My mum says my sister could sing before she could speak. I wrote things down before I could spell. Both my sisters are much older than me. One is 9 years older. The other, 12 years older. To save throwing them away, my mum would hand me down their used up school jotters and partially filled notebooks (paper fetish starts here, my friends). Not only did I love just ‘having’ the stack of books, but one of my very favourite hobbies was ‘writing French’. I wasn’t really writing French, of course. What I was doing, in actual fact, was tracing my sisters’ fancy joined up handwriting. They wrote in pencil, you see – so I wrote over their swoops and curls and swirly bits in biro and pretended I’d come up jotters worth of wordy materpieces all on my own. Joined up handwriting = French. Obviously. Just thinking about how much I enjoyed doing that is making me tear up just a little bit. The mood I’m in, I have to wonder what the adult equivalent of ‘writing French’ is. Anyone?
A few years later (when I could join up my own writing for real), I developed a teensy obsession with the movie, Dirty Dancing. I wasn’t allowed to watch Dirty Dancing when it first came out – I think mainly on account of the raunchy title, because, let’s be honest, the movie is hardly hardcore now, is it? Though, I guess it might look that way to a cautious parent judging only by the promo poster imagery. Anyway, I was the last of my friends to see Dirty Dancing. I was usually the last of my friends to do most fun things. I was, however, the first of my friends to learn to write my own name, to count to 20, to learn my multiplication tables, to know what the longest word in the dictionary was, to be able to say ‘yes’, ‘hello’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ in Spanish, to be able to get a nice noise from my recorder and to know what the word ‘picturesque’ meant AND know how to spell it. Anyway, as lovely as all these things might be, they didn’t make up for the fact I hadn’t seen Dirty Dancing and so the girls in my class took the piss out of me. That was, until, my caravan friend Pamela invited me round to her place to watch it while her mum was out.
Hooked. I was so hooked infact, that having watched the film over and over and over again, I spent several weeks (though fewer than you might think), transcribing the entire script of the movie onto crisp white sheets of typewriter paper. Once complete, I drew my own electric pink Dirty Dancing logo on a makeshift cover, pegged the whole lot together with a giant novelty peg and displayed it lovingly on my bedknob. I tried to do the same with the Top Gun script but I don’t think I made it to the end… I’m not sure.
When I was a teenager I became obsessed with those ads in magazines for scam writing courses – though, I didn’t understand that they were scams and instead thought my parents just didn’t love me enough to nurture my early literary stirrings. Nonsense, of course. My family did all they could to grow my wee creative self, and ultimately did a fine job. As far as the mail order writing course went, they simply did not care to fritter away hundreds of pounds on a load of hooey issued by some moron sliming around on the bottom rung of a pyramid scheme. That said, I unwittingly engaged with a publishing pyramid scam all of my own. I saw an ad in The Sunday Post (I know… THE SUNDAY POST?!) calling for entries to a UK wide poetry contest. The winner was promised loads of money and a publishing deal. I duly sent my entry. I can’t remember exactly what the poem was about now, but I do vaguely remember the mention of porceline something or others smashing in my skull? Or was it my skull that was supposed to be porceline? I do not know. Probably best I don’t. Anyway, low and behold, I received a reply from the contest committee. I received a little note from the competition jury man telling me that although I hadn’t won the bag of money or the publishing deal, my poem had been shortlisted to be printed in a giant compendium of all the best competition entries. And – AND… I could see my work published IN the compendium if I sent them a cheque for £49.99. I was thrilled. No. Really, I was. Absolutely over the blinkin’ moon. I was just so disappointed that I would never save up enough pocket money to buy the book. Oddly, I didn’t tell my parents that I’d entered the contest and I definitely didn’t tell them about the letter I got through the post. Gullible? Moi?
