“So you’re commercial writing? What do you want to do with that?”
I was collating math flash cards in the assembly division of the Print Shop, heartily wishing my boss Talani would call me back to the saddlestitcher where I usually work. In an attempt to break up the monotony of our job, Elizabeth, one of the assembly girls, asked me about my major. I looked at her, annoyed that she insisted on talking to me when I did not want to be anywhere near assembly. I smiled and answered as sickenly perky as I could, “Write big, big books about dragons eating people.” Elizabeth looked shocked, and I tossed in what I hoped would be the final barb that would make her leave me alone. “Did I scare you?”
It was her turn to shock me. “No. I’ve just never heard that before. Why dragons?”
No one had asked me that before. It’s no secret—I’ve told several people—but Elizabeth was the first to ask. Thankfully I had an answer ready.
I grew up on fairy tales and mythologies of the ancient world, developing a deep love for the mystical and fantastical early on. As a child, I dreamed of seeing a fairy or a unicorn in the woods by my house, but of course I never saw anything. When we went camping, my mother would bring out her guitar and play all our favorite songs. One night when I was ten years old, she sang Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It infuriated me that Jackie Paper would leave Puff alone, and that night I decided I would be Puff’s friend. That was where my love of dragons began.
At the age of thirteen, I started studying, drawing, and writing about dragons. I favored the western dragons over eastern. Western dragons were large, with massive bat-like wings, and ivory horns, while eastern dragons were glorified snakes with painted faces and beards. Western dragons were the heroes, villains, sidekicks, and minor characters of my stories. They were painted on my walls, in the books I read, in the movies I watched—they were everywhere in my life.
Apparently, not everyone likes dragons. A lot of people hate them, because dragons are frequently associated with Satan and witches.
One Sunday, my parents invited a missionary family over for dinner. I was wearing one of my favorite necklaces, a silver medallion with the emblem of a dragon stamped into it, and the missionary noticed it.
“Ah, I see you’re wearing a necklace with Satan on it,” he commented casually.
I bristled. “A dragon is not the same thing as Satan! Satan was a serpent in the Garden of Eden, and Peter compared him to a lion, but no one gives those animals any flak! And there are several passages in Psalms that have dragons praising God’s glory!”
We debated the point for a few minutes before it was brought to a peaceful conclusion. What most people don’t realize is dragons are simply a part of God’s beautiful creation. I was weird because I stood up for them.
My friends would roll their eyes and laugh, maybe tease me a little, but they understood that it was a part of who I am. There was one time in my teen group when we played Pictionary. We had to draw different people in the church so that the others could guess them. Robert drew my name, drew my picture, and held it up for everyone to see. I had large elf ears poking out from my wild mass of hair.
“Debi!” Everyone guessed instantly.
“Though Debi’s more into dragons than elves,” my best friend Samantha said critically.
“You should’ve just drawn a dragon,” Brandon suggested. “We would’ve recognized her more easily.”
I never felt hated, but there were several times when I felt alone. I felt like I was the only one in the world that was weird. I didn’t want to be alone.
I started writing. I created worlds where I would not only fit in, but I would be the hero. I became a dragon in my stories—strong and powerful, with the ability to make everyone I loved happy in the end, no matter what it cost me. I dragged my life into my writings, bringing all the troubles and pains of this world into a world where I could fix them. When my sister’s boyfriend broke up with her, I exposed him with pen and ink, then created a man that was handsome, chivalrous, and perfect for my sister. In my own weird way, I was trying to fix the world.
I came to college when I was eighteen and met weird people like me. Before, the only weird people I knew were related to me, but now there were more of us! We had fun being weird together, laughing, singing, arguing, and just enjoying each other’s company. I showed them my stories, and they loved them. They would ask me deep questions about the stories, and then listen intently as I answered. It shocked me that they were genuinely interested, that they really liked my stories. It gave me hope that I could succeed as an author.
There were normal people on campus, too. They were nice—calmer than my regular circle of friends—and they smiled tolerantly at our antics. One of the normal people, Heather, borrowed my flash drive to transfer picture files to her computer and accidentally downloaded the book I was working on. It surprised me when she asked if she could read it, but I was more than happy to let her. She finished all 348 pages in three days and then shared it with her friend, Zach.
The four of us—Heather, Zach, my friend Keith, and myself—stood outside one of the college dorms, discussing different scenes and characters.
“Do any of the characters get horribly maimed?” Keith asked.
A character instantly came to mind, but I suppressed my answer because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. “It depends on your definition of ‘maimed,’” I replied neutrally.
“Someone should lose a pinky,” he suggested.
“That’s a great idea!” Zach agreed. “Karran or Miaku maybe.”
I laughed and shook my head. “No, Karran and Miaku have enough happen to them. Arvid could lose a pinky, though. That could work.”
They both cheered and rubbed their hands together in gleeful satisfaction. At first, I couldn’t believe they were reacting to my story this way. It was kind of weird, but it suddenly occurred to me that normal people are weird, too. In fact, there’s no such thing as normal. Some people may be weirder than others—and I may be weirder than most—but everyone is weird in their own way. We all have our little quirks that others don’t understand. Those who have more quirks than others are isolated, looking for others who share their quirks. Even the ones who claim to be normal are looking for others like them. We all want to know we’re not the only ones, that there are others out there like us. At the same time, we want to know that we’re different, that we’re special.
I want to use dragons to translate my weirdness so that others can understand it. I want to show the weirdoes they’re not alone. I want to show them that we’re all just a little bit weird.