If I close my eyes I am instantly back there, sitting cross-legged on the floor of our family room underneath the IKEA shelves and fold-out “architect’s desk,” scribbling on scraps of paper. Sunlight slants sideways from a big wall of windows, the curtains decorated with lime concentric circles. There are lime-and-red cushions on the chairs.
The family room is dominated by a gigantic, yellow, vinyl, double-sized beanbag. On days that I am sick and stay home from school, I lie lengthwise in this beanbag and Mum lets me watch daytime TV. On one particular afternoon, one that has gone down in family folklore, Mum lets the dog inside to “comfort” me. He races through the kitchen and leaps onto the beanbag, not realising I am already in it until it is too late. He lands on my head. From that day until the day he dies, that dog will never leap into that beanbag again.
I’m not in the beanbag when I close my eyes. I’m on the floor, under the furniture. I’m writing a book. Scraps of paper surround me and on each of them is a new page of my story, thick with misspellings and childlike illustrations. Later, Mum will staple all the pages together to create my book. I am rewriting Black Beauty. “Black is my favourite colour,” I tell Mum, “because I love black horses.”
That is the first time I can remember thinking I want to be a writer.
In the years that follow, I swell with pride when my story is printed in my primary school newsletter, the Panorama (because my school’s name is Wideview, get it?). I pen self-conscious and intensely melodramatic dramas during my hippie stage in high school, inspired by a blood moon rising beyond the horizon. Once, I create a mythology for “the birth of the sun.” In my description of the “raw power and force,” I believe I have tapped something deeply inspired. My English teacher tells me she feels as though she is reading a motorcycle advertisement.
Later, I write a fable about time. A travel memoir about growing up in the country. Poems about broken hearts. I subconsciously turn every job I have into a writing job, until I stumble into a commodity analyst/journalism role and my editor becomes my mentor. Writing is now my profession, but the words I create are a long way from those motorcycle-advertisement dramas. Now, I write about wool futures and cattle markets. About business leaders and political decisions. The subject matter is less than inspiring, but my editor teaches me about plain English, the elegance of minimalism, the value of self editing.
Hunched over my desk under a flickering flourescent light on a contract writing-job for a client, I write a novella in between memos and reports. At home, insomnia turns my brain into the rabbit hole to Wonderland. My novella spirals with it, and transforms into something unintentionally tainted with magic. When the editors at Curtin University’s Black Swan Press approach me to publish my book, I am as proud as I was the day the Panorama sent out photocopies of my Nancy Drew-inspired adventure. Possibly more.
The day I get the letter to say cutbacks in funding mean Black Swan will be closing, and my contract is void, I am devastated. I take it personally, and it is months before I write again. But then I do write, and I burden my next character with more humiliation than I have ever known. It is cathartic.
I am writing this on the floor of my lounge room, cross legged, wrapped up in my dressing gown with my lap top on my knees. My two children are upstairs asleep. Madeleine is two and two months, and she loves to create stories in her little notebook. “One day…” she will promise out loud, while scribbling across a page. Then she will mutter for a little while over more pages and more scribbles, before closing the book with a loud clap and announcing, “The End!”
My fingers on the keyboard are my livelihood but, more than that, they are the outlet for my deepest emotions. The telling of my story, and of theirs. The retelling, the rewriting, the foretelling.