criticism 451

What stops you, besides the various imaginary watchers who decry that “you’re going to hell if you don’t erase that right now, Amber!”

When I was 13, I tried my hand at marketing fiction. That is to say that I attempted, for the first time in my young gullible life, to create a written project that I could then pitch to a publisher. I was extremely secretive about this lofty endeavor, telling my friends only that I was writing a story I hoped would sell someday down the road. I wrote by hand on lined paper (this was long before my first word processor); I hid the pages underneath my mattress.

As I was a navel gazing teenager, I was unfamiliar with the timing of my Mother’s laundry schedule. She found my first chapter while stripping the sheets, and she couldn’t stop herself from reading what her youngest daughter had been fervently scribbling for several days. What she read shocked and horrified her so greatly that she swiftly threw the pages into the wood burning stove, then set them on fire.

Upon returning home from 7th grade later that day, I was met with Mom’s histrionic dis-ease. I might as well have written a plot to murder her, the way she gazed at me as if I were some kind of wily unkempt beast.

“I found your writing that you left under your mattress!” She hissed. Writing she pronounced as if she had found a shit I laid under that mattress.

I responded with the standard teenage: “how-dare-you-read-writing-that-isn’t-your-own-you-crummy–personal-space-violator!”

Of course this personal private space argument of mine wouldn’t hold water with her, not when she claimed ownership of my room, its contents and even me as an itemizable possession.

After listing me off as just another thing she owned in that bedroom, she went on to tell me how “very serious” it was that I was writing about a subject I knew nothing about. I countered that she knew “nothing whatsoever about writing!” This made her laugh; she was the adult so as far as she was concerned I was just some idiot kid who needed her creative momentum flattened.

Her eyes glowed with a fiery intensity of warped satisfaction as she notified me that she burned the pages I had been writing. She then invoked the names of all my grandparents to bolster her claim that I would “bring shame to my family” if they knew what I had been writing.

“They don’t have to know!” I yelled at her. “Haven’t you ever heard of a pen name?!”

“Well there are already writers out there who know what they’re writing about!” She sneered. “And you don’t know shit!”

She went on to add a thick layer of salt to the angry tongue lashing. Apparently, as ashamed as she was, she couldn’t stop herself from telling her two best friends all about what I had been writing.

“And we had a good laugh! Because it was so obvious you didn’t know what you were writing about.” She snorted uncontrollably, a rapid shift from shaming anger to mocking humor.

If only I had masked my earliest attempt at penning erotica fiction with a science fiction or fantasy veneer. Then my mother wouldn’t be able to claim “write only what you know” and would have likely grown bored with the robots or unicorns before it started to get really juicy.