First Time

My First Novel

My mother and I began our Series of Firsts one year ago. The other day we were reflecting not only on all the new things we've seen and done this year, but on all the first times we've experienced throughout our lives.

First time travelling alone, without parents. First time in a new country. First day of school, first part-time job (stuffing envelopes). First real job (assistant to the managing editor at Air Canada's en-Route magazine).

One memory that sticks out for me is the summer I wrote my first novel.

I'd written a couple of short stories already, as well as a few sticker-stories, with specific words in the tale indicated by way of stickers - shiny, fuzzy, scratch 'n' sniff. I'd just completed the fourth grade.

School obviously made up a lot of my day-to-day experiences, so I wrote a story about a new girl at school. I called it The Strange Girl, and wrote it on yellow looseleaf, in pencil (this was back in the 80s, when all I had to do every summer was eat and sleep and swim and play, and had no electronic toys or online world to distract me).
Eventually, of course, the girls in the story bonded and made friends. I still have the marked up copy somewhere, showing the few edits I made on the initial draft.

The main aspect of the plot involved toilet papering, or TPing, the new girl's house at Hallowe'en. I must have read a children's book that features TPing, because I sprinkled the acronym TP all over the story: during the girls' planning sessions, on Hallowe'en night, and in the aftermath of their escapade.

When the story was finished, I showed it to my mother. Her one comment - well, she might have said more, but the line I remember is - "you can't use the acronym TP without explaining at least once what it stands for."

It rankled, because the novel that I'd read hadn't explained. Why did I have to spell it out?

The year after that, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, and discovered that when J. R. R. Tolkien was a child, he'd also written a story and showed it to his mother. Her comment? She "pointed out that one could not say 'a green great dragon', but had to say 'a great green dragon.'"

From then on I cherished my mother's words. If it could happen to Tolkien, maybe it meant I was destined for great things too.

August-September 2012

Old Articles by Deniz B. Bevan:
Istanbul Sapphire
Pâté or Pouding Chômeur
An Expression
Ice Apple Wine
Montreal Is An Island
Lavender Fields
Exotic Fruit
Ideas for Your 'Staycation'
Istanbul: I Only Have Two Days To See Everything!
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Bladeby Diana Gabaldon
Approaching Ireland by ferry...
Just Plain Nesin