This month I celebrate a significant birthday–one that ends in a zero and starts in a four. Several years ago, I made myself the commitment that I would be published-by-forty. My deadline for my fourth manuscript for Harlequin Romance is on my fortieth birthday. It means I’ll be writing instead of partying but…hey…I made it!
In the lead-up to that eventful day, I thought it was a good time to look at the origins of my writing journey and three men who had a huge impact on my storytelling life.
My earliest memories of storytelling were in my Pop’s shed, jam-packed full of the trappings of seaside living; foam lifebuoys, crab nets, salt-crusted rope-coils, a dinghy. I would climb into that little boat on its mounting blocks and watch my pop fashion elegant and complex fishing lures at his work bench. As I watched and he lured, he’d feed me exciting instalments of the verbal soap-opera, Sammy the Spider. Sammy was a fictional Daddy Long-Legs inspired by the many arachnid inhabitants high in the rafters. Pop would lay out complex and engaging episodes in his melodious Welsh voice until I truly believed that Sammy the Spider headed out on maritime adventures tucked under the rim of Pop’s crabbing dinghy. Pop often promised that he would capture the Adventures of Sammy the Spider on paper and one day write a book. Sadly his ageing body had other ideas.
Perhaps not surprisingly given his heritage, my father was also a wordsmith and he made his name in the advertising industry (the most prolific storytellers of all!). He could turn a simple joke into a full-bodied, heavily embellished performance in three-part harmony much to the delight of his children or his dinner guests. The simplest of anecdotes came to life as they tumbled off his talented and engaging tongue. He had so many stories to tell. Like his own father, mine died before he was able to write the book he’d been talking for years about penning, but even in death he made sure he went out on a good tale with instructions that a long and superbly embellished joke be told in lieu of a eulogy at his funeral.
And lastly my maternal grandfather. My appropriately-mannered Grandad was a different man behind the closed doors of the good lounge-room as he acted out every line on the Best of Danny Kaye vinyl record for my entertainment, leaping around the room and rattling the good crystal hard enough to make Grandma shout scolds through the doors. Danny Kaye’s world was our space and our special time together and, after his passing, the only item I asked for in the possession split-up was that ageing vinyl record. I would have fought to the death for it.
I lost them all early but all three men taught me by example to be creative and larger-than-life, to appreciate the gift of language and to love telling stories. Neither my father or his ever got around to writing the book they spoke and dreamed of. Life got in the way for them. For me too until just a few years ago. I like to think Grandad, Pop and Dad might have clanked their beer glasses together and sent me a little cosmic ‘cheers’ from the heavens on the day I sold my first book. I certainly owe them a beer each for the storyteller genes.