Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hello, my name is Christina and I'm a frustrated writer...

...is there a support group out there for me?!

Oddly, when I was a kid, about the only vague idea I had about 'what I wanted to be when I grew up' was a writer.  Well, a writer and an artist, but art was something I just did anyway, and presumed that I would carry on just doing.  A writer seemed to be more of a 'proper job'.  I was a terrible bookworm as a kid, I really did read 'with a flashlight under covers' as Robin Williamson says in his glorious "Five Denials on Merlin's Grave".  So I wrote...lots.  Stories and poems mostly, believing that one day I would write a real proper book, just like all my favourite authors.  Herein lies my problem.  All my favourite authors were...British.  Raised on a diet of C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Penelope Lively, Alison Uttley, Enid Blyton (I still love 'lashings of ginger beer') and Tolkien, I wanted to write books like they wrote.  And I did...once.  When I was 15, for an English assignment.  I think (but this is 29 years ago so I can't be sure) that the brief was to simply write a children's story.  Me being me, I decided to make a real book, with 'pictures and everything'.  It was called 'The Magic Sword' and I have to admit, HEAVILY influenced by 'The Hobbit'.  There's even a wise old owl called 'Gandaf' (hmm, remove the 'l' and no-one will know my influences, ha HA!)

Here's the opening page.
So by the second line, there's already a problem.  We simply don't have villages in Australia.  We have little country towns, but not villages.  I had no idea what a heath was either.  And I was 22 before I clapped eyes on a real live oak tree, and a young one at that, so not twisted at all as I had imagined them to be.

Somehow, to be a real writer, I had to write about that kind of stuff and unfortunately, I had no experience of it.  All of my favourite writers, no matter where they're from, seem to bring a very strong sense of place to their work, a real appreciation and eye for the details of nature, and I wanted to do the same, but didn't know how to fit the magic and myth of my ancestors into the landscape around me.  And I think somehow that it stopped me from trying.  So this remains my one and only finished book.  But I read it again today, and actually, it's not bad (for a 15 year old).  I might read it to my girls and get an expert opinion.  And who knows, maybe I've still got a book of some sort in me!

Apologies for the dearth of posts this last week...I've had a horrible dose of the flu AND a thumper of a headache on the weekend, so not the best Mother's Day ever.  I do look forward to the time my girls are big enough to put the kettle on and make me a cup of tea in bed though!


michelleK said...

ahhh yes I loved to write in school. Mainly because I was influenced by a great teacher. And one of the teachings that stick in my mind (twas a while ago now) is "you should always write what you know" . Whether it is through first hand knowledge or lots and lots and LOTS of research.

You can still write your dream. You just need to research it until you do know!

Best of luck . I hope we get sneak peeks at your story :D

<3 Michelle

Valerianna said...

Your book looks lovely to me- and for a 15 year old..!
I wonder if gnomes and the rest of the fae folk might surely have villages and gnarled oaks even in Australia... even if humans don't!

Emerald Window said...

Do you believe in reincarnation? I didn't until I traveled to England a few years back and realized that somehow I KNEW it. I cried when I had to leave. I feel homesick for it to this day.
Perhaps you have been there in a past life and that is why you are drawn to it. Have you ever visited? I highly recommend it if you haven't. You may be going home.
PS. Where were your family from before settling in Australia? My sister believes that we retain memories from our ancesters.
I think you should write your book. Get a proofreader in England to fix any glaring mistakes.

Danielle Barlow said...

Oh what a wonderful book! I hope you got a good mark from your teacher ;)
I have four books stashed away, written in my early teens,( all REALLY awful, I have to admit, but I can't get rid of them!) One was a full length novel about my best friend and I, and a herd of magic ponies. One was a complete rip off of the Lord of The Rings, written in Runes ( needless to say , this one was unfinished!) I also had a moment of horror a couple of weeks ago when I found one of my teenage diaries open in the children's playhouse. Someone had found them! Think I might have to destroy those before I am embarrassed by them :(

Definitely get your children's opinion - they will be completely honest :)

jude said...

it is strange to fit yourself into this even stranger world. i think back and wonder why i was so unsure of myself when i was younger.

A mermaid in the attic said...

Thanks ladies! Danielle, I actually began inventing a language when I was about 13, linked to a wild(ish) place near where I lived, and created a strange, rune-ish alphabet to go with it! I still every now and then come across childish scribbles that I can't make head or tail of. Jude, I guess most people don't think about it, but it's always been there for me, how to fit myself into this ancient land as a newcomer, and indeed, as the descendent of colonists and exploiters of the land and the indigenous peoples who had lived here for thousands of years. I'm still working on it.

Michelle said...

Isn't fantasy all about whatever you want it to be?

A mermaid in the attic said...

That's true, but, the fantasy works that I have always loved best have had their roots very much in this world and its details. Even Tolkien and Lewis, though ostensibly set in 'other worlds', were European through and through in their depictions of the landscape, flora and fauna. It's why I love Robert Holdstock's work so much, it has it's roots right down into the soil, there's something very ancient about it.

Ashley Ashbee said...

A beautiful storybook! Clearly very inspired by old books. I think being an artist can be a very practical career as long as you treat it as a business and not just an art. Loads of websites, calendars, etc. need illustrators! I'm sure you could do it, given your work was of professional calibre, even in grade five! It's funny... One of my first writing adventures that made me realize I wanted to be a writer was also in grade five. It was three re-vamped versions of fairy tales. Great idea to post them here! Maybe I will do the same.

I wouldn't be concerned about not having a strong sense of place. I don't think I have one either. I just try to describe things (in non-fiction I mean) as if as I'm writing them, I'm seeing them for the first time. That doesn't always help, though... If as the writer you're supposed to be describing something that is very familiar, not alien! I don't know...

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