Thursday, November 11, 2010

Juvenalia - The Writer as a Child

The other day my mother bought around a box of old books she had cleared out of her cupboard. She wanted to know if I wanted them kept, because Mum knows that I Never. Throw. Books. Out. I will occasionally allow them to be passed onto charity, but that’s only after I agonise over the decision for a while.

It was kids’ books mostly – a few of The Famous Five volumes, an old hardcover copy of Green Eggs and Ham that had been stitched together with wool, some Mr Men books, and, oddly, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L Shirer.  It was about thirty books in total, and I think I’ve whittled it down to the absolutely necessary twenty-eight we must keep.

Mum had also put a few of my old school exercise books in the box. These are those old yellow exercise books that were supplied by the Department of Education, and not the ones you could buy in shops with handy things like the times tables on the back cover. Mine are my creative writing efforts, from Grade Three, Grade Four, and Grade Six.

I flipped through them, hoping for some inspiration, or at least hoping to recognise the germ of creativity in a few of the pieces. All of my teachers at primary school said I was very good at writing, so how bad could it be? And that poem I wrote for my Nan when I was three “I think mice are nice” (that’s the title, and the whole body of the poem) is pretty cute, so how bad could it be?

It’s bad.

This is from Grade Four. I was eight:

The Great Feast
My name is Chris. I am a page boy for Lord Wellings. Lord was having a feast beacause he defeated his enemy. There were twenty-eight people at the feast. As I was coming with the food, Rusty, the dog’s pup ran out to meet me.
I tripped over her, the food went sailing through the air, and landed on the Lord and geusts. The men shouted, the ladies wailed. The Lord yelled “Out you little scamp.” I ran out into the sunshine happily. “Well,” I thought. “I’ll be getting home.”

I actually got a Special Merit elephant stamp for that effort, which doesn’t say much for the rest of the class. I suspect my teacher had given up all hope by that point. She spent at least half her day telling us to take our hats off and stop swinging back in our chairs, so it’s no surprise she didn’t even have the energy to correct my spelling. The fight was gone.

But I will thank her for that smudgy elephant stamp. It was all it took to keep my literary ambition burning in those days. It’s kind of nice to look back and know that I’ve improved, but, honestly, it would have been impossible not to improve, wouldn’t it?

And hey, apparently I've always written historical fiction! 

I will save the true horror of my poem “Green Eyes the Witch” for another time. 


  1. You little scamp. :-)

    I actually enjoyed that story (definitely worth an elephant stamp), and yeah, I know exactly what you mean about whittling down books. Last year I was able to make four big stacks to get rid of, and if I lean back, I can see them right now.

  2. The church up the road had a book sale the other week. One of the parishioners, who turned out to be a uni professor, had died and donated all his books to them. $2 for a paperback and $4 for a hardcover. I spent $82 dollars. And now half my dining room table is covered in books because I have nowhere else to put them. Worth it.



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