Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Visit From Christmas Past

"The ghost of things that never happened are far worse than the ghosts of those that did,"

-- L. M. Montgomery, Emily's Quest

Today I had a visit from Christmas Past.

Okay, so I was going through this box of things that has been sitting in the corner of my bedroom for years. I was cleaning up my room to make space for the things I got for Christmas (out with the old, in with the new, as they say). And I found some really interesting items. For example: a happy meal toy Bratz doll with no shirt, my long-lost MP3 player, the USB cable to my camera, a cluster of key chains that hung from my backpack my whole third grade year, etc. But the one thing I found that really caught my eye was my first grade notebook.

I've always loved writing. But until the end of my fourth grade year, I didn't save anything I wrote. So this beat-up composition notebook, a collection of my writings at their most primitive stage, caught me by surprise. And it was fun to find a piece of yesterday.

There is everything in that notebook. The first page is a crude picture of a bird in a tree, floating in the midst of what seems to be birdseed. Over this image is my caption, in two-inch tall print,
 I see a blue bird. There are lists in that notebook. There are school assignments, Sunday School notes. More crude drawings. A coloring page of Martin Luther King Jr.'s face that had been pasted there. A free verse poem (I remember despising that assignment. I've always detested free verse). And the first six chapters of my first-ever novel, in which the chapters were one page each and the characters were all named after people I knew. I was laughing out loud at the childish silliness of it-- to think that my days once revolved around this amazing thing that I fancied myself to be doing: writing a bestselling book! Here's the first chapter, exactly as I wrote it at age seven. See what you think:
Princess and the ice Palace:

Chapter 1: Tiffini

Tiffini lived on a farm in Woodsville, Majestial. It was called Majestial because it was beal beautiful, and pleasant. The Prince was very nice, and this is why the country was so beautiful. Tiffini had two sisters who were twins. Rebecca and Isabelle. Their Mother and Father worked hard from sunup to sundown and they only got paid $20.30 a day. The girls helped with the chores wich included: Gathering eggs, cleaning the chickens coup, feeding the animals, cleaning, weeding the garden, and baking. They also had a brother named Timmy who did milking and some other things. They only took baths on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. The girls only did school on Monday and Friday. They all helped on planting seeds.

Can you believe that was the setting of the stage for my first ever novel? I find it mortifying that I ever wrote something like that. But then again, I was only seven. And I never did write more than six pages (probably a good thing), or even decide on a title. This was because I learned the hard way to "write with the door closed." Other kids my age read over my shoulder and told me how awful it was, and how much like another book they had read. Even the title, Princess and the Ice Palace, they claimed was too much like a movie they'd seen. So I angrily shut the notebook and didn't open it again until now.

And, a few layers of unwanted papers and broken toys above that notebook, there was a paper in that box. This one was more recent. It was a chapter to my yet-unfinished novel, Rachel of Starr Light. Only back then I called it Amanda of Twin Oaks. Here it is, original typos and all.:

