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Seduced by Words

From the moment I met the alphabet I’ve been seduced by words. A bona fide word nerd at age six I played with words, loved them, read and wrote, whispered and SHOUTED them with a fever that burns me still. Even then I was in awe of the power of words to wound and heal; to build and destroy; to calm and inflame.

I can’t recall the first author I feel in love with, but I know that she made words jump and sing like the children her pen created. Magic escaped with each turn of the page, and my love for her words inspired my only act of plagiarism.

Miss Bedingfield called for her class to take out pencils and paper. I had sharpened my new pencil to a fine point; the story I was about to transcribe needed excellent tools. I opened to a new white page, with a fine red margin and wide blue lines. The page smelled of newness. My heart galloped as I set my chair just far enough from my desk to allow the precious storybook to balance on my legs. My face – and I hoped, my cheating - screened from the teacher by my curtain of hair, I copied word after golden word from the precious book.

Miss Bedingfield collected our stories, commenting on the neatness or otherwise of our work. I had rushed a bit – there wasn’t enough time for neat printing when there was secret page turning and word-worshipping going on.

The teacher flicked through my offering. At four pages it was my longest story yet. I scanned her face for commendation, but there was none. ‘Not your tidiest work, Lauren’. She moved to the next desk, a kind comment for this pupil, and the next, and all the others. Miss Bedingfield was democratic with her praise.

The bell rang for playtime. We were dismised for ten minutes – to bolster alliances, empty bladders, and refill our small bellies with raisins and cordial. I sat on a bench outside our classroom, watching the teacher read our stories at her big desk at the front. I was sure it was