I think it’s appropriate that I formally introduce myself. My name is Joanne Weselby. I was born in a little hospital in Sutton in Ashfield, England but I now live in the greenest part of the city of Nottingham I could find (although, granted, I do have to share it with the pigeons…)
I grew up a stone’s throw from Sherwood Forest. My early childhood was a careless haze – full of the stacks of storybooks I kept at the foot of my bed, the chalked pictured drawn on the pavement, the bike rides with no destination in mind, days of grass-stained kneecaps and gleeful laughter, the bliss of homemade Cola lollies and sprinklers in the garden. With such wonderful distractions, I never thought about who I was; who I wanted to be.
It was at age 11 that someone saw the writer in me. A secondary school English teacher used to kids reading Shakespeare with dead eyes and slack jaws, he saw something different in me; a quality of ‘writerliness’ (as he once put it).
He told me something else that day; something I have never forgotten. He told me that, as a writer, I read with the eyes of a thief – that we were all thieves, looking for shiny things to pull apart and put back together in a way that was different, that was ours. He taught me that day that all writers are magpies.
It took me a long time before I dared follow that dream (to write) – in fact, it was only once I hit rock bottom that I thought it possible to climb. At the age of 24, 4 years after my body turned on me without reason or explanation, I saw nothing but closed doors. I used to weep daily. I refused to discuss my life more than 6 months into the future. My mother saw me sinking, so she challenged me to swim.
So, I went to University. I worked, sweated, breathed English Literature. I warred with James Joyce, beat myself around the head with Shakespeare, surrendered to the painful logic of Blake at his very darkest. I read, and I read, and I read, until I fell through time, and space, and reason. I lost track of who I was; I only existed in the space between textbook pages.
When I came out the other side, I had a first class degree and two academic prizes. I sat obediently amongst my classmates in my allocated row and listened to people I’ve never spoken to before whisper my name with awe. It turned out, I was the only one to have gotten a first class degree or been given extra credentials (well, in my field, anyway). It made them curious who I was. In fact, I often find that the only time people are curious who I am is when I tell them I write.
I am not afraid to write anymore. Sometimes my words may not be the right ones, and sometimes my fingers will stumble over keys the way I’ve stumbled over life’s step-stones my entire life, but that has to be better than no words at all.
So here are my words: every writer is a magpie. Let’s fly.