How did I get into writing?
Good question. I am glad you ask. I have always been a bookworm, I get it from my mum. She would take me to the library after school and let me borrow any books I wanted. Then we could both curl up on opposite ends of our lounge and read by the glow of the fireplace in the evenings.
Because I wanted to be an artist but didn’t believe that this could be a career, I had thought that illustrating books might be a compromise. Of course, I would only illustrate the very best books so, I had to find a story that was worthy and where better to find that than to write a book myself? I had read a lot of books so, I knew what the people wanted. Or at least I knew what I liked in a book. It was a means to an end but someone had to write the greatest book to illustrate and I was up for the challenge. When I was about 6 years old I wrote my first book. A marvel. A triumph. An instant bestseller I was sure. I titled it “Retching the Sky”. This book was filled with adventure, teamwork, friendship, and the perfect mix of exotic animals. I wrote it by hand and illustrated it in approximately half an hour. I quickly punched holes in the pages and bound it between a red paper cover with brown twine, rushed slightly at the end because I had other very important things to do. Once it was complete, I put it on my bookshelf where it belonged, amongst other greats like Hairy McClary and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. I read it occasionally over the years to come, each time congratulating myself on my own genius.
Eventually Retching the Sky became lost to me. It didn’t bother me though because I knew it was the greatest book ever written and I could picture every word and pencil line in my mind, if I should ever need to recreate it.
During my hiatus from painting, I did what any young bookworm would do and I started hand-writing books. I filled notebooks with stories in barely-legible handwriting and scraps of paper with poems and ponderings. I always fantasied about being an author but I assumed every man and his dog had that fantasy too so I had doubts my words would ever be printed.
At the age of 16 I was packing up my things to live overseas for six months and Retching the Sky fell out from between my books. I was elated to have recovered my magnum opus and then horrified to see that it was not the instant classic I remembered it to be. For a start, “retching”? Really, past Ella? And then, there was the story… I think the book had under 20 words and at least half of them were spelled incorrectly. The illustrations were only recognisable as the intended animals because of the attempted labeling beneath them. You can probably imagine the caliber of artwork 6-year-old me produced for “a tigga” and “a elefont” but since I have held onto the only copy of the classic children's book, you can do more than just imagine.
While working in science I loved the writing side of my roles and, since rediscovering Reaching the Sky, I felt that I owed it to my younger self to do the book justice, to rewrite it as it was in 6-year-old me’s mind and illustrate it properly this time, the way I had always intended. This was the book I wanted to see written when I was six years old and I wanted other children to love the story of animals working together to reach the sky just as much as I had.
It wasn’t until 2021 that I finally gave myself the chance to sit down and rewrite the book the way it was meant to be written. I enjoyed the process so much that once I finished I started to work on a novel. I had also just finished reading Normal People by Sally Rooney and, her writing made me feel things I had never felt while reading before. Deep homesickness for a life I never lived, longing for people I’d never met, heartbreak for relationships I’d never had, and somehow, a knowing that everything would be alright. So I set out with a goal that if I could write a story that would make just one person feel the way I felt after reading Normal People, then I would consider myself a successful author.
At the time of writing this I am still writing my debut novel and I am also finishing the illustrations for Reaching the Sky. I am so looking forward to showing these stories to people soon so that they can finally see what I have seen all of these years.
If you have a similar writing or illustration project that you would like to see come to life, get in touch with me through my contact form and we'll make it a reality.