Monday, February 2, 2015

Interview a Notebook: 8th Grade Journal

This month we’re trading out music for writing: in particular, we’re going to be interviewing a few of the notebooks I keep in a big box underneath my desk. Today—the notebook that started it all!

Tell a little bit about this notebook. Where did you get this notebook? Why did you start writing in it?

My eighth grade teacher wanted us all to write 18 pages per semester in a three-subject notebook. I did the whole thing, instead. I imagine we bought it at Staples, or something, but what really matters is that after a few months of writing in this thing, I started carrying it around like a security blanket.

How long did it take you to fill all the pages?

I believe it took me a little over a year—I’m pretty sure I finished it before I started ninth grade.

Summarize the things you’ve written in the notebook. 

This is mostly a combination of prewriting exercises and my own journaling, especially towards the beginning. There’s some Artemis Fowl fanfic, 39 Clues fanfic, H.I.V.E. fanfic, and the beginning of a few novels. Dare. Some thoughts on a vacation to New Mexico. Things people said during eighth grade.

Paste a snippet from within the notebook, as is. No editing allowed!

The hunger moon looked coldly upon the dying village. The stench of death poisoned the air for miles around. A lone rider mounted upon a palamino horse galloped over a round hill. The ride wrinkled his nose in disgust as a breath of decomposition entered their lungs. As the rider entered the village’s outskirts, the first body appeared. The rider stopped, and swung himself off the uneasy horse. The rider pulled off their hood. The man who now boldly walked towards the hanging corpse was indeed handsome. His jaw came to a striking point, and his cloudy gray eyes gave off constant flashes as the body’s features continually became familiar.  
“No!” he uttered hoarsely. It was impossible to deny. The silky hair, the high cheek bones, the exquisete, ruby lips. There was no doubt that this was indeed his beloved. They would never be wed. Two years’ worth of dreams came to a heart-stopping demise as the rider cut his deceased girlfriend from the withering tree.

What’s the best doodle/brain bubble in the margins?

This is a bird and a snail-man with a hat and a mustache. It is a great mustache.

Are you still working on anything originally written in this notebook?

Well, I still write H.I.V.E. fanfic, but beyond that, no. I do like the story of Dare—essentially, it is the old story of king’s son gets traded with a peasant child, and then when he’s eighteen he’s discovered and they decide to put him on the throne. Problem being he’s completely incompetent.

Do you think you would go back to anything written in this notebook?

I might go back to Dare, as I mentioned in the previous question. In a lot of stories we deal with the ideas of predestination and the divine right of kings—and I’d like to write about a real situation, where someone who’s spent his whole life climbing trees and planting potatoes really isn’t able to pick up on political issues in time to save his kingdom.

But I won’t go back to this notebook for that because I think I’ve got the premise without looking at that awful writing…

Are you mostly embarrassed by this notebook, or mostly proud?

I’m more embarrassed, I think, but also proud. I mean, this was the first notebook, which is why it’s bad. It’s the first real writing. That being said, back in the day I thought it was cool to talk on paper like I did on the Internet, which is awful and hard to read.

What is your favorite thing about this notebook?

That it’s my beginning. That because of this notebook, I’m working on editing a novel, writing the beginnings of another one, running a blog, and enjoying the company of other writers from many different states and countries. It got the ball rolling.

Just for fun, edit the snippet from before—see what you do differently!

