Sometimes, when you are progressing in life, it can be fun to look back and see where you came from. So that what this post is about: a (very) self-indulgent skip down memory lane to my earliest writing days, when I was a very strange, serious little girl with weird interests (not much changed there then, I hear you all cry!).
During my time at infant school I loved to write stories, so much so that I even wrote them when I got home, in a little notebook with my dodgy five year old hand writing. Originality was at a bit of a premium: each story tended to consist of certain, unalterable things. There was me, a witch and a boy called Marcus (who I, along with every other girl in the class had a crush on). Sometimes the witch locked me in a cage; sometimes she (it was always a she), locked Marcus in a cage. But we always escaped, killed the witch, and lived happily ever after in matrimonial harmony. Talk about formulaic! And, forty years later, rather embarrassing!
My next venture into the world of writing came when I was about 12 and had glandular fever. I was off school for about six weeks and I read everything I could get my hands on, including Mary Renault’s The King Must Die and Bull From the Sea, and a comic strip about a girl who timeslipped back to ancient Crete. When I returned to school, I wasn’t allowed to do any games or PE for ages (whoopee!). The teachers, not having a clue what to do with me, shunted me off into a little room by myself (the infamous biology prep room) and told me, basically, to amuse myself! And in that prep room my first novel was born. Inspired by Renault and the comic series, I started a story about a group of Cretan bulldancers and their struggle to survive both the bull dance and the politics of the palace of Knossos.
I story-boarded it, I had character files and pictures, and I researched as much about Bronze Age Crete as I could in the local and school libraries. The Bulldancers, as I very imaginatively called it, eventually stretched over five exercise books, and was even featured in a display of pupils’ achievements in the school reception area!
After The Bulldancers came a series of stories that didn’t make it much further than two exercise books full (probably because I was back doing games etc by then, worse luck!). The first of them was The Queen of Atlantis, based very heavily on the TV series, The Man From Atlantis: I was in love with Patrick Duffy back then! And the other one, inspired by the Star Wars films was Stella Strellin: Space Outlaw. Both were spectacularly awful and I keep them just to remind myself that things can only get better in life!
I also wrote many short stories during this time in English lessons and, I must admit, they weren’t half bad. My English teacher at the time definitely saw a writer in me, however I only wanted to be an archaeologist, or an explorer, or a fighter pilot! I didn’t even realise that it was possible to work as a writer.
As the years at school went by, the lessons became more serious and geared to, what was then, the O levels. Apart from the odd time when we were given a short story to do in class, my writing stopped, and stayed stopped throughout the rest of my school days and into my early twenties. Even so, it was a valuable early lesson in what I could achieve, and I still remember my joy at handing the next part of The Bulldancers to my teacher for reading. Sitting here now, remembering that joy, I thank those teachers who nurtured my early creativity and also the authors and comic strip artists who gave me subject matter to think about.