Aunt Jane's Romance

Amanda was dusting in the parlor when she found them. The old, yellowing letters stood out from behind the dishes in the chinaware cupboard. Mandie stood on tip-toe to reach them. She pulled them out from behind the blue willow dishes and pulled them down to read. Aunt Naomi would have called her a snoop, but Mandie didn't care. The fat yellow envelopes were calling her. She drew out a letter from the parcel and saw with surprise that they were adressed to Aunt Jane. There was no return address. She opened the letter.
"September 13, 18--
I hope this letter finds you well. I am away in a lawyer's office in Shrewsbury. AS you know, I am studying law in Mr. Blake's home." The letter had a dull beginning. Mandie skipped to the end. The letter was signed, "Yours truly, Robert Kier."
Amanda gasped. Robert Kier! Elsie's father! This is the best piece of news yet! I always wondered if Aunt Jane had a beau. she thought. FOr the rest of the day she itched to tell Elsie. Since today was Saturday, she had to wait until tomorrow to tell her friend. Aunt Naomi didn't allow anyone to go out after suppr.
Amanda sat through church all the next day, wanting for the service to be over. Timmy and his father were there, and that only made Amanda wanto to tell what she had found even more. At last the Reverend stopped speaking and said, "Let us pray." Amanda thought the prayer seemed especially long today. The moment the Reverend said, "Amen," Amanda bolted out the door to wait on the steps for Elsie. Aunt Naomie was socked at the speed with which Amanda left the sanctuary. But she would have to speak to Amanda about it later. Here came Mrs. White now. After what seemed an entirely too long time to Amanda, Elsie finally emerged from the church.
"You broke out of there like the devil himself was behind you," said Elsie. "What's the matter?"
"Ohm nothing in the world is wrong! In fact, Everything is right with the world! Elsie, look at these!" Amanda withdrew one of the letters from her prayerbook. Elsie gasped in excitement. This was one of the letters that had a return address. They started off down the road. Amanda opened the letter. The two friends took turns reading it.
"My dearest Jane," read Elsie dramatically. All is going whell here. My first case is tomorrow. Wish me luck, my love!' My love, indeed! I wonder if he had met Mother yet?"
"I don't know," said Amanda. "There is more in our parlor. I found them while I was dusting."
"But how'd they get there?" Amanda shook her head, making the wavy red hair bounce. "I don't know," she said again. "I don't think they were ever opened."
"But why? If Father loved your aunt Jand, she must have loved him."
"Maybe Aunt Naomi hid them. You know how she likes to be in control."
"Or maybe it was your Aunt Elise. You know, most of the town is talking about how your Aunts think they're the Three Fates." Amanda knew that.
"Let's race to your house and get the rest of the letters!" Elsie suggested. The twosome raced to Twin oaks and slipped up the stairs to the turret room. Amana had hidden the stack of letters under a loose floorboard. She pried it open and pulled out eh yellowed stack of letters. Someone had tied them with a ribbon of forget-me-not blue, which had faded over time. There were about twenty letters in all. Each was written in a fancy Victorian script and had some terrible love poems. Elsi and Amanda took turns reading Mr. Kier's words. Then halfway through Elsie stopped. Amanda frowned. "What's wrong?" Elsie looked down at the letter in her white hand. "I feel like We're making fun of Father," said she.
"I'm sure we're not. There's no one up here to hear us. And what if they got married?" Elsie looked up in surprise.
"If they got married...."
Amanda finished for her. "We'd be related! Let's finish these letters." The newly found matchmakers never got the chance. At that very moment, the front door opened. "They're home! Quick, you're not supposed to be here. I'll help you out the window." Amanda opened the window, which creaked and groaned terribly. Elsie hitched up the skirt of her blue calico, her only nice dress, and slid out the window.
"Come to my house tomorrow after school. If we're going to be matchmakers we need somewhere to plan!" Amanda nodded and watched her friend slide down a tree.

Yes, I know. It's not quite as far-fetched as the previous one, but it's not exactly good. It's "nice," I guess you could say. :^)

(How is it that I had better spelling in the first grade than in the fifth?)

And this is the ending from a story I wrote this year called "The Fence." I'm still rather proud of it. :^)

     The Girl ran out. This wasn’t right. In her stories, in her dreams, in her imagination, this was not how it was supposed to be. She got in her truck and drove home.

     Home. If she could just get home, to the beloved Fence, she’d be alright.
    The autumn sun fell to its knees in surrender to night as the Girl made her way through the trees. She sank to the ground on her rock, gazing forlornly at the empty ones beside it. Everyone was gone. Gone. The raging storm of time had swept by, and she was the only survivor.
    But here at the Fence, time didn’t stand a chance. It simply didn’t exist here. As she looked around through her tears, shapes formed around her. As things came into focus, she saw her brothers and the Boy’s brother charging through the trees with wooden swords. She saw her sister and the Boy’s sisters playing house around a circle of tree stumps. There was the Boy, on the rock next to hers, strumming his guitar.  She smiled, and he smiled back, opening his mouth to sing.  Sniffling, she listened to the haunting memory of his music.
    Nothing was ever really gone. It was just over the Fence. And whenever she needed them, they would all be right here, at the Fence.  And all eight of them would be together again, no matter how far apart they were in the real world. The Fence bound them together forever.
    The Boy and the Girl are long gone. The rest of the world has forgotten them. A new group of children plays at the Fence now.
    But memory’s seed has been sown, and the Fence remembers.

I think my writing skills have greatly improved since I was seven, don't you?

Though these first drafts of previous "novels" are horrible, I can learn from them. I can look at them and see how not to write. Maybe someday I can take the skeletons of ideas sketched out here and breathe life into them, creating something worth reading.

And the pieces I'm writing now-- in five years will I look back on them as disgusted as I was when I read these? I hope not, but you never know.

I don't know how many people read this blog-- probably, like, two. (:D) But Happy New Year to all of my readers!


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