After my mother read Henny Penny to me when I was little I spent the next few weeks sleeping with an umbrella over my head*. I’m not entirely sure how I thought that flimsy pink thing was going to protect me from the sky falling down; but I guess it was better than nothing. I was also so convinced that my teddys would come to life during the night, that I made sure there was always enough room for all of them on my bed. I think I used to worry that if I left one or two of them on the floor that they would feel left out. I hosted tea parties for imaginary aliens; I guess because I figured they’d have more interesting things to talk about than my dolls, who I knew didn’t get out much.
It was my dad who bought me my first collection of fairy stories, slim hardback books with glittering images on the front of magical creatures in colourful forests. I’d read them tucked away in the corner of my room, checking the back of the wardrobe now and then just in case a secret passageway had opened up inside it.
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to go somewhere else.
But growing up takes its toll on all of us, and that little girl had to put the books away eventually. There were important things to learn, history and geography and how to make friends. I was the oldest of two and then three and then four and then five. And big sisters have to work hard to keep little brothers in line, you understand. Life turned into a quest of its own – the adventure to figure out which courses I’d take and which jobs I’d get. I had to find somewhere to live and someone to live in it with. There was the pressing issue of getting the lowest quote on my insurance before the renewal was due.
I’d be lying if I said I was overly interested in any of it. And most of those things fell away from me by the time I hit my late twenties. Weddings and promotions and baby showers became events I was only a witness to, not the subject of. But unfortunately, to my mother’s great despair, I didn’t mind at all.
Without ever really going about it intentionally, I’d subtly stepped off the path and sat down in the grass beside it.
Trying to live without my imagination lead me to a dim, hazy sort of place that I never felt very comfortable in. And when other people’s fiction became more meaningful than reality, the only way to fight back was with my own. The twinkling, swirling mass of stories inside my head had never taken kindly to being suppressed anyway – it had followed me into my dreams, weaving plots and characters into existence until I jolted awake and reached for a pen.
And so now I write.
The world’s a lot more colourful when I do, and I’m far happier in it.
*Of which there is, embarrassingly enough, photographic evidence. Sigh.