I grew up surrounded by words, quite
literally. By the time I was six months old my parents had taped words
to every surface in the house, so the walls said “wall” the window said
“window” and so on so forth. I still don’t know how they managed to get
the cat involved but some things are meant to be wondered at.
But for the next six years the world was covered in words, as first I learned to read, and then my brother. I dare say if you move some furniture in my parents house to this day you will find a faded piece of paper that says “shelf” or “bookcase” on it. It was a sad day when they were taken down, they were like old friends. But by then the magic had already worked. I was able to look at the world and see words, whether they were printed there or not.
was four when I sat down to consciously write my first story. I remember
it vividly because I had my bright yellow Cadburys Caramel mug, that
had the purple flowing font on the side with the bunny rabbit lady
on it. It was filled with “baby tea”— mostly hot milk with a splash
of tea from the pot to give it color— and I was holding it in both hands, sitting at the
little “art” table dad had built for me in the corner so I had a place
to sit and scribble that wasn’t the walls. Contemplating my next masterpiece I looked around the room for inspiration. Would it be an exploration of color through pinky finger painting only? Or would it be the greatest macaroni interpretation of a dog we’d ever seen? Sadly we’ll never know how this might have worked out, as at that very moment, mum came in holding a crystal mobile and hung it up on the window sill. This in turn had the effect of creating a living, dancing rainbow in the living room, and something in my brain short fused.
That was the day I learned the word “iridescent”. It was like learning the language of angels.
After that I was always scribbling something. My school books were a mess of words, crammed into margins and on back pages. I was always in trouble for letting my mind “wander into whimsy.” Once I got a report card that said “fantastical leanings towards flights of fancy.” It was meant as criticism, but dad still has it framed in the office.
Then there came the time a few years later when I was reading the Hobbit with dad, and I turned to him quite seriously and asked “where are all the girl hobbits?” and dad hemmed and hawed before eventually telling me “they’re in another book, darling…having their own adventure…” and I accepted this and settled back down to let him finish the chapter. He probably thought I forgot about it until that weekend I marched up to the Librarian and asked for “the girl hobbit book please”, which was met with much confusion and my dad rushing over to tell me they probably wouldn’t have it yet because it was very rare. A few weeks later, dad handed me something. It was sheaves of paper bound together by string. It was, he told me, a very exclusive copy of the girl hobbit book.
I still have it somewhere, back home. Probably on a shelf somewhere that still says “shelf”.
And sweet, naive thing that I was, I believed him. It wasn’t until later on and someone else popped my bubble, that I realized dad, not Tolkien, had written it. And oh I was furious, furious because the story had been so good and because dad had lied about not writing it himself. But that small bubbling anger was nothing compared to the heat inside my brain when my dad confessed he’d tried without much success to find books I might like with girls in them. All the heroes were boys, you see. It made me quite tearful actually, that no one had ever thought that someone like me could go off on an adventure and save the world, when I knew it to be a blatant lie. Old Mrs McDougall across the street had been a land girl and saved a man shot down from his spitfire. Mrs Mitchell had been the emergency coordinator and saved people from burning buildings when the Nazis bombed the shipyards, and her skin was all bubbled and tightly pulled across the left side of her face because of it and her hands didn’t quite work because she’d gripped burning metal to try and free the men inside. Those, were heroes. But we never learned about them at school. We only learned about kings and tyrants and the kind of heavily filtered history that lead you to believe that women were in there somewhere, but only in the same sense that a wall has paint on it.
And now my books, my lovely wonderful books, where you could travel through space and time or climb up volcanoes to throw rings inside and save the world…those wonderful colorful worlds that spoke the language of angels, were just the same.
I was ready to cry and be defeated about it until dad, raising his eyebrows at me and offering me a notebook, said, “well, maybe someone ought to write one.”
And you likely know the rest by now. But in short I write because there are stories to be told. I write because it’s the closest I’ll ever be to how the word iridescent feels. I look at the world and I see words, dancing like rainbows, singing like angels.
There’s words everywhere. I’m just scribbling them down.
What are your thoughts on Peter and the Starcatcher, or really all Peter Pan things? I can't find myself to get into them because it just seems TOO MUCH.
I am a giant “Peter Pan” nerd, I’m afraid. I was a big fan of the Disney movie when I was a kid – and then I fell in literal love with Jeremy Sumpter’s Peter. Then I read the original novel, which lead to the original play that predated it. Somewhere in there I saw about 6 stage adaptations and a couple more movies and miniseries and a TV series and some more books. So…I have lots of Peter Pan opinions. Especially about those hipster-y “Never grow up! Kid at heart! Young forever!” people who are all over my Facebook feed (looking at YOU chick from college with the subpar cosplay).
Here’s my main thing: Peter Pan is a lot more complicated and a lot darker than most people and media want to think about. I get it. They want the nostalgia and lack of adult responsibilities, not a lesson in mortality and maturity. But, come on…the latter is so much more interesting.
Peter’s not nice. He’s a kid, and children are rarely nice. Especially when they have not been properly socialized. They’re selfish and impulsive and they don’t understand consequences – particularly consequences that have to do with other people’s feelings and well-being.
The best adaptations acknowledge this. It isn’t just that Peter’s youthful; he’s childish. But a weird kind of childishness where he’s had to survive on his own and fight and take care of himself, more like a child of the streets than a nymph.
So for that reason I like “Peter and the Starcatcher”. It shows why Peter pulls away so hard from growing up – an abusive past, nothing but horrible adults in his life, and too little time to be a carefree kid. So it makes sense when he accepts without too much protest he’s going to stay a kid alone on the island. It does all this without so much of the happy-shiny “Let’s fly and laugh at danger” many of the shows have. Plus it’s really fun and clever. I like its heart, and I love that it’s all swash-buckling and adventure-y and dangerous.
I low-key hate this version. I call it the “Mary Martin Peter Pan”. It’s the one that community theatres put on too often and that they made the live TV musical out of. It takes away any seriousness the story might have in favor of just being fun and pretty. Plus, it has Peter as a girl’s part which it HATE. Why do we always have grown women playing this young boy? Why? It’s awkward and awful. It must stop.
STOP. Though a few of these songs are catchy. I can’t deny that.
I loooooooove the Stiles and Drewe “Peter Pan”, though. It’s probably my favorite stage adaptation. This one never made it to America/Broadway for some reason. But it did rather well in England and Copenhagen, where it premiered. One of the best parts about it is that Peter is written for a guy. It’s a high tenor part which makes sense since, you know, small-framed men who dance and sing high tenor are rather abundant in the musical theatre world. It also features a more vicious Peter, with a gang of Lost Boys who are a little unsettling. And Wendy is way more developed – she gives Peter as good she gets, pretty sassy and not taking so much of his nonsense. Overall, it just hews closer to the original Barrie stories while adding GREAT music. 10/10 – buy the soundtrack now.
Another interesting, lesser-known adaptation is “Darling”. It’s a musical by Ryan Scott Oliver, and it’s much more freely adapted. It’s set in the streets of Boston in the 1920s.
I like that it’s so different than all the other versions out there. Plus, the music is jazzy and soulful and so much fun. Everyone is darker with a sad past. And then this young woman is finding a strange new world every bit as exotic to her as Neverland.