When I wasn’t imagining myself as a supercool music journalist, I was scribbling angsty stuff in my diaries. Oh – hold on, stop the press. I’ve just remembered something a little bit funny that should have been included further up the page, chronologically just after the writing French hobby chat. Someone gave me this really brilliant little diary. It smelled old. It had a hard cover – one of those sort of padded, quilty ones. It had beautifully smooth, smoooooooth, cold pages with blue lines on. It had a little pop lock on the side. This journal had to be used for something very important. Something secret. Top. Secret. During one school holiday (at the caravan again), I decided to log every single person I knew in the book. I colour coded them with felt pen dots to demarcate what my relationship was with them and then I graded each person on a scale of 1 – 10 depending on how much I liked them. That is a TRUE STORY, my friends. And I cannot tell you enough how much I wish I still had that little journal. Thing is, not only is it a weird, weird thing to do, but I’m almost certain I did actually log every single person I knew in there. Every last one. Even the doctor was in there. And all my mum’s and dad’s friends. And all my sisters’ friends. Yet another childhood gem of a project that might need revisiting!
So. Yes. Where was I – before that crazy little snippet popped up? Oh yes. Supercool music journalist > diaries. I kept a journal of sorts (I think inspired by the likes of Anne of Green Gables first and then TV characters like Blossom) on and off during primary school then more religiously during high school. I wrote little bits and pieces after high school but once I’d discovered alcopops and the indie disco, my scribbling waned a little. I’d write in my books SO much that every Christmas my mum would buy me a giant stack of hardback jotters, knowing I’d soon fill ‘em on up. One year, I also received a set of coloured biro pens from Santa. I was thrilled. Writing things down had never been such colourful fun! I stored my book collection in Doc Marten boxes for years until one sad day I took a bonkers turn. I read my books one last time then whammed them in a black bag and binned the lot. More than a decade’s worth of ramblings silly and serious – gone. Not a week goes by that I don’t feel a teensy bit vomitty at the thought.
I knew I’d never really be a supercool music journalist. I knew because, as horrible as it was to admit it, I was rubbish at it. I’m not a good enough writer to describe something as amazing as music properly. I don’t know enough words. Not enough adjectives – not nearly enough similies. That would never do. I also wasn’t really sure how I felt about music writing. I mean, I bought music magazines and I enjoyed reading them but I think I was mad keen on interviews and mad bored by reviews. Nah. Despite harbouring a teen desire to wear cool clothes while hanging out in cool clubs and venues, my career as a music journo was nipped in the proverbial bud when I tried to write a review of an early Biffy Clyro gig for a student paper in 1996. “Biffy Clyro were quite good though they sounded a bit like a Nirvana cover band. I guess they were quite cute” was pretty much all I could come up with. I did not submit my article.
Writing after that became mostly an academic pursuit and no one besides tutors, lecturers and the odd conference delegate came to read the things I spent all my days writing. Jump ahead a couple of years, and inbetween writing band biogs for muso pals and penning pretend magazine articles that never saw the light of day, I took charge of all the words related to Made in the Shade. Huzzah!
Why am I rambling on about all of this? Well. I am rambling through my weird writing journey for one very specific reason. After years daydreaming about it, I am officially a published author. I wrote an actual book. ‘Tis true! Someone (a very lovely and super cool someone at that) referred to me as ‘an authoress’ yesterday and boy, did I like it! Yep. My book – the one I wrote about learning to sew, is gracing bookshelves and online shopping pages all over the UK and the US right now. Pretty exciting, eh? I am excited. I am probably most excited about getting to work on book number 2.
BOOK NUMBER 2: IDEAS
1. The Joy of Green – a book about how the colour green is the best of all the colours
2. The Carpet Chronicles – a book documenting bare-foot experiences across the globe
3. Big Mouthed Belters – a book about how much I dislike certain contemporary female singers
4. Carrie’s Guide to Lounge Wear – I put the world’s comfiest clothes to the ultimate couch test
5. Carrie Ate All The Pies – I eat pies. Beardy photographs me eating pies. I grow 3 dress sizes then release an accompanying fitness title (and maybe a DVD)
I think I have this writing thing all sewn up. A new career beckons. I’m sure you’ll agree. With gems like these in the ol’ noggin, how can I fail?