by Kim Kelly
I am fairly forgetful – names, dates, places and birthdays often fall into the fathomless abyss that lies somewhere in the foggy centre of my brain. I once forgot the title of Dickens’ Great Expectations during a publishing meeting. Embarrassing.
But this morning that forgetfulness struck a puzzling and melancholy note. Bear with me.
I woke up inside a dream that I was eating a banana paddlepop while walking along some city street, and as I woke I realised I had once actually walked down that street – King Street in Newtown – eating that very same banana paddlepop. Only it was in a story I’d written, not in any reality.
Years ago – about twelve of them, I think – I wrote a little sketch that included just this scene, and I submitted it to a New South Wales Writers’ Centre short story competition that was on at the time. Astonishingly, it won third place. But the thing is, until now, I’d entirely forgotten I’d written it, much less had it acknowledged in this way.
True, I had a lot going on in my life at that time. My boys were both still in primary school, I was working like a demon to keep the mortgage in the cash it craved, and trying to fit my dreams of writing bigger stories alive inside the too-small hours between wine o’clock and some place past midnight. My perpetual exhaustion was interrupted only by the bully in my life in those days who would periodically pop in to call me an idiot. Forgetting small details in those circumstances is utterly forgivable, yes.
Except that I’d just won third place in a respectable writing comp at my first freaking attempt! And I didn’t keep a copy of the story. And I’ve never included it on any CV or author blurby thing I’ve done across the decade since. This is really a bit preposterous.
I think I know what triggered the memory. Last night, pootling mindlessly about online after dinner, I came across a conversation between two other authorladies bemoaning that their busy todays of ferrying kids to and from something or other had kept them from their writerly work. It read a little like a middle-class version of that Monty Python sketch on competitive hardship in Yorkshire – you know, ‘Well, in my day, we used to live in a cardboard box and father would come home every night and thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle,’ or whatever it was.
Whatever the reason, it’s a timely warning to me: cherish what you have achieved, however small that achievement might have been. And for pity’s sake, put it on your CV!
So then, I suppose I’d better go and ask the New South Wales Writers’ Centre precisely what year it was, hmm? Embarrassing.
image: ‘Upon Pondering’ by Brook Shaden, brookeshaden.com