I emerged from childhood with four books, which still adorn my bookcase. Today, they are small contributions on a full shelf of books that I keep for children who visit my home – mostly my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These books are small… in number that is… they are surely large in my estimation and huge in consideration of what they stand for.
These are the treasures of my beginnings as a writer. They dragged me into that dream of some day having books with my name embossed on them, which would be as precious to future generations as these and many others were to me… whether they belonged to me or somebody else.
As I grew to what Grandma called ‘A responsible age’, she gave me two books from her coveted collection. The first was Silver Brumby’s Daughter, by Australian author Elyne Mitchell and published by Hutchinson of London. Horses didn’t interest me at all, but the book did – it was mine!
The second book from Grandma was an early copy – perhaps one of the first – of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, coloured and illustrated by Bessie Pease, and published by J Coker & Co Ltd, London. It is printed on paper so thick it might be called cardboard and every page has a wide border of illustrations from the story. There are also eight full-page colour plates. This book is one of my greatest treasures and having it restored is on my list of paramount intentions.
In high school, I was awarded Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott for first in the class in two subjects – Needlework and Home Science. I would like to be able to say it was the prize for excellence in English, but it wasn’t.
Later, my sister’s friend handed on a book to me because the main character was my namesake. There are two stories within the confines of the cover – What Katy Did and What Katy Did At School by Susan Coolidge, published in England by Rylee Classics.
This book felt like it had my name on the cover, and took me a little closer to the dream.
My will to write was always strong.
At the end of each school break, we were set the task of writing about the wonderful holidays we’d had. Most of the kids wrote about holidays at the beach, visiting grandparents interstate, or trips to Sydney and places like Taronga Park Zoo. Because we didn’t have such holidays, I often caused a stir by writing about the pattern on the bottom of the swimming pool, how long I could hold my breath under water, or simply spending the day making mud pies with my younger siblings.
Then, when I was eight, there was that first little book I wrote about the pup and his friends getting into mischief. Read more about this in my Blog ~ Welcome To My Writing Home…
Next came a short story called The Wonder Boy Of Two Hundred Years Ago about a boy frozen after his death, to be brought back after two centuries. I was twelve at the time and had not heard of cryonics.
In the second year of high school, I approached the principal about starting a school magazine. She told me I could do it, but no one on the teaching staff would have time to help me and I couldn’t use school resources. I gathered ‘news’ and wrote some ‘articles’, but had no idea how to get them from individual pieces into an interesting paper.
The idea was dropped in favour of my copious notebooks of teenage poetry.
The foundations were laid for my future as a writer.
What literary treasures accompanied you from childhood to adulthood?
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