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Swoon Author Kimberly Karalius: When I Became a Writer

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Me being oddly pensive for once.

The family photo albums and home videos don’t lie: I coveted books even before I knew how to read. I read at the dinner table (food? What food?), under the covers with book lights, and even in the car. The car was the worst for my parents. I vomited from car sickness in the backseat too many times to count while trying to read, but I won that battle, and can proudly read for hours in the car without even a twinge from my stomach. Victory.

When I wasn’t reading, I was either pestering my little brother or drawing. I loved drawing. Almost as much as reading. My parents enrolled me in a few classes at Hofstra University when I was a kid. My favorite had been an animation class with ex-Disney animator Al Baruch.

In order to be admitted into the class, Baruch tested each of us at the door. “Draw me a funny pencil,” he said, sliding a sketchpad towards me.

I hunched over the paper, quickly drawing a pencil with heavy-lashed, big eyes and a buck-toothed grin. I was in.

This class was the first time I learned that drawing and storytelling needed to be married to create fantastic cartoons. We didn’t just learn how to draw and paint cells. He showed us how to storyboard, how to raise stakes in the plot, and how to get people to care about the characters you created on paper. It was then I knew what I wanted to do with my life: become a cartoonist. Or an animator. Or a comic book artist.

But then I moved to Florida.

My parents swore that moving from New York to Florida would be a positive change for us. “Guess what?” they had said. “We’re going to be close to Disney World. Where the animators are! Maybe you can work there one day.”

That sold me. I couldn’t wait to move. However, my parents hadn’t known that all the animators had long since moved to California, and there was nothing left of those creative, movie-making teams except one drawing class attraction in Hollywood Studios.

I settled into Florida life as best I could, baking in the humidity and enduring the strangeness that only constant heat, beaches and retirement communities can produce. I took some art classes in high school, but we weren’t allowed to draw cartoons (it wasn’t art). I was in high school in the early 2000s, when there was no such thing as YouTube and forums were strictly off-limits by concerned parents. Getting an email address was “dangerous.” You could only really teach yourself, at the time, with the resources physically available you. I started to lose hope that I’d ever find a way to share my stories.

Then I discovered journalism. I joined the school newspaper as their editorial cartoonist and ended up tumbling into the world of writing. I learned how to write articles for the paper (I was always a feature writer – those were more fun). I started to realize that writing was the perfect solution to my dilemma. I could tell all the stories floating around in my head and in my sketchbooks by using words alone.

Hadn’t I learned anything from all those years of being a voracious reader? The authors I loved painted pictures of characters and worlds so vivid, they stuck with me. I could create magic inside my readers’ heads too. All I needed was a blank page and words.

So began my love affair with writing.

Author spotlight

Kimberly Karalius

KIMBERLY KARALIUS holds an MFA in fiction from the University of South Florida, and has been sharing stories on Figment.com ...

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