while. But books like Rebecca, and To Kill a Mockingbird, and Salem's Lot, and The Things They Carried, and Cold Mountain, and Watchers, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and lots more. I think I was a product of the 80s and 90s, in that I was a TV girl growing up. A movie girl. I mean, who had time for reading when we now had a cable box with real live Mtv? But somewhere along the line, I realized how much better a book can be. Because the story there, it can wrap itself around you and curl you up inside it, make you believe things you never believed, freak you out and give you goosebumps and nightmares, make you examine your life and yourself and everything you have filed away as true, crack your heart wide open and force yourself to look at the world in a new way, a better way, fresh and clean. It can change you. Wake you up.
Story. It's everything, really.
Speaking of story, this one is kinda getting lengthy.
So let me sum up:
Grew up in the eighties with wicked bad hair and teeth (see photos, you're welcome), many hours of retainers, braces, and perms later, I evolved into some sort of junior high school teacher in the 90s. I then went to grad school, started really concentrating on writing, and worked as an editor. Then, life skidded to a crazy halt. Enter my three awesomesauce children -- Hey Z, J, and M!
I teach part-time college English now, and I write. Seriously. Meaning, I don't watch reruns of Big Bang Theory every night. I sit my butt at the computer and I work. But really I'm just wrapping myself up in a story, and it has never felt like work for one single second. Bazinga!