When I was about thirteen, I began writing stories.
My first completed story was written in pencil in a notebook with a blue cover. At about forty pages long, it was a masterpiece. I paged through it so much, and handed it off to so many people to admire, that the notebook was ragged by the end of the year. The cover tore off–but I still have the pages, held together by a rusted staple.
The story featured a character who was everything I wasn’t: tall, athletic, popular, and pretty. My hair wasn’t long and smooth and pretty in a ponytail. I didn’t attract the envy of beautiful girls and enthrall the cutest boy in the neighborhood. And my name wasn’t Sarah Robsin.
Breaking the anonymity of the blog for a moment, my maiden name is Sara Roberts. And yes, I created a super-character named Sarah Robsin and figured nobody would notice. After all, there was an H on that name! Totally effective disguise!
I wrote all my stories in a two-story log house surrounded by woods, pastures, and creeks. Naturally, my fantasy Sarah lived in a suburban neighborhood called Hartford Drive. Her best friend, Amy White, lived two houses down. Her crush, a cute blond boy named Jeremy Wallace, lived right across the street with his cousin, Daryl Robinson. None of these characters were based on real people. I mean, assuming any of the characters were supposed to reflect real people, which of course they weren’t. Remember that H!
Rounding out these complex and layered characters was the pretty, blond, “snobby” Susan Nicks. She had her own club of snobby, pretty girls. (The club had ranks like “diamond” and “emerald.” They walked around the neighborhood in formation. Honest.)
The premise of the story is that Sarah and Susan — good guy and bad guy — declare war on each other for reasons I don’t remember. I think Jeremy Wallace was involved. The rest of the neighborhood takes sides. (In my fantasy suburban world, every development had at least ten children all the same age on every street.) In the spirit of Hayley Mills’ Parent Trap, which I watched a few hundred times, the two sides spent the summer sabotaging each other with elaborate pranks.
Except that I don’t like pranks, and even if I did I can’t pull them off successfully. So this “neighborhood war” consisted mostly of water balloons and bottle rockets because my ideas ran out after that.
The final battle left a lot to be desired as far as drama and tightly-woven plot went, but the author assured the reader that it spelled the defeat of Susan and her snobby friends. Sarah emerged as the victorious “Queen of the Neighborhood.” Um, no, really. They actually called her that.
Oh, and Sarah “won” the cute boy, too. In case anybody wondered about that.
Susan did the 13-year-old girl version of shaking her fist and snarling, “Just you wait! I’ll get you next time!”
And never fear, there would be a next time. I completed over a dozen Sarah stories by the time I was fourteen. I look back in awe on the days when I could pick up a new notebook and write until I reached the end of my story.
But nowadays, I like to think that whenever I write something that I’m particularly pleased with — somewhere, Sarah Robsin is smiling.