A writing virgin..
And knew no better than to make cheap, click bait puns. I have no excuses now, I just like doing it. My sense of humour is never going to grow up and wear a suit and to date neither have I. How wrong is it that I am proud of that?
Anyhoo, to the point.. Its FLASHBACK THURSDAY!!! wait for tape..
.. and I thought I’d stop raiding the childhood stores and give you a little bit of my very first novel. Actually my third novel, if we include Bobby and the Dinosaur (a fan-fiction style sequel to Bobby and the Dinosaur Egg) and the unnamed three jotter (beautifully covered in the flowery living room wallpaper) epic. Literary no less as it was a study of friendship and betrayal. I think I started off with the intent to write a tale of teenage romance – I seem to remember practising kisses..
But those were both done and dust-binned (though rumour has it my primary one teacher kept my fan-fiction masterpiece) before puberty had finished with me. This is a piece from my first serious attempt at a novel as an adult. Its supposed to be a nice easy reading detective story. I quite like it, and that doesn’t happen very often, but oddly enough the more literary parts, the voice of Harriet was the one I connected with while the more genre-esque detective parts I struggled with. If anyone ever tells you genre is easy writing, just give it a try before you believe them.
As for the obvious connection with my favourite writing mantra, I hadn’t joined a writers group, read a writing how-to book or even an article, to my knowledge. If I had come across the phrase I wasn’t aware of it consciously, but I guess that just goes to show how much it resonated with me. Given I am in the middle of writing another piece on it, it seemed particularly relevant, showing as it did my very first tentative brushes with the concept.
She must have painted as a child, in nursery, in primary, but it hadn’t been until her standard grades that she had discovered her voice. Another still life; Mr McClellan had left it set up waiting for them in the art room. Another grey day in the north, another grey task from the grey man. She remembered hating Art, but she hated everything in that prison school.
“Halt!” The woman had cried striding like lightning into their silent boredom. She was what an art teacher should be, fat and bursting with vulgar passion, her voice fruity like Marie, unlike the scuffling sharpness of her old school. “Tear them off. Off!” She had strode round their pads ripping their half- hearted efforts from them, throwing them indignantly to the floor. Some had hurriedly offered them up afraid of her greedy hands, others had enthusiastically started shredding their own. Harriet had shrank backwards.
“The question you must ask yourself: do I have something to say?” She paused in the centre of the room, sweeping over them. Someone put their hand up. “I didn’t ask you to tell me. I want you to show me what you have to say.”
I have nothing Harriet had thought.
The teacher picked up the empty wine bottle, “Is this what you want to say? This says I drink too much because my life is full of plastic fruit.” She flicked the fuzzy apple and it rolled down the tartan cover resting in a small lump on the floor. “You can paint this if this is what you have to say. But I won’t be happy.”
Harriet hadn’t cared back then. She was unhappy, why should this woman be any different?
“Close your eyes. All of you.”
She had obeyed.
“Think about what you would like to say. What do you need to tell the world? What thing lies unsaid and in silence will leave you incomplete? When you know what that is open your eyes, pick up your brush and paint. Until then, don’t. I would rather a blank page than a lie.”
Her last word had wound thoughtfully through the silent room. Harriet had stood eyes closed hearing the substitute’s soft soles walking around them. And it had been peaceful. She didn’t have to do anything. No more pretending to work out the proportions of the bottles narrow neck versus the fat round fruit, worrying about how to separate the grey shadows from the grey air, she could just stand and be nothing. Two minutes later she had opened her eyes and picked up her brush.