Whenever I meet new people, they get interested once I reveal that I love to write. I’m hit by these two questions “Since when you start writing?” or “How long have you write?”. I give the one and same answer, “I started writing when I was nine.” To my surprise, they don’t ask me how I approach to writing. Sometimes, I roam around my room to look for inspiration whenever I get stuck with a poem or a story. I also allow lines flow on paper in the blink of an eye. But what people don’t know about me is that I get inspiration from a paper. A line paper torn from a St.James Primary School notebook.
I was sitting in a third grade (Primary 3) classroom. I slumped on my chair, surrounded by students who chatter with delight and excitement. Boredom and isolation danced in my head. Suddenly, an idea clicked like a switch that flicked open automatically. I immediately pulled out my school notebook and tore a page. A favourite Barbie movie flashed in my head, and in seconds, my pen glided gracefully in the lines like an ice skater. I also had this method of folding the paper into a small square-shaped booklet before writing down a story. It’s kind of like a mini book form, but I got confused once I read through them, trying to figure out which was the next part. I thanked the Lord for providing free periods and substitute teachers because I could continue with my stories of Barbie movies. I copied every scene and as many lines of each character as possible.
Before school started on January 2003, I returned from a family trip to Singapore with a couple of sticker collections. The Finding Nemo and Brother Bear stickers gave me an idea of creating graphic novels which I called “sticker booklets”. I added a sticker that was related to a scene of the story.
In 2004, a couple of friends made me realized that I write. It was 10 minutes before the teacher entered in the classroom. I was busy writing a Barbie story, while suddenly Sheila craned her neck from the front. Her black ponytail shadowed over my paper that blocked the fluorescent light above me. “What are you doing?” she asked curiously. I paused and looked up, “I’m…writing a story.” The next thing I knew, Sheila’s dark brown eyes were sparkling. “No way! Can I read it?” I was a little surprised, for I had never show someone my writing before. I didn’t realized that I passed my unfinished booklet to her without reluctance. A smile spread on her delicate face. “Oh wow! This is awesome!” Sheila exclaimed with widened eyes, “Kara! You’ve got to check this out! Michele writes this story!” Our other friend, Kara, approached to my desk with a whirl of interest drawn over her light brown eyes. I saw a smile on her Caucasian countenance that caused my heart to leap in excitement. “Wow! That’s neat!” she commented. “Hey! Have you heard of Oliver Twist?” Sheila chipped in, “Maybe someday you can write an Oliver Twist story for me!” I nodded in reply. Oliver Twist was one of my favourite classics, and I immediately recalled on the novel I had read a few days ago. I can’t remember how the progress went, but Sheila was delighted when she read my Oliver Twist booklet.
That was when I realized I should write my own stories in a book. A notebook, to be exact. Once I arrived home from school, I dashed upstairs to the bedroom where I shared with my younger sister, Megan. I rummaged through my shelves and cabinet without having the thought of being yelled by my mother for making a mess. Finally, I found a transparent package of blue and white exercise books deep inside the cabinet. It was like finding a lost treasure hidden in the Caribbean. The first thing that came to my mind was Disney’s Brother Bear. I began my series of stories with a spin-off of that film. It was entitled “Animal Tale” and I remember switching the setting from the ice-caped North America to the cool-misted Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. I can’t exactly remember how my own first story went, but I had fun playing with the characters and the plot to make it into my own product.
During my secondary school years, I found myself writing stories which were inspired from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, an Australian cartoon series called Blinky Bill, three Barbie movies, and a number of Hong Kong drama shows. Speaking of Hong Kong shows, I have no idea why I watched those at such young ages. Of course I couldn’t understand Cantonese so I watched the episodes with Malay subtitles. I guess the reason why I was inspired by those kind of TV shows back then was because I was hooked by the mixture of suspense and romance in the plots. I also spent my pocket money buying new notebooks for upcoming stories which drove my mother crazy, but it was worth it.
Turning movies and TV shows into words on notebook pages with little twists of characters and plots caused me to lose focus on my studies. Time by time, I filled out countless notebooks with stories that sent my heart soaring with joy, pride, and freedom. However, once I entered through the college gate, I realized that I had spent so much time copying ideas from media. I learnt the definition of “plagiarism” and that got me worried for wasting time writing stories that were not according to my own ideas.
Before I transferred to Canada, I was told to clean up my room. I encountered a box of old notebooks while I was dusting my cabinet. They were the vessels that lightened up my childhood. I got all emotional, thinking whether I should get rid of them. It had been so long, and they were not meant to be published. They were squeezed into one stepping stone for me to start using my own imagination and not to be just inspired by the black electronic box in the middle of the living room. Without further thinking, I stuffed all of the old notebooks, scribbled and torn, into a big plastic bag. And the next thing I knew, I placed the bag next to a pile of newspapers and a bunch of other materials at the porch of our house. That day of my flight, I watched with a minor wave of doubt as a worker of the nearest recycle center dumped all of the collections into the truck. There went my stories. My first attempt of writing together with the rest of my trials were about to be transformed into new, common possessions for people.
Even until now, I regret of throwing one of my precious piece of childhood away. But I am not entirely upset because I have one remaining story that is safe with me. My two “Barbie in Princess and the Pauper” booklets are stored in one of my diaries, and every time I look through them, they remind me to never forget how I start writing and to keep on grabbing my pen or tapping the keyboard of my laptop. An idea is the secret weapon to a story, and a blank paper is the source to a product. So dear paper which I wrote my first ever story, if you have eyes, ears and heart, I just want to say…thank you.