I prefer to write by hand. This is from my very early days. I was 7 years old taking Communion classes, and writing short stories in the little notebook I was given for taking notes regarding my upcoming commitment to the church. Something I was totally uninterested in. I believed and still believe in God. And Angels. And Demons. And the eternal struggle between creation and oppression. I had no damn use for religion. It seems oppressive and antithetical to creation. That was all already there. Yes, many of the nuns at the Catholic school I attended wished to burn me at the stake even when I was very small. They let the other children torment me instead. Bullying the odd and unwanted was not frowned upon in my youth but encouraged.
While my mother dug her fist in between my shoulder blades to get me to sit up and Father Lopez droned on and on about the Catechism, I wrote a story about a small Canadian lynx named Cog that was not the right kind of big cat for the jungle he found himself in. Black panthers and spotted leopards told Cog that he was not even on the right continent. He should leave or they would hurt him.
It was not a bad tale considering my young age. Cog wished to be a full-maned lion much the way I wished to be a boy instead of a girl. Being a girl was shit especially in the religious context. I didn’t even like apples and I sure as Hell would never have taken one from a snake. All that told me is that stories are powerful instruments. Blame the girl for everything so entire civilizations for thousands of years can force them into dresses and subservience and forever tell the female to shut up and look pretty. Ridiculous.
Cog, who was a great hunter but all alone, had heard lions were kings of the jungle and had great prides for company where the girl lions could hunt better than the males. Now, that was Cog’s kind of girls. Off to the jungle he went. At seven, a lynx sneaking on a plane was a natural thing. So he gets to Africa only to be rejected by the other big cats and found his only friend to be a crocodile, Biter (which I spelled Bitter- the irony of it all) that no one else liked. I cried a little when I read it, realizing that at seven, I already felt like a total alien in the world in which I found myself.
I discovered the old notebook in which Cog lived in this old trunk piled high with notebooks in which I had written stories from age seven through my mid-forties. Trunk novels. Literally. I could hear Brandon Sanderson telling his audience at some fantasy convention I had attended that trunk novels needed to stay in the trunk. They were meant to be your learning books, teaching you the craft of writing.
I suppose that is how I felt about them. And most of them were unfinished. Some were truly awful. A sappy romance I wrote in high school embarrassed me so badly, I am considering burning it before anyone can find it after my death. Nine finished stories – none that struck me as my best work. Twenty-seven unfinished books, some just ideas scribbled down in three or four paragraphs describing beginning, conflict, and resolution, almost like ideas for writing assignments from my university days. Some were a character looking for a story. I did that a lot in my writing. I feel that way myself, a character in need of a story.
The Pandemic lead me to the darkest places in my mind as I looked through all this paper which contained so much of my pain, hope, torment, and dreams of a better world. My overwhelming feeling of failure and opportunities lost about destroyed me as the angel that tries so hard to save me whispered his old refrain.
There is no such thing as a failure who keeps trying.
I pulled the twenty best of the books out, purchased twenty new notebooks and began fiddling about with them. I will try to finish them before I finish my life. Maybe a lynx can’t be a lion, but the little cat can still be a fine hunter. And I can still be a decent writer. Even if the publishing world would prefer panthers, leopards, and lions.