Written by Debbie Manber Kupfer
At eight years old I turned into a ladybird. The story prompt in the Puffin Post said to choose a creature and write a story from its point of view. I spent days wandering around my house and garden in Barking, a working-class borough of London, peering into my dad’s magnifying shaving mirror and imagining my life as a tiny red, spotted crawling thing. Then I wrote that story and sent it off to the magazine and I waited.
Two months later I tore open the envelope that held my Puffin Post and scanned through the pages and there was my name in print – Deborah Manber. I’d got a mention for my ladybird story. And so it began: my love of words, of dreams, of stories (and as that first story involved me turning into an insect, I guess my love of shapeshifters started here too.)
As a child I filled notebooks with tales. I wrote a series of school stories, based around the playground. I even remember the titles – Rodney and Me (about a large Old English Sheepdog that hung out around the school playground – the only dog I ever truly was comfortable with), The Day the Workman Came (about when the playground was torn up and the equipment reminded me of huge monsters breathing fire), and Parents Week (a week when we got to go out to work and our mums and dads sat in the classroom. I didn’t understand back then that the parents might actually have enjoyed the swap!)
Each time I wrote another tale, I escaped – escaped from the meanness that surrounded me in that playground, but back then I never put the bullies in my stories (that would come later when I wrote P.A.W.S.) My stories were my refuge and apart from that one tale I sent to the Puffin Post, I never shared them with anyone.
Over the years I would continue writing. I wrote letters to an imaginary boyfriend in my teens. And as he was imaginary he wrote me beautiful letters back and sent me a handmade Valentine!
During college I wrote bad poetry in a black bound notebook that I believe still sits in a box in my basement. Maybe someday the kids will clean out the basement and find the poetry and laugh at their mom. My own mother, I discovered a couple of years ago, used to keep a diary when she was a kid. I found it when I was helping her move and she let me keep it. It’s a treasure. She wrote mundane stuff about her everyday life, which is fascinating to me today, but also in the back of the book are two stories she wrote. So maybe this writing thing runs in the family.
Both my kids write – my son recently started writing fan fiction for a game series he likes to play online. I felt very privileged when he let me read some of it a couple of nights ago (“but no editing, Mom, OK?”) Privileged and surprised. He has more confidence in his writing than I ever did at his age.
Since I’ve been published my mum has read each of my books and enjoyed them even though fantasy isn’t really her thing. My father enjoyed the genre, but sadly passed from this world before I became a published author.
Today I still find comfort and love in words. If I’m particularly tired or sad, I can sit down at my computer or just with a piece of paper and pen and write out an escape. Sometimes I’ll tear up the words, sometimes I’ll save them and eventually share them. But either way after writing it down I feel a little better.