YOUNG AUTHOR CONTINUES

THE BASEMENT

Having achieved status as a writer with my sixth grade classmates, (perhaps you remember Peggy’s Troubles) I decided that like Jo March (Little Women), I needed a lair like she had, in the attic. (Ms. March had supplanted Nancy Drew by then.) louisa 2

The privacy and quiet of Jo’s attic hideout was very instrumental in her success, it seemed to me. If I was going to be a writer, I needed my own space. But unfortunately, the attic was out. My sister was already using ours, so I claimed a domain of my own in the basement. Curtaining off a corner that had a little window, (you know – the kind that’s mostly below grade, with a curved metal retainer to hold the earth back), I found a table I could use as a desk, like Jo was using in the picture) and a lamp (it was a bit dim in the basement).

Pencils sharpened, paper ready, I set to work on the first rainy day. Seated self, arranged paper, picked up pencil…

And discovered that while the office was very cool (figuratively and literally) it did not supply inspiration. How did you write a novel, anyway? Where do you start?

With a heroine, dummy! Her name was Elizabeth van Landingham. She was from a wealthy family, and no one liked her, including me. It was then I discovered the next hurdle: drafting a creative piece soon gets boring, especially if you don’t have much sympathy with the main character. Once you’re done with a draft, working on its style and adding to it will make it come alive, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just kept plugging along and, if I remember correctly, threw the unedited pages out when summer came to an end and, with a measure of relief, dismantled the office and went back to school.

harvard elementary school

Here’s my alma mater, Harvard Elementary, grades k-8. Impressive, don’t you think? I was entering 7th after my summer in the basement. I don’t think I wrote much after that, until high school and a chance to be a newspaper reporter.

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