There’s a writer who goes by the name of Sherry Ashworth. She wrote the kind of teen fiction that you read on your sofa and not your toilet seat. (I read a lot of Cathy Hopkins on my toilet seat). I have to confess, I’ve only read one of Sherry’s books. It’s called ‘Paralysed’. It’s a short book, about a 16 year old boy who was a rugby captain at school who has an accident and ends up paraplegic and the story weaves between him, his best friend and his girlfriend.
The reason I bring up Sherry is because she visited my school once. Think 2007. Motorola slider phones, side fringes, The X factor being quite good. I was in Year 8. A flyer went up on the kind of noticeboard that only nerds like myself looked at. Advertised: A Writing Workshop with Sherry Ashworth. First question, who’s she? Ah… the one who wrote ‘Paralysed’. How to sign up? A writing competition. Easy. 10 or so entries would get picked and those people would have the chance to attend a writing workshop with Sherry. So I wrote my piece. I made it the workshop which in reality was just few uniform clad tweens gathered around a couple of large oak tables in the school library. Still… it was exciting. This was a real author with real books that were published. You could buy her labours of love in print. Is there anything more spectacular than holding your soul in your hands in the form of three hundred divine, gorgeous, clean pressed, fresh pages? Wow. I can practically smell the paper and I get heady at the thought of it.
We were all handed note paper, we teased out our pens from our pencil cases and we followed instruction to write, what I believe to have been something along the lines of an introductory chapter of a story. Clock ticked, paper rustled, whispers, time flying, uniforms shuffling and Sherry, poor woman, probably standing in the middle of it all wondering what her career had been reduced to. I paint the picture for you, lovely reader as if I am even aware of my surroundings when pen hits paper. For the record… I am not.
Despite whatever may have gone on in dear Sherry’s head, she still asked if any of us wished to volunteer to have our pieces read to the rest of the group. Then she could give those people feedback. My heart raced and I could feel it like a lump in my throat but I looked around the room, swallowed it back and my skinny little thirteen year old arm herniated through the hot library air.
Sherry walked up to me, took my paper and read my writing. I don’t remember what she said but I remember glowing from when she said it. There have been few defining moments in my writing but that was, sure as hell, one of them.
What I recall almost ten years later isn’t what I wrote, what this writer said or what really happened that day. It was, more than that, the impenetrable confidence I had in my ability to turn this world around me into words on a page. That my pen always was, is and will be both my sword and my shield, my pusher, protector and most of all, the one thing that can’t be taken from me.
It’s no secret that I can be a little sensitive, averse to criticism at times but when it comes to writing, I possess a certain delusional quality. This is what I do. I do it well. And you can tell me I suck at it but I will look you in the eye and tell you that you’re wrong and believe it.
So where did it all go, Gowri? The young lady, on the cusp of teenage angst in her school uniform, with big round glasses, unrefined eagerness and a hand in the air in the middle of the library choosing courage over anxiety… where is she now? She’s there. Oh she’s there. In fact, she’s right here. She is Gowri’s page. She is the definition of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.
It’s hilarious. Some days I feel like I’m being eaten alive by my lack of self esteem in so many areas of my life. Yet, here, right here, in my beautiful safe space, I brandish my heart for the world to see and judge if they so wish but for some reason, here, it doesn’t matter. In fact, I find that my best pieces get written when I forget that fear was ever there. When I write like no one’s reading.
I’ve got a little smile brewing by the corners of my mouth because this piece began life as something totally different but that fond memory plunged into my consciousness and brought me here instead.
Such is the fucking glorious nature of the written word.