In 1998, I was a college student taking a Creative Writing course so that one day I could fulfill my dream of becoming a writer. In that class, I wrote a short story called “The Attic”. It was about a teenage girl from the 1950’s whose parents die in a car crash, and the girl is sent to live with her aunt and uncle. The uncle sexually abuses her. Most of the abuse happens in the attic. The girl doesn’t tell her aunt, and the abuse continues until the uncle dies.
The girl endures her aunt’s mourning for the man she loved, while never knowing the monstrous behavior he was capable of. The abuse by his hands that sent her niece to bed shaking at the thought of being awakened by the creak of the opening of her bedroom door, is finally over.
He is dead. The abuse is over. At least Annabel believes it is and that he is gone for good until noises from the attic awaken her at night. Through more events we realize that his ghost lingers in the attic, to further torment the young girl because she hadn’t been through enough shit already.
This was the short story called “The Attic”. The writing was shoddy. The plot was unbearable and extremely heavy-handed. The characters were underdeveloped, with dialogue that was completely unbelievable. No one is as oblivious as I made the aunt out to be, but it is a story my younger self wrote as she was beginning her journey to becoming a writer. It was far from perfect, but what of anything without experience and knowledge and practice is perfect?
The story of Annabel now is very different. The book that was inspired by that horrible short story hardly resembles the story at all. So why do I even write this? Why even bring up this plot that has nothing to do with the book? Maybe because I am certain Annabel and the Boy in the Window could never have been written without that short story.
That day in 2013, when going through a bin of decades-old writing, I came across a folder with “The Attic” inside it. I read it and could remember writing it fifteen years earlier. I briefly wondered why the heck I had kept it that long. Why hadn’t I dumped it in the trash where bad writing belongs?
I don’t know what made me tuck the story away in an old bin, but I’m glad I did because that story was the catalyst for my recent published novel.
I would make many changes and countless revisions to the story. I would bring pages of those revisions to a writing workshop course I enrolled at a local community college and be so encouraged by the suggestions of my peers. They kept me going. Kept me believing I could be a writer. Over nine years later, I still have those pages with the markings of a class full of inspiring writers.
I worked on my new “Annabel” story. For a long time, I didn’t have a name for it. It was just “Annabel.” But I often got lost in the plot. On many occasions I had no idea where the story was headed or what the story was that I even wanted to tell. I set it aside many times to write and publish other stories like, Her Name, Loving Again, and A Penny on the Tracks. Until, finally, I said “Enough. Finish the story no matter how long it takes.”
And I did. I finished the story that would become Annabel and the Boy in the Window.
Annabel and the Boy in the Window is a story set in the mid 1950’s about living against societal norms and expectations. Annabel is a teenage girl who has little interest in marriage or having children. She desires an education and a career, but her alcoholic father stands in her way. Annabel sneaks out of her bedroom window at night and walks the streets of her quiet suburban town, while dreaming of a different life. She peers through peoples’ windows, eager for a glimpse of what a normal and happy family life looks like.
On one of her nightly walks, she sees Danny through his window and is immediately captivated by him. His soothing smile and gentle demeanor give her the feeling of safety and security that living in her own home fails to provide. Danny, the popular high school quarterback, is two years older than Annabel. He and Annabel run in very different social circles, so when Danny approaches her in the school hall one day, no one is more surprised than Annabel that a simple conversation about schoolwork would lead to football games, dances, and affairs of the heart Annabel never experienced before but only read about in books.
Annabel has dreams of her own, but when her abusive father becomes a threat to wreck those dreams, all seems lost until a secret from his past comes out and changes everything.
And that’s the premise of my story about a girl called Annabel. She had many stories through the years, but we finally settled on the right one.
If you’ve made it this far in the post and you’re a writer. Never give up on your writing. Keep writing. Also, never throw work away no matter how bad you think it is. It may come back to inspire your next published book.