My humble beginnings
To find the true beginning of this story, I think we have to go back to that moment in grade six when I was sitting at my wooden desk with the sun shining through the window, the sun rays highlighting my page. I had just strung together my first set of words into a sentence and I was awed. It was one of those defining moments, imprinted forever -- that old wooden school desk with an ink well, carved-out slots for pens and pencils, that piece of paper and the sentence that began with the word, "Just....." And that's all I remember.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” ― Ernest Hemingway
The next moment would be when a customer came to my father's Shell Service Station and couldn't pay for whatever maintenance he needed on his car so he gave Dad an old manual typewriter. Yes, one of those ancient Underwood typewriters, tall, black and already an antique -- even back then. Dad was so excited when he bestowed it on my older sister who had just won a class prize for being a promising storyteller. I just ached to touch it. But she wouldn't let me till she found out that it had no period. With disgust, she carried that heavy thing to the machine shop section of the barn and left it on the workbench.
We lived on what would now be considered a hobby farm in the Fraser Valley on the West Coast. On one acre, we had the house, the Shell Service Station where Dad sold gasoline and fixed cars and behind that we had a barn that housed our Jersey cow with big brown, thoughtful eyes. On the other side of our duplex barn was a workshop with a built-out room -- a kind of storage room with windows facing a pig sty that was often inhabited by pink, grunting, easily excited pigs.
Without anyone really noticing, I kind of rearranged the workshop, emptied the storage room and fashioned my first writing studio. I cut out scenery pictures from magazines and tacked them onto the wall so I wouldn't have to look out the windows for a view. Then I claimed that big heavy Underwood, placed it on my own hastily assembled workbench made of a discarded piece of plywood and boxes, and started to type.Who needed a period?
Eventually the lack of a period was annoying so I placed a broken off pencil lead in the hole where the period was supposed to be -- and it did create a kind of dot. It was set a little high -- but it was there -- the best I could do.
I found some white paper from somewhere and started to type out my first novel.
I was going to be a novelist.
That was towards the end of grade six.
I just remember spending the entire summer blissfully typing with the pigs grunting in the background. I felt I had gone to heaven.
A woman must have... a room if she is to write fiction." Virginia Woolf - A Room of One's Own