The other author I went to listen to and I also managed to get a photo with and two books signed with (be still my beating heart!) was Isobelle Carmody. She has been one of my idols for I almost can’t tell how long. I remember picking up her book ‘Farseekers’ when I was maybe twelve or thirteen and being so caught up in the story that I ended up reading everything else she had as well out. One of the things that amazes me the most about her was that her first book ‘Obernewtyn’ was written, or at least started to be written when she was fourteen. In some ways this amazes me so much that a teenager could have so many great ideas about a post-apocalyptic future and be able to write about them while she was in high school, whereas I was struggling to even get interesting beginnings to short stories at the same age. I know I shouldn’t feel intimidated but there is part of me that looks at people that are talented from such a young age and makes me regret that I didn’t have that same drive and level of prose when I was their age. But I suppose maybe all this happens for a reason. If I didn’t have the past I did, maybe I wouldn’t write at all. I think it is easy to look back sometimes and think “it would have been perfect if…” and just think that the world would look perfect and be perfect if we had just done things slightly different. But it probably wouldn’t and we wouldn’t be ourselves anyway. Because ultimately we are the sum of our own memories.
There were so many great things that Isobelle Carmody said about where she came from and where her ideas came from: taking little bits from real life and connecting them all together, that it would be hard to list them all. But one thing I did like, probably the most, was her talking about doing creative writing at university and the tutor saying, “You have a very purple turn of phrase,” obviously suggesting that her very descriptive passages were perhaps over-brocaded. I will definitely say that that is a problem that I share with her! But as she talked I could also see how these kind of comments from someone in a position of authority like an academic, author, editor or a teacher could make people doubt their ability. It was clear that Isobelle had doubted her own ability because of comments like this, even though at this stage she had written a fantastic novel already. But then she talked about reading Angela Carter’s work and she realised you could include the elaborate brocaded words (brocaded is her word but I am loving it).
The thing is about writing that most people don’t understand is that it is such a personal and powerful thing because you are putting yourself on the line. You are making your creation and then showing it to people, because without an audience the story is meaningless. Sometimes it is easy to doubt yourself. No wait, all the time it is easy to doubt yourself. Even the stories or poems that get accepted and therefore at least one other person, the editor must like it, often go through a process of doubt where you wonder if only you like this or if all who read it will. Sometimes it is right to doubt, but other times I suppose we should have more faith in ourselves.