Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How NaNoWriMo and Phillip Pullman are making me nostalgic

NaNoWriMo
Day 5
2061 words
10 032 words total
39 968 to go

At night, after I've finished writing, and after I've watched a few minutes of mindless TV to wind myself down, I go to bed and read a few pages of The Golden Compass, though my copy claims its name is Northern Lights*.


My choice to read this particular book while writing a 50 000 word book for NaNoWriMo was a very deliberate one. I haven't read the book since high school, but it used to be my favourite, the one book I've read more than twice. It was not the first book to capture my imagination, not the first book to make me fall in love with words and the way they're put together, like threads pulling together a story. It is not the book that inspired my desire to write. But, somehow, it became the book that embodies it. The excitement of the story, the love of the characters - that was how I wanted to write. So, reading it reminds of the child I was. I was a child who read like crazy, who wrote ream after ream of bad poetry and scribbled short stories about dying cats and science fiction realms. I was a kid who had no idea what she wanted to do with her life except for one thing: I wanted to write a book.  

I was also a kid who succeeded. I did a little reconnaissance and found my old NaNoWriMo profile from 2003. (It looks like I was worried about Internet privacy at the time, what with changing my name and all. Or, perhaps I was trying out pseudonyms for the day in which a publisher would put my novel into print? Jenna delaFerme is a French translation of my name, kind of.) I won NaNoWriMo that year with 50 031 words. You can even read an excerpt of the fantasy novel I wrote! 

I'm not sure where 'Jenna delaFerme' went. In my second year of university, the year I attempted NaNoWriMo and didn't finish, I told my then boyfriend that getting published was the only thing I really cared about when it came to my Future. At the time, I had already stopped writing stories and the snippets of poetry that had once littered my school notes. By the time I met my husband, I wasn't telling anyone that anymore, not even those closest to me. Today? There's no doubt I'm a writer, but it's a far cry from the kind of writer my 16 year old self had in mind. Did the dream die? Or did it simply become less important to me as other, wonderful things became more important?

This whole writing thing, and reading The Golden Compass at the same time, it's putting me back in touch with that kid. It's making me a little sad and a little excited and a little nervous and a little crazy and confident all at once. I have no expectation that this will take me anywhere, but for now, I'm happy and excited to embrace my 16-year-old self again. I know she'll take me across the finish line on November 30th.

* Northern Lights is the original name of the book. Apparently someone on the publishing team in the States made a mistake, and then liked the mistake so much it stuck. Hence, the Golden Compass. I also have a well-worn copy of the North American released book. I bought the 'Northern Lights' version at a thrift store because I thought it was a different book by Phillip Pullman. I was disappointed when it wasn't, but it's ok - my copy of The Golden Compass is threatening to split in two with the years of reading and misuse. 

Tell me about your favourite childhood books! Do they make you feel nostalgic or miss the kid you were?

5 comments:

  1. 50,000 pages? Ambitious ;)
    The books that I remember the most as a youth were the Shannara series by Terry Brooks and many of the novels by David Eddings. Still go back and re-read them every so often!

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  2. What can I say? My editor is taking a vacation. (Thanks! Fixed.)

    I didn't read Terry Brooks, but I did read David Eddings! The... Belgariad?

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  3. I didn't really start loving reading until I could pick my own books. I mean my parents read to me a ton and then I read books for school but I don't remember really loving it until late in highschool. Oddly enough I struggled so much when I was younger and had to write something. It would take me forever to get started.

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  4. This is a great story! Love the recap and also your name translation to french ;)

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  5. My Side of the Mountain made me want to run away and live in a tree trunk. A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN - fabulous story. To Kill a Mockingbird is as perfect a book as you'll ever read. Great story. MOONFLEET, which i read to my own kids and they loved too.

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