By Zachary Benn
My first piece of writing ever published went to ‘print’ in Year Two in a faraway land that common folk might know as “Alice Springs”. The school I attended was big for someone who reached no higher than your elbow, but it would probably be considered “small” now that the world is a lot larger. Regardless of its size, at its heart it contained the most fantastic library.
Having just moved into the new school, I spent more of my time socialising with books than I did people; books talked a lot less and did not tease me for being unable to tie my shoelaces. Often I would lose lunchtimes while exploring the tangled dusty shelves, searching for funny covers to grab me and take me away on a private adventure. I would lose myself in the imagination of others, allowing the capable hands of authors to guide me. They would take me away and show me things I could not possibly see without their help. I feel like I did most of the travelling that I’ve ever done over the course of my relatively short life there, my legs dangling off a seat that was too high for me and my face falling into crinkled pages.
I decided then and there that I wanted to be an author.
It seemed like a fantasy to me, like becoming a movie star, a billionaire or some sort of delicious biscuit. It was something glorious to which any person would want to aspire. Authors seemed otherworldly, separate from society, but I was determined to join them. What that library showed me was that even I, a podgy seven-year-old with an unhealthy collection of baseball caps, could become an amazing teller of stories.
One night I sat down, wrote and illustrated a piece that can only be described as “visionary”. It was based loosely on the visceral experience that is Pokémon 2000 (an underrated classic) and was going to redefine fanfiction for Larapinta Primary and people everywhere. I bound it myself with staples and sticky tape. The very next day I went to school early and took it straight to the library. I demanded it be put on the shelves. The librarians, impressed and overwhelmed by the complex and intricate nature of the story, could only accept. They even stickered it with the author’s name, my name, and put it in the shelves, in the right spot among all my heroes and inspirations.
I had done it, I had become an author, and my book could even be loaned out. I was living the fantasy and everything seemed attainable. I might have even had a shot at becoming a biscuit or at least some sort of cracker (I still didn’t have many friends).
About a week later, I went back to the section where my book had been catalogued away. My book was gone. I was dismayed, but perked up when the librarian explained it must have been loaned out. Over the next few weeks I checked several times but it never came back. It must have been very popular.
In hindsight, I realise the librarians were only trying to indulge the fantasy of a child, giving him a glimmer of encouragement to keep his spark going. I wish I could explain to them now how much more they did for me. That the books they provided have given me the tools to encourage myself. They laid the foundation that still inspires me to write and keep trying to push my writing further. Maybe one day, I will create my own fantasy, a place in which someone else can lose themselves only to find much more.
Either that or the masterpiece I created was too radical and groundbreaking for the small town. In years to come, I’m sure Ash and the Great Fat Snorlax will find the credit it justly deserves.