Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding the five-year-old me

I am doing a workshop in Canberra in a few weeks’ time on finding your inner child and writing from deep within a child’s point of view. In preparation for this, I have been spending my morning train writing time going for a bit of a wander down memory lane, trying to reacquaint myself with my inner five-year-old.

Memory is a strange beast. I don’t think I have a particularly good long-term memory and the events and feelings I am recalling of my former and very much younger self are really just tiny snippets – snapshots, but with only part of the picture in sharp focus and the rest kind of bleary. And it’s the bleary bits that I have been trying to tap into and bring into sharper focus. Often without much success. And when I have remembered something more fully, it is hard to ascertain how much is actual real memory and how much of it is my own invention. It’s been an interesting exercise.

I did recall an early childhood “friend” and event that I had totally forgotten about though. Her name was Jennifer (last name unknown) and these are the things I remember:
  • She was related to someone famous – perhaps Bobby Limb (can’t be certain) and the five-year-old me found this amazingly exciting. I was in awe of her because of it – even slightly jealous.
  • She was pretty and tidy and frilly and I aspired to be like her. I thought she was a much, much better person than me. She fascinated me.
  • I was invited to her birthday party at her house. I felt that it was a great honour to be invited. I was excited and nervous about going.
  • Her house was white and large. Two storeys – which to me meant that she was also very, very rich. Inside there was a wide sweeping staircase that I longed to climb, but wasn’t brave enough.
  • In her backyard there was a wooden cubbyhouse fitted out with play stoves and tables and shelves and couches. Another sign of wealth. There was a swing hanging from a tree and the grass was the softest and greenest grass I had ever felt or seen.
  • I recall Jennifer in a white frilly dress swinging wildly on the swing, her long blond curls streaming out behind her.
  • I felt that she was out of reach for me. And that I was just lucky to have been invited to her party.

Interestingly, there are lots of things about the party that I can’t remember – things you would think would have been important to the five-year-old me, such as: any other children or people, party food, presents, balloons and party games. Not sure what this means, but I find it intriguing.

I came across an article on a similar topic the other day by Alane Ferguson about channelling your inner teenager that is worth a read. I have much stronger memories of my teenage years. Perhaps that is why I have been attracted to writing novels for young adults of late.


  1. Your memories remind me very much of a certain story... :-) That's lovely.

  2. I know! Very freaky. I was telling Gayna about it this morning. Strange that I didn't remember earlier. :)

  3. Most of my vivid memories seem to be from around age 10. Most of my memories seem to focus on one thing and filter out the background/other people, too. (Unless I've seen photographs since or heard the story told by grownups over the years, and then I'm not sure if it's my memory or whether the re-tellings have created a false memory ... )

  4. Interesting. Do you tend to write from a ten year old point of view mostly? And I agree - it is hard to distinguish which part of memories are actual memories or things you have heard about the event and incorporated into your memory. That is why the Jennifer memory is so interesting to me, because it is all pure memory. No photos to fill in the details and no one around who remembers the event. Thanks for stopping by Boobook.

  5. Another thing about childhood memories - occasionally I'm not sure if a memory was an actual event or from a dream when I was small and I convinced myself was an actual event.

    That's an interesting question about writing voice. I've written several poems from 10-year old's viewpoint but I mostly write picture books for under 6s. Possibly because of my kids ages and what's right under my nose ...

    ~ Rebecca

  6. Ah! I hadn't factored in dreams. I guess we can't really know what is truth and what is invented when it comes to memories. Good luck with your writing!

  7. Great books and great blog. We've published nine adult books about reptiles and our most loyal customers are often kids of very young age, to whom I'd thought the books would have been over their heads. In summary, never underestimate the abilities of young kids.

  8. Thanks, Snakeman. Congrats on all your books. Kids are pretty awesome, aren't they. And I know plenty who are obsessed with reptiles.