In the late 90s, my mother started a monthly club for homeschooled kids called “Young Authors’ Club.” Twelve or so kids and their moms would come to our house and hang out for a few hours. Each kid brought something they had written that month (a story, poem, or something they’d written for school) and read it aloud to the group. I’m fairly sure these moms only did it for the educational experience for their kids and not friendship with us, and that’s okay. I always looked forward to the meetings even if we weren’t real-life friends.
One time, an older teenage girl made terrifying real-looking Nazgûl hands out of painted duct tape and brought them to Young Authors’ Club to show and tell. I don’t even think it was Halloween; she just did it because she wanted to. I didn’t have a single social skill to make friends with her at the time, but if you’re ever reading this, Homeschooled Nazgûl Girl: you were super weird in the best possible way, and I bet you lived your best life and became a cosplay artist or sword smith or theater prop master or an actual Ringwraith.
My favorite thing to write was horror stories. I’ve never liked watching horror movies, mostly because of my nightmares. I’ve mentioned it once before, but I scare myself enough on my own. Horror movies just add more unnecessary fuel to the fire, so to speak. My therapist says I have a mind like a steel trap. This is less a compliment and more of an accurate analogy of how I absorb everything around me and rarely forget it whether I like it or not. Happy moment or frightening image. Things get burned into my mind. It’s a trap.
However, my mother loves horror, and I overheard enough scary movies or talk about scary movies to gain a curiosity about it. I don’t want to see it, but I want to know what happens. As an adult, I found out that some horror/thriller writers find inspiration from their own nightmares or a difficult childhood. Even Stephen King finds comfort in writing about what he’s most afraid of. Maybe in my own way, I was attempting to cope too. Someday I hope to read my old stories again. Stay tuned for very old, badly-written horror stories with no happy endings (becoming a mannequin, being eaten by your own feet, and being eaten by a haunted basement are three I remember).
After everyone read their masterpieces out loud, we would all have snacks and play a game of some sort. My mother loved holidays and themed decorations, so depending on the month, we would go all out. She had a goose statue in the front yard that she named Jemima (after Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck) and liked to dress her up with seasonal accessories. Example: when we had a pirate/ocean themed Young Authors’ Club party, Jemima wore a coconut bra and grass skirt. I wish I had a picture for you, but I don’t!
For Halloween, we had a motion activated fuzzy novelty spider that would suddenly descend on a cord that hung from a hook in the ceiling. One of the homeschool moms at Young Authors’ Club was a music teacher, and I took voice lessons (which I hated) at her house. None of us warned her about the spider, and I’ve never seen someone jump so high from being scared. Take that, Mrs. H! Those breathing exercises were stupid, and I’ve retained nothing!