Here is my potted history of reading and wanting to write. My confessional of sorts.
On a bookshelf in outback Queensland, on my grandparents property, was a copy of the book I was named after, Catriona, the sequel to Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson. My last name is the same as another famous American writer, Raymond Carver, but no relation. My parents didn’t put this together deliberately, but I see this combination for what I’ve made it. A name influenced by literature and hopefully a published writer.
But before the writing was the reading. There is that one moment, a permanent embedded memory of the one book that started the love of reading. It was book week, sometime in the 1970’s in suburban Sydney. My mother, a pre-school teacher, gave me a copy of The Famous Five and said, ‘Happy Book Week’. I sat at the unpopular end of the couch, looked at the children on the cover, the lack of pictures and read the first page.
Within a few years I had a bookshelf full of Enid Blyton’s mostly bought from school fetes or found on curbside chuck outs. I joined the Puffin club and attended library author readings. Being allowed to buy a new book from Shearer’s bookshop at Gordon was an absolute treat. The Scholastic book club’s order sheets were much circled and examined.
In High school we recognised the ‘restricted section’ for those over 14. We read Christina F, about a German drug addict. Certain pages were highlighted in Puberty Blues, or Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I read Z for Zacharia about a post-apolocalyptic world. Books were better than Dolly Doctor or Cleo.
But I struggled with English classes. I liked reading but wasn’t a good essayist nor did I have any critical thinking skills. So with no clue about life I went to uni and studied more English, a form of delayed maturity and torture. I was undeterred from reading. The strange part is I always liked creative writing. On the odd occasion we had a short test or creative exam I would get the maximum marks. But what to do with this random skill?
I scraped through uni and went into retail. Fast forward 20 years I would confess my dream of writing to good friends but that was all. All the failings of essay writing put me off. If I couldn’t write an essay then I can’t write a book.
At 43 I had my first child and was absorbed with motherhood. What I gained I lost. I lost reading. I could barely read a page without falling asleep. Reading gave way to binge television, parenting and social media but I did pick up writing. Mummy bloggers were succeeding as a career option. I started a blog but never found that popular voice. I liked what I wrote as it would be a the story of my kids as babies but then I feared the public response, the negative reactions.
Moving from the inner city to suburbia I found a new group of mother friends who invited me to their book club. It was via the local library and all the books were borrowed. I had to read and because of the structure of finishing a book a month and getting together to discuss it my love of reading came back. The side table is now overloaded with books; a wonderful problem.
So this year I hit 50. The year preceding this event was a mental challenge. One of those years of your life where you sort and challenge and plan what you really want out of life. One goal was to enter writing competitions and use the deadlines and topics as inspiration to try out my skills.
It may not come to anything but I felt driven to write a few stories floating around my head. Just submitting those stories was enormously satisfying and strangely I had to stop reading to write and missed reading all over again.
Let’s see what happens next.