A little while ago, I set myself an exercise: with a slot of ten minutes maximum, plan then write the beginning of a novel. Stop writing at ten. This time, I was thinking of a middle grade or YA book. I think I understand the distinction (and I have a notion of what I might recommend to students – as my background is in secondary English teaching), but I can see that this book could go either way. It does have a title, but in case such a funny miniature project goes anywhere, I’d better not say. However, you do meet the protagonist, whose name is ‘Almost.’ Ah – but can you spot straight away which book I had thought of weaving through my story?
That day, I sat under the slowly darkening sky and I thought that no-one knew where I spent my stolen afternoons. I was dragged up, not brought up; when scrubbed or slapped, I would slip out here to the wilds by the river and contemplate what lay there.
What did? First there was the old graveyard; then there was the strange old boat; beyond that was the wide, wide sea, which siren-called me with peculiar voices that somehow I had always known. I’m lonely. I’ve got a stupid name, for a start – and it tends to put people off: Almost. It must have been my mother’s little joke. Maybe she gave it to me so that I would reach for the stars and transcend the limits of the name, but I suspect it was because she wanted to keep me down there: a not quite, just about, moreorless kind of kid. And that’s what I was.
Until that day, when the darkness fell slowly and I stayed out late.