Why I Wish I’d Kept My First Short Story

The purest writing I’ve ever done was my first short story, A Horse for Jenny, written at the age of seven in the white-hot pain of losing my dad to the land of divorce.

I call this writing pure because I knew instinctively–in the way that writers have always known such things–how to dissemble in the written word, for fiction must always be a lie told in order to illustrate a greater truth. And so I wrote a moving story about a girl my age who, more than anything in the world, yearned for a horse for her birthday, an obvious sublimation of my own searing desire to have what I could never have again: my dad and brothers returned to me whole and safe, and along with them, my authentic self, and the world right-side up once more.

In my story, Jenny did not get a horse. Her parents couldn’t afford one, any more than mine could afford what it would have cost them to attempt staying together “for the sake of the kids.”

That I turned to the writing of fiction to express my deepest heartache moves me in an inexplicable way. There is authenticity in what we naturally turn to creatively to express our deepest anguish. Also, in the act of writing, I was mimicking my father’s creativity, for he was an artist who expressed the joys and angst of life in charcoal, oils and pen and ink.

I wish I’d kept my first short story for all that it reveals of that one moment in time when I felt the newborn conviction of my emerging writing self. The deliciousness of holding in my hand my first completed story, full of my heart’s passion, was a never-to-be-repeated miracle that contained the seed (hidden in the deep soil of my heart) for every story I will ever create.