All my life I’ve wanted to do two things: Something better than I think I’m capable of, and something bigger than I think I’m capable of. I didn’t know how to get to that point, truth be told. I was at a loss for a plan and when you’re ten years old pretty much everything is bigger than you are so it’s an easy task to accomplish. I was proud of so many things back then, being able to read at a high school level in elementary school is something I still brag about, despite the silliness of the sentiment today. Even then, however, I wanted to get better. To know more, to be capable of accomplishing more. I like to think that I’ve taken all of those dreams from my childhood, the promises I made myself and the ideas I’ve been cooking since I was hand painting beside my parents in my TMNT underwear and transformed them into something tangible, something bigger and better than who I was yesterday.
Alva Tobias is Air
Filling the space around me with intention, creation + hope is what I strive for. We are all generators of hope, you see. Even when my real life struggles prevent me from being the man I want to be, I will never be stopped. Only slowed down, because I am made of stars and garbage, I am a living breathing testament to doing what you want to do. Even when I am beaten and downtrodden, I refuse to give up. I made a promise to my twelve-year-old self that I will never break.
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. It first started with an alternate universe story where my friends and I transported into the world in which the card game Yu-Gi-Oh takes place. After three or four notebooks, however, I dropped the story. Writing in someone else’s world just wasn’t what I wanted. By fifth grade, I had branched out into more conceptual ideas. For a large project that year my friend and I decided to write about these molecules that changed animals into hyper-powerful badasses, not unlike the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I wrote about a fox, a lizard, and an eagle. My friend wrote about a wolf, a bear, and a lizard. My villain was a snake, I’m sure my friends’ was too. We worked hard on these projects together and when I had finished drawing the final image to aid in the telling of the story, the heroes standing above the dead snake with a blade firmly implanted in his chest, blood draining from his body I showed it to my parents with such a pride inside of me and they told me that I wasn’t allowed to put that image/text in my story.
They were afraid that the teacher would think I have some kind of psychosis or mental issue. They thought I would wind up getting them in trouble for letting their son create such graphic imagery.
I was utterly crushed at the thought.
I still remember tearing up the image and throwing it away. I worked over the inked up paper better than any shredder could do. Back then, I was so mad that my parents didn’t support my act of creation. I didn’t understand the weight of what they were saying then. Or the purpose. That what I had drawn was too much for my peers. I was so mad and so hurt, I remember crying all night long because I thought the picture was perfect.
So goes the story of my first true story edit. Coupled with the removal of the image, I was told I needed to re-write the ending of the story as it was far too graphic for the kids in my class. That hurt just as bad as I set my pen down and changed what had become perfect in my young mind. When I woke the next morning I found a letter from my mother on my nightstand and opened it to read.
My Dearest Alan,
I am so proud of you! I can see a great deal of potential in your story. The idea of good vs. evil is very evident. This is a great start! I can see a very good story coming out of this! I can tell that you can see the whole story unfolding in your mind, you just need to put all these wonderful details on paper so that EVERYONE can enjoy your imagery. You have good dialogue, but you need to put in who is saying what and why.
Remember when you turn your paper in that not everyone will look into thes tory for the deeper meaning about the bond of friendship and it’s ups and downs. They won’t see the fight between good and evil and that ultimately evil is trying to take over what is good and needs to be stopped. Just remember, mom knows and you know + if someone doesn’t like it maybe it is because they don’t know! Also know that everyone has different tastes in stories. If someone corrects grammar, punctuation or spelling that is called editing and they are doing it to help and make your story better. Criticizm is different from editing. Keep writing! Have a good day!
I love you!
The fact of the matter is, they were right. Had I kept that imagery associated with the final page of my short story my teacher would have likely had a meltdown. I’m glad I removed it because after reading them aloud and turning them in she called me to her desk at the end of the day to talk to me about something regarding my story.
She accused me of copying my friend’s story because they were so similar and went on to hammer into my mind the consequences of plagiarism. She gave me an F on that story and I stopped writing for a while.
I picked up a renewed love of poetry in eighth grade, which I kept secret because I was afraid of what my friends and especially the kids that bullied me would think when they found out. I carried that secret passion into high school where I revealed my love of storytelling, poetry, and writing. Sophomore year, a kid in my grade found one of my poems that had fallen out of my backpack and read it aloud to the class. I was mortified.
After that, I only wrote in private at home. And math class, which I ignored everyone in, in the first place.
By the time I graduated I had moved on from poetry to songs and the stories in my head were taking a shape I couldn’t understand yet, but I would soon.
I started working at Walmart the year I graduated and the rest has become history. One lazy day in the bathroom stalls and I realized that I had a story within me, one that other’s wouldn’t necessarily understand. One that not everyone would like. A story in my bones that had been screaming since I was just a child to be released. It just needed a cast of faces and a purpose.
Alva Tobias was born.
In 2013 I released my debut novel to a modicum of fanfare. I hosted a small party, got trashed and pissed off my roommate + best friend, who worked the following morning. At the release party, I took a long time to read the first chapter of the story, unwilling to let anyone leave until they had heard the whole introduction. I told them how I chose my pen name. In honor of my grandfather, dedicating my writing career to his memory. Coupled with the massive story that unfolds within my head every day when my eyes open.
I am inspired by much, and in honor of my childhood, I am slowed by nothing.
Since then, I’ve been constantly working on creating and writing. Poetry, this blog, new novels and I am constantly reminded of the note my mother left for me that morning in fifth grade. It hangs below my calendar, a constant reminder that even if they don’t understand, even if they don’t know why I write what I do, my mother and father support me. My friends support me.
My story will be told.
One more week until the Black Dawn. I am excited to unveil what I’ve been working on. I’ve grown a penchant for talking highly about these projects and then never releasing them because I don’t have the money to supply it or the work I’ve created isn’t the best that I can make. Which is admirable, I suppose.
But I’m tired of talking always about these things I’m creating. If I was honest with myself, I’d tell you there is a piece of me still hiding within that 5th-grade boy, afraid of what will happen if I release something that the public doesn’t understand. Afraid that it may be too graphic, too dark, too painful for others to read.
But I am not that boy anymore. I have grown and changed so much he would hardly recognize me today.
When the Black Dawn arrives, I’ll have more for you. Only one more week, but the wait will be worth it.
Until then, go see the story unfolding on my Instagram page + follow my social media accounts for updates at the turn of the sunrise.
To see it all unfolding each day, check out Salt + Iron Productions.