I met you by chance. Your mass of brown cells sat quietly behind my optical nerve before the light picked you up and made you visible.
Were you just waiting for your special moment to pounce or are you quite happy with your lot, sitting in the dark, silently evolving without a care in the world?
You may think you’re unassuming with your blob-like structure, but I’ve met your kind before. One minute you’re all ‘yay, look at how cute I am’ then with a flick of your cell structure you force us to wait to hear all about you and the plans you’ve made for me. Plans you had no intention of sharing, you just assumed I would be along for the ride.
I got the news today that you’re not so round and invasive as I first thought, you’re actually the perfect shape, flat and unchanged, the shape of hope. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about you.
I’ve got news for you my freckle friend. Beat it.
Don’t darken my eye back door again. You’re not welcome there or anywhere else on my being for that matter.
I know where you’re hiding now. I’m coming to get you.
I have no idea why I woke up with the R.E.M song ‘Orange Crush’ going around in my head. Earworms are a normal start to my day but this one was particularly loud and insistent.
Once the first sip of tea was consumed, it dawned on me once again that I had finished my first draft of current WIP. A milestone I’ve been trying to reach for months and finally, I’ve got there.
The pile of paper sitting in its brand new folder, waiting to be read out loud before heading to my favourite in-house geek for tense and grammar scrutiny, smiled back at me from the lever arch file on my desk aka the dining room table.
I tend to think of my work in a traffic light system.
Red – means I am still writing it. Still fighting with characters and chapter headings as I work through the story in my head and when I sprinkle my thoughts onto the page, I hope they resemble something tangible.
Orange – the amber nectar of the sequence is the best part. It’s when THE END has been written for the first time after editing. It’s just full stops and verbal reasoning from now on. A rush of excitement gets me every time I reach this part. Mantra repetition also begins – Do not send it out just yet, it’s not quite ready. Do not send it out just yet, it’s not quite ready.
Green – the pressing of the send button. Sometimes the queasiness felt outweighs this amazing part of the journey. Most of the time I need a wee nap and a cry. There, there my keyboard says. We can have a break and listen to some music.
At the moment, I’m on orange but turning into green shortly. Only when it’s ready. Who knows what the song in my head will be when I press the Button of Destiny.
I can’t wait to find out.
The dog that follows me is not always black.
Sometimes I don’t even see it as a colour as such, more of a presence waiting in the wings, ready to pounce when I least expect it.
I liken it to a storm that’s brewing as a cluster of clouds form overhead, threatening to let their watery cargo fall to earth with great force and destruction.
Dramatic as that may seem, when the world stops spinning for a second and the realisation sets in that rain is on the way, there’s always a strange lull before the onslaught begins.
The undermining bleak aura fills the air, sucking all the life out of everything it touches. Turning yellow into grey and laughter into tears, it sweeps in and destroys happy safe thoughts with one swipe of its huge, bloody claw.
If I listen carefully I can hear the dog snarl and snap as it comes closer to me. It doesn’t care about the destruction it causes as it looms into view or the mess it leaves behind as it heads onwards to its next victim, a shadow of itself forever imprinted on my mind, reminding me of it all at every turn.
I’m lucky to have a salvageable gap between despair and freedom. A small slither of light that guides me home every time the dog appears. I wait for those who aren’t so lucky, I hold out a hand to guide them in but they never appear, they’re lost in the ether of the darkness that dog brings.
A familiar door is closed gently behind me and I can breathe again.
Words are a spattering of letters jumbled together to make coherent sentences. They are the beginning of a story or the creation of a song.
Words twist and turn and meander across the page, their journey coming to an abrupt stop with the placement of pencil lead proclaiming the end of an idea with a small dot.
Yet words can be cruel, forever held in time for the world to see. Unforgiving and shameful in their lot, words prod at the mind as guilt spreads its talons and digs in deep.
Words can rejuvenate and replenish a soul but only once regret remains firmly on the surface. The words that brought hurt and pain should be a constant reminder to the uneducated.
Words can eventually be reinvented to blossom into something tangible and humble, their presence perhaps not welcome for now but needing to be written anyway as a genuine expression of remorse and concern for well-being.
Words are what we use to communicate our feelings and opinions but more importantly, to bring about long-awaited change.
Words are beyond powerful.
The whoosh of the automatic doors lead me to the original stone staircase. I can still see glimpses of the 150 year-old structure if I look to either side, beyond the modern shiny linoleum floor to the bricks and mortar beneath. These steps hold a thousand stories from all the children that have walked up them since it opened in 1860. I had entered The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
A few weeks ago, I approached my fellow members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and beyond, to see if they might consider donating some books for International Book Giving Day. I was hoping to receive around twenty donated books, that would be a great number for the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services unit (CAMHS), I thought to myself.
Approaching authors and illustrators to donate their blood, sweat and tears to a good cause is a daunting thing to do and I never expected them to be so generous. I see posts all the time on Facebook groups asking for this, that and the other. There’s only so much they can give, right?
Parcels galore began to arrive at my work (Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity), the charity that raises much-needed funds for the children’s hospital. I even received doodles on jiffy bags, key-rings, magnets as well as the ‘here’s a couple of my books’ packages that just kept on flooding in. My desk resembled a sorting office until I took them home to wrap, before finding them all a new home.
With a whopping 109 donated books, we headed out to the wards. Our trolley over-flowed with literary goodies as we quietly shared them out to open-mouthed toddlers, shy teenagers and their siblings. Tired mums and dads nodded and smiled at us as we brought a little light into their day, the constant beeping of machines reminding them why they were there.
Generosity comes in all shapes and sizes. For me, this was as big as the Forth Road Bridge. A thank you is never enough when amazing people go out of their way to help, but it’s all I’ve got for now.
Emma Perry, creator of International Book Giving Day and the wonderful book website My Book Corner, I salute you. Thank you for being you.