I’m talking about my memoir. My project two decades in the making, feeling rather like a twenty-year pregnancy. Its conception began in South Africa culminating in the makings of a fairy tale of sorts. He, being the Prince and I the Pauper coming from opposite sides of the track. Our love story plays out against the backdrop of apartheid in 1974.
When I conceived the notion of undertaking such, I approached it as a novel because it was the safest mode to go. I felt I, the narrator, could hide behind the characters. I thought I’ve got a vivid imagination and it would be like playing with the paper dolls I created as a child – over a hundred paper dolls. I thought writing my story as a novel would be like playing with my paper doll family, each with its own personality and history. I’d breathe life into them and I’d simply take off from there.
Trouble is, my story is not a fantasy and facing the truth was simply too painful. So, in my re-ordered world, I set my family in a Pollyanna world with nice clean characters. But I wasn’t making any progress. It was like pushing a wheelbarrow covered in a tangle of spider webs uphill. The plot was garbled and the characters static and lifeless. Having no compass and not thinking clearly about what it is I really wanted to say I came up with the title On the Other Side of the Fence.
My story isn’t one-dimensional, it has multiple themes and working those out in a novel was a struggle. Along the way I changed the title to Ham’s Daughter that still did nothing for the book. The whole project limped along in fits and starts leaving me quite frustrated and dejected.
Emotionally I wrestled with sensitive subject matter in parts of my story leaving me quite exhausted and depressed. Over the years, I kept putting the project on the backburner while working through these emotions. You can’t force a butterfly from its chrysalis before it’s ready to hatch and soar, just like you can’t rush the process of healing.
Naming it yet again, Under the Woodstock Bridge, I carried this ‘baby’ with me from country to country – England first, then Canada and the United States – all places I had lived. From the US, I took it to the ends of the earth – New Zealand! Read what happened in my next post.