Tanner smelled the death before he saw it. These were the outskirts; the place where they left forsaken corpses to decay and await the day God would remember them. They said not even the Devil came to collect their souls, and in the dead of night they haunted the barren ground, waiting. Tanner hoped so. If there was a ghost, there was a chance. 
He might have rode a hundred years, for all the distance his horse made. More than once it tried to turn around and run for it. It didn’t like the waxy corpses, didn’t like the way their half-eaten faces leered at them beneath the hunger moon. There was evil in this place. Tanner just looked to the trees. 
It was a mistake to keep going, he knew, but if he didn’t go back, he’d never go forward, either. So he rode down the hill. He leapt over the mounds where the bodies were and charged towards the rim of the forest. It was almost holy ground—just a breath away from heaven. That was all he needed. It wasn’t so far. 
The trees waited, whispering to one another as the wind spread the gossip. They knew who he was. They knew his crime. A man wasn’t a man who left his men behind; whatever he tried, making good wouldn’t come easy. 
Yet Tanner searched. Branch to branch. Rope to rope. She always said she would wait for him. There was no reason she’d stop now. He went from neighbor to neighbor, looking at the faces and the clothes, searching for those things he loved best. 
“Found you,” he whispered. Long fingers for lock-picking, strong legs for running, now-pallid lips once soft for kissing. There was a day when they would always get away. Tonight was different. Tonight he cut her down. Tonight he rode to safer ground, where he would let the shovel blister his hands, let her rest at last. If he could change it, he would, but a rope was a judge that never heard an appeal.  
He laid her on her own blanket, wrapping her up like a baby. The horse didn’t like carrying her none, but Tanner wasn’t going to take no for an answer. He mounted and held her close. 
“You didn’t think I’d leave my partner in crime behind?” he asked softly. “That’s crazy talk. You just hold on tight, honey. The church is only a few miles yon.” 
He’d see her through, he swore. Six feet down and back. He only hoped the preacher had the decency to put some dirt over them when he found them.

Ta-da! Thank goodness eighth grade is over, right? Anyway, that is the first of the four notebooks to be highlighted this month—come back next week for another!

Do you write in notebooks? What’s something you wrote this week?

(Hey, guess what? Speaking of writing (and blogging) today I’m guest posting for Imogen Elvis at Gossiping with Dragons! If you have an extra minute, feel free to go and read why editing is like dragon-slaying. 


  1. I do a lot of my brainstorming/plotting and short story writing in my notebooks, and I totally care my notebooks around like security blankets, haha. I'm also both embarrassed and proud of my older writing. I'm embarrassed because my writing was horrible back then, but I'm also proud because I can look back and see how far I've truly come.

    1. It really helps to have the pen in your hand when you're brainstorming, right? I know exactly what you mean with your mixed feelings. It can be painful looking back but if we didn't have it, we wouldn't know how far we've come!

  2. Oh, that's a great idea...I have so many notebooks filled with old stuff, and I still like to go through them (cringing fondly xD) every now and then. Now my notebooks have a lot of character sketches in them - I do all my writing on the computer now due to handwriting I can't read later, but I prefer character sketches and things in notebooks.

    1. The newer ones are certainly easier for me to look at, but not as much as I'd like. Maybe someday, right? XD I agree that computer writing is easier, but I also find handwriting a rather cathartic activity, so I don't mind doing freewrites on paper. :)

  3. Ooh, is this going to be a regular feature? 'Cos that would be freaking awesome. Obviously, you were an excellent writer even at 8th grade. (And even better now!)

    1. Every Monday this month! Although I didn't like the eighth grade one—at least to me it feels a little cliche at the moment, but thanks for the compliment. :)


    Yay for old notebooks, old writing and this post! :) I was going through some of my old stuff the other day and laughing at myself because I honestly have no idea how else to handle it.

    Yes, it's good eighth grade/year nine is long over :) I'm looking forward to these posts- it's always really cool to look back at how you have changed/improved.


      XD I think if you try to do anything other than laugh, you will get massively depressed. Also, I think you might as well, because in my case, most of this stuff is from four years ago, and it's silly to think that I haven't grown since then.

      :) Tell me about it. That was probably, without a doubt, my least favorite year of high school. Also, knowing that I've grown is one of the most satisfying feelings I could have. So I agree. :)

  5. This is such a cool idea! And I love the way you edited that piece. It's gorgeous.
    And YES, I totally used to write in my notebooks the way I talked online. :p Oh the mistakes you make in 8th grade, lol

    Alexa S. Winters

    1. Thanks! And double thanks; it was a quick edit but I liked the way it turned out, too. :)

      OH YAY I'M NOT ALONE. But really. Those mistakes. *shakes head*


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