Like many of us, I’ve been using some of my isolation time to dig through old boxes and files. My original intent was to finally address long-overdue de-cluttering and take a small step towards minimalism, but I’ve ended up rolling on the floor laughing at some of my finds … particularly when I unearthed the box where I stashed my authorial juvenilia.
As previously noted, I’ve dreamed of writing a book since I was about seven years old, and I’ve found evidence aplenty that I set about my mission with wide-ranging zeal. The earliest effusions appear from when I was about nine, inspired by a wonderful teacher called Mrs Lowden.
Epistle number one is called The Marsh Monster, a harrowing tale of a giant rabbit that terrorises a country town. The heroine, Pam, single handedly saves the day and is awarded a special medal by the Mayor.
My output surged exponentially over the following years, with some clearly derivative works (eg. Ingrid, below, which bears a remarkable resemblance to What Katy Did) but many other highly original narratives primarily in the thriller/adventure genre. I can’t resist sharing the dazzling opening sequence of Adventures in Space (aged 11):
Nick and I were in our secret hideout down at Hallet Cove when the waves suddenly came in. For what seemed like hours we were underwater rolling around and floundering for our lives. Then we were spurted out of a chute and landed in a little room. “Where the giggers are we Charlie? Billy asked me. “Don’t ask me, I am just as kerfuffled as you are!” I gasped.
I even dabbled with children’s fiction in my opus Magic in the Night (aged 12), an illustrated tale of a midnight animation of a family of dolls, a teddy, a toy train, a tin soldier and (sorry, pre-PC) Bobo the golliwog. They break out of the toy box and go on a jaunt to the park where Teddy falls in the pond. Jamie, the toys’ owner, can’t imagine what happened when he wakes up holding a wet bear. Note my children’s lit nom-de-plume, Cathy B.
Not satisfied with writing alone, I wanted my books to be proper books – with covers, and illustrations, and binding. I spent hours drawing and mucking about with innovative wool and string binding solutions which have proven to be remarkably durable.
Grade six was a highly productive year when I also branched out into non-fiction, specifically autobiography. In Me, (below) I explore the trauma of breaking my brother’s leg (aged 2) and the finer points of keeping pet mice (Pixie, Dixie, Snowie, Fairie, Muffie and Squigie). It’s hard to see, but the faded end-piece pic is of me with assorted mice on my head.
Clearly taken with the genre, I explored the speculative realm in the fascinating Autobiography of Billie the Bee (aged 12). So enamoured was I of my creation that I was driven to replicate him in the physical realm as a hand puppet who still has pride of place on my study bookshelf. I recall Mum being seriously cross with me for nicking her stocking socks to make Billie’s wings.
But it was in my first year at high school that I discovered the oeuvre that would become my most creative and prolific writing home for many years – doggerel poetry. In a very early post on this blog I gave an extract from my first work, also called Me (hmm, do you think maybe I was a bit self-obsessed?). For posterity, here is the full work:
Perhaps it was Mrs Holthouse’s positive reinforcement, perhaps sheer joy at making words rhyme, but from this point my juvenilia box is jam-packed with reams of poems on everything from leaves and spring (has there ever been poet who didn’t ode upon the spring?) to more original themes such as the inner ponderings of goldfish and the wages of sin.
As I laughed my way through these dusty boxes it was borne in upon me that I have, indeed, always been a writer. And I still want my books to have covers and bindings …