Tonight I was clearing out my drawers, which are crammed full of the past, and I happened upon a black folder. It contained a miscellany of papers: a copy of my poorly received A Level history essay on Rasputin, (all the other students picked sensible, less mystical figures like Stalin or Lenin); a few floppy disks (I know they ought to be in a museum); and finally a collection of reviews from my time at the Online Writing Workshop for Sci fi, fantasy and horror.
I joined at the naive age of 17 and posted – under the name Kaela Wrennen – 3 chapters of a novel I called The White Sceptre, and which eventually became Starborn. I did receive some helpful feedback, the value of which I can unsurprisingly see more clearly than I did back then. The review I found at the top of the pile called me ‘an amazing writer’ and I probably slept with it under my pillow for several months. In all seriousness, though, that review was the best thing anyone had ever said about my writing ability.
So perhaps unwisely considering I have work in the morning, I poured myself a glass of wine at 11pm, daydreamed about finding that person and thanking them. Although I didn’t write any more of The White Sceptre at the time and dropped out of the workshop, I did go to university and study creative writing for 4 years. Those early days on OWW taught me quite a bit about learning to spot the mistakes in my own writing, giving me an introduction to the basics of literary criticism.
Of course all those reviews are now lost, (the one mentioned above is dated September 2003), along with any hope of tracing the person who gave me such encouragement. I notice that my old, unused email address has received the OWW newsletter every month for the last 9 years like clockwork. I decided to write this post on a whim, knowing how unlikely it would be to find that reviewer again. Perhaps it’s the wine talking, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the people who make impressions on our lives, even over the great and sometimes unbridgeable distance of cyberspace.
So if you, anonymous reviewer – or anyone else from OWW who helped me on my journey – are reading this, then thank you. I did not give up. And to a different reviewer who lamented that the book was not already written, now it is!