Do not adjust your screen. You are not seeing things. You have just entered El Space. Thank you for traveling with us.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m L. Marie. You probably noticed that I didn’t include a photo of myself. Though I’ve published books under my given name, I established the pen name L. Marie for my blog (El Space: The Blog of L. Marie and my middle grade and young adult fiction. But I can’t say that L. Marie isn’t a “real” name, because it’s my name too.
I’m still querying agents and publishers about three of my fantasy books. So, I don’t yet have a book to go with this blog post. Sorry to disappoint. Have some virtual chocolate instead. No, I insist.
Instead of three questions, I decided to answer one, since this post would be about three thousand words otherwise. But the question of where I grew up is one that resonates with me very strongly. Sometimes, you have to look back in order to see where you’re going.
Jill asked, “What is special about the place you grew up?”
I grew up on the far south side of Chicago in Maple Park—around 117th Street. For some of you, this might seem like foreign territory. Many times, whenever I’ve mention where I grew up, I’ve either been told, “I didn’t know Chicago extended that far,” or “I would never go there. I’m too scared.”
These days, Chicago gets a bad rap because of the murder count and issues with gangs. Yes, many murders have happened, sadly. And yes, gang activity has increased. But Maple Park was the womb in which I developed as a writer.
Here’s a screen shot of my old house—the first house my parents owned. They were among the first homeowners in this planned community. We moved here when I was three years old. Over the years, I spent many a sun-washed summer’s day in the ’70s riding my bike around the neighborhood.
In my neighborhood, there were many kids my age and the ages of my two brothers. We shrieked, we sang, we laughed, we traded a tremendous amount of words. Because I loved books at an early age, and was surrounded by so many kids, I knew early on (at age eight as a matter of fact) that when I grew up, I wanted to write books for kids.
My elementary school—John Whistler—was six blocks away. My parents were not the hovering types, taking us to and from school every day. Mom walked with me to kindergarten once. After that, I walked with a friend to school each day, sometimes until the watchful eye of my older brother. (He’s only two years older.) I say sometimes, because he was not the hovering type either.
Dad taught my brothers and me to navigate through the neighborhood and the city. “The lake [Lake Michigan] is always east,” he’d say. “Don’t worry if you get lost. Just find your way back.”
I was pretty much a city kid, used to masses of people. I loved taking public transportation all around the city. When I was thirteen years old, I took two buses and the El—Chicago’s elevated train—to get to high school in the inner city of Chicago. Got pickpocketed a couple of times. In these increasingly dangerous times, parents today would probably balk at allowing their children to traverse a neighborhood or a city on their own. But the freedom to do so allowed me to learn my way around—sometimes through trial and error.
First picture taken from the DuSable Bridge in Chicago. Second shows Willis Tower (tallest building), taken from a Wendella boat on the Chicago River
My parents took us to museums, libraries, live theater productions, and parks (like Grant Park) within the downtown area of Chicago. I developed a love of the arts in all forms at an early age. We went to plays at the Goodman Theater and movies at the drive-in and neighborhood theaters, and listened to a ton of albums at home: Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Andre Kostelanetz, Muddy Waters, Mozart, the Jackson 5, Mahalia Jackson, Diana Ross, Tchaikovsky.
We also went to baseball games—White Sox, since we were South Siders. My older brother, however, was a Cubs fan. (Nowadays, everyone is.)
Because I grew up in Chicago, the city makes cameos in some of the books I’ve written. I hope you’ll get to read them someday. Till that day comes, please feel free to stop by my blog.
Thank you, Jill, for allowing me to take up space here.
You have now left El Space.