Today I’ll share with you my first attempt at a novel. We’ll use “novel” very loosely.
My novel was entitled Journey Toward Opportunity and it was about a twelve-year-old immigrant girl from Poland, set in the 1840s. Yes, this is when my fascination with historical fiction began. It was heavily influenced by the American Girl series, which is kind of what this book was supposed to read like, only it was MUCH longer than any of the AG books were.
My main character’s name was weird…her first name wasn’t very Polish. It’s funny because every one else in her family had accurate names, except for her. Her name initially was Favor Penjowroski. Don’t ask me why I chose that…saw the first name a baby name book, as this was before my family had Internet; the last name may have been from a phone book). Her name eventually changed to Marya–much more Polish and authentic.
Anyway, it detailed her struggles with leaving her homeland and coming to a new one, along with the issues of transitioning in a society that looked upon immigrants with hesitance. Yes, I know–rather deep stuff for me writing this at age 11. I tried to set it in a town much like the one I lived in–even went to the library and did all sorts of research.
Marya’s nemesis was Amelia Darlington, a “Southern belle” type who didn’t like people different than her. Then I had Callie McAllister, a bright red headed Irish girl (with a temper–a bit cliche I know) who became Marya’s new best friend. There were also the twins–Josephine and Jeremy Broadmore, whose mother was German and helped Marya’s family transition and learn English.
Yes, Marya’s family knew German too–they lived on the border of Germany and Poland (I did my research then, :P). Jeremy became a slight love interest for Marya, much to Amelia’s dismay. I had planned on writing a series; I even had half the second book written by the time I was in sixth grade. I even had a few pictures drawn for this, although I think those have been lost (thankfully!)
This story was “complete” at 176 pages–technically 88 as I wrote a few on the electric typewriter and the bulk by hand on typing paper, front and back, in pencil. I started writing it during Christmas vacation of 1995–at least that’s what the handwriting on the top of the draft said. I think it was finally finished about a year later.
Want an excerpt? Here’s a scene where Marya is being picked on at school and her friend Callie comes to intercede:
“Excuse me,” Callie said, tapping Corbin on the shoulder. “Will you please leave my friend alone?”
Corbin laughed. “What if I said no?”
Callie then said, “Well I’m afraid I’ll have to knock ya down so hard the grass you land on will start cryin’.”
I’m actually rather amazed at the improvement in my writing style from the ridiculous anthology written in fourth grade to less than a year later when I started writing this “novel.” It’s still pretty bad, but much more cohesive than any of the other attempts I had. I guess my strength came from the fact it was a story more than seven or eight pages long.
The characters for Journey never completely went away; I sometimes find myself thinking of this story now at 25. Maybe someday I’ll completely re-write it…