This is a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago for a creative writing course. At the end there’s a plea for help…
The Mighty Pen
The printed sheet of A4 paper held disdainfully between his thumb and forefinger, Sebastian tossed it dismissively across the seminar room. It competed briefly with the dust motes dancing in the late evening sunshine before falling gracefully to the floor, where it offered itself up to the class: the physical evidence of my literary failings.
“Writing is hard, Rosanna. A real writer reaches deep into his soul, drags his demons out, screaming and kicking, before stabbing them through the heart to the page. Every word is agonizing. Every sentence drips with the blood of torment and pain.”
The other students were motionless, hypnotised by Sebastian’s words.
“Puns? Jokes?” He spat out the words with disgust, as if he couldn’t bear the taste of them in his mouth for a moment longer than necessary. “A year into your degree and this is still your idea of writing? A ridiculous story of a kitten who gets trapped in a photocopier?”
My voice was quiet and I couldn’t stop it trembling as I attempted to defend myself against Sebastian’s vicious tirade, “I worked really hard on it. You said we could write in any genre about what we wanted.”
The last few words disappeared in a high-pitched squeak as my courage drained away.
Sebastian narrowed his eyes and looked down his long, thin nose at me. “This is a programme for serious writers and it’s better to tell you now before you waste any more of your time – or mine. You have no real talent or depth in you. I’d like you to leave my class.”
My cheeks burnt and the tears that filled my eyes threatened to reveal the extent of my humiliation. I didn’t trust my voice not to betray me so I gathered my notes in silence and left the room, my head bowed and my incriminating tears hidden behind large, tortoiseshell sunglasses.
What right did Sebastian have to criticise me like that? So my stories weren’t as emotional as Matthew’s pieces about the Jewish refugees or Emma’s account of her painful divorce. But I’d liked my Copy Cat tale and a few students had laughed in the right places. They’d stopped smiling once Sebastian had launched into his diatribe against me, not wanting to be seen to have a different opinion. They were just as bad as Sebastian, sucking up to him so he’d give them good grades for their mediocre degree at their mediocre university. Well, sod the lot of them.
Sebastian poured another cup of coffee and broke off a piece of croissant. He popped it in his mouth and savoured the buttery taste as he sank back into the silk cushions of his armchair, his feet raised to the warmth of the log fire. Relaxed weekend mornings were a welcome respite from the constant student interruptions that plagued his working week. He picked up the Sunday supplement and idly flicked through the pages.
An involuntary jerk sent his coffee cup and saucer crashing to the floor. The magazine ripped as he clutched it towards a sudden stabbing pain in his chest. The offending article, lying face-up on the luxurious Oriental rug, was the last thing Sebastian saw as his vision faded away, the words mocking him:
Number one on the Sunday Times Best Sellers list: Punning for Gold by Rosanna Bennett.
Martin Amis reviews the debut novel from this talented young author: “Bennett shows real depth and emotion in this incredibly well written journey through a beautifully constructed linguistical playground. In fact, Punning for Gold is just like anti-gravity – impossible to put down.”
If you liked this, I’m looking for beta readers (yes, I hate that expression but it seems to be what they’re called!) for my children’s novel. I’ve finally finished the first draft and really need a couple of avid readers (or writers) to look over it. It’s aimed at 8-10 year olds, is roughly 40,000 words and could be summed up as ‘Five go Time-Travelling’. I’m not looking for a detailed grammar/punctuation/typos edit, but more what works/what doesn’t work/plot holes/continuity issues critique. I hope the request isn’t too cheeky but every writing website I’ve seen says that beta readers (ugh) are vital – then doesn’t tell you how to find them! I’m more than happy to do the same if others are also looking for readers.