How Has Your Writing Changed Over the Years?

Rejectionist over the years, here! That is, the Rejectionist is hosting a blogfest about uncovering some of the funniest, most embarrassing excerpts from writers' old diaries and journals. As all my diaries are in bins in the garage, I thought I'd show how my poetry and prose writing has changed (evolved?) over the years:

Deniz, Age 5: A story about a cow, which went something like this: "Where was All? He did not know where All was. Aldo could not find All the cow. He searched and searched. He went up with a jet and All was with the moon."

Deniz, Age 10: The Kitchen Mystery

Deniz, Age 15: Trying too hard to be an adult, I started a story about two handcuffed convicts and a sheriff travelling through the California desert. Never mind the two long romances I had, featuring scenes like the one where the hero and heroine have a food fight... at the supermarket...

Deniz, Age 20: Depressing stories about girls going out at night and failed relationships. I had a lovely one-page story called Eyes of the Sky but can't for the life of me find an electronic copy at the moment. This was the tail end of the thesaurus era, where I'd write a line like "the red sun sank into the dark blue sea" and then translate it into: "The crimson orb was lowered beneath the indigo billows" (blogged about here).

Deniz, Age 25: A lot of 'tell' and barely enough 'show' in my half-finished novel An Arnavutkoy Spring. Not to mention that I did no research whatsoever; for a story set in Istanbul in the 1910s I had hairdos from the 60s, clothing from the 50s and language from the 80s. I even threw in a reference to The Beatles! Come to think of it, perhaps I meant it to be set in the 60s after all. Only what does this line mean: "He eyed her easily, but without malice"?

Deniz, Age 30: A snip from Out of the Water, featuring Rosa, a Spanish girl and her lover, an Ottoman man, who's ill with consumption. On one of his better days, they've taken a walk above the neighbourhood of Galata, in Constantinople, 1493:

"Let's sit down a little before we return," he suggested. "I'd like to look out, for a while, over the city."

She held him up as they climbed a short rise, and he sank to the foot of the nearest tree, his breath wheezing in and out of his lungs. 'It was too much, we should have stayed at home,' she meant to say, but checked herself. He was tired of her nagging, he'd said as much that morning. Their last days needn't be filled with an endless string of meaningless words.

"Don't cry, Rosa." He took her hand as she sat next to him, leaning back against the ridged trunk of the pine behind them. "You'll cloud up your vision and I want to show you the city."

She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. A boat sculled out from the walls of the palace, ferrying across to Kadikoy. At this distance, all she could see was the turbans on the heads of the men seated inside.

"You've never seen Konstantinye in the spring or summer," he continued softly. "Just wait. It'll be even more beautiful than it is now. There'll be birds in every tree, flowers in all the orchards. The sea turns crystal clear, no longer choppy and grey, and dolphins come to play in the strait."

"I know," she said. "I have seen it - in your painting, the one you gave away to the vezir."

"You remember that one?" He fell silent, but he was smiling, and she knew she'd pleased him.

"I saw Leander's Tower first, with you, before we even came here," she said. Far ahead, across the hills and water, the Tower gleamed in the sunlight, a stalwart grey rock with its tiny flag at its height. Like the ship's flags, fluttering in the breeze, as she had stood by him on deck, watching him paint the tower from memory, telling her the story of the maiden trapped inside and the lover that had died, battling the waves and currents to reach her.

"I swam the distance once." His cheek was laid against hers. "From Lighthouse Point to the tower. Not at night, or in a storm of course, but at dawn. The sun came out behind me as I reached the tower and I thought I saw a figure moving in the highest window."

"The maiden?"

"It might have been; I didn't want to look too closely, and find that it was only a seagull." His fingers trailed along her arm, up and down, up and down. Now it was she who trembled. "Look over there, Rosa." He cupped her cheek with his hand, turned her head inland. "Beyond the last walls, d'you see that haze over the trees?"

"Yes." She was warmed through and through, by sunlight, by his breath on her neck. How close they were, as though they'd become one low hung branch, springing out of the pine at their backs.

"There's a spring there that they call the Life-giving Spring in Greek. In Turkish it's Balikli, after the fishes in the water. There's some old story, connected with the Emperor Justinian, which I never found out. But we used to picnic there, my family and I, when I was a child."

"I can't picture you as a child," she said and he laughed.

His laughter turned to coughing and he pulled away, tugging his handkerchief out of his sleeve, averting his face.

She waited, watching the boat come nearer and nearer to Leander's Tower, until her vision blurred and she no longer saw anything.

"I told you not to cry, Rosa," he whispered, face next to hers once more. "We're not finished yet." He wiped her eyes with his thumbs and she could see into his eyes, his forehead on hers. "I haven't shown you the fortress, or told you about the hills." His hands came up, into her hair, and his lips touched hers.


Aubrie said…
The cow story is pretty cute! My first writing was about unicorns and it was sad, like I'll never get to see one.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Aubrie!
Ohh, unicorns - I used to have a sticker book about unicorns that I loved to flip through over and over...
KarenG said…
My first story was about a turtle. Your cow story is adorable. How brave to post your old writing. I wouldn't have the nerve. Kind of like telling someone how much I weigh. Some things are just too embarrassing to make public LOL.
Deniz Bevan said…
Turtles! I love all these animal stories :-)
Actually, I've got even more embarrassing snips; as long as they're from before my last three works in progress I don't mind posting them - they're so over the top silly that they're funny!
Clarissa Draper said…
Love the stories. I'm glad your writing has changed, if it hadn't, I'd be worried.

I think it's brave to post your old writing as well. Shelley Sly puts a bunch on her blog, and I'm impressed with how much she's saved.

It is very rare, rarer than getting struck by lightning to have your fifteen-year-old writing not need work.

When I think back to that age, I don't think I tackled such an ambitious story.
Deniz Bevan said…
You're right, Clarissa and Theresa! I'm glad I've learned a lot from 15 to now.
Ah, but the folly of youth... another thing I've saved is the rejection slip I got from The New Yorker after submitting a poem... at the age of 14!
Tara said…
All? What kind of name is that for a cow? LOL.

I can attest to how your writing has grown in the last couple of years. And, I've always loved it :)
Solvang Sherrie said…
I wish I still had some of my old stories. I've been saving everything my kids write :)
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Tara!
And thanks for dropping by Solvang; it'll be fun to look at your kids' writing in later years - some of the stories I get a kick out of now are the ones I wrote in grade school where I incorporated stickers in the place of certain words in the story; somedays I wish I could still do that!
How about some samples from the future? What will your writing be like when you are, say, 50?
Deniz Bevan said…
Ah well, by then I hope it will be in published format so I can simply say, 'if you'd like to see my current work, please visit Amazon/your local bookstore'!
Deniz, I love your excerpt! Such evocative writing. I know nothing about the characters but I was completely drawn in.
Deniz Bevan said…
Yay! Thank you Julianne *blush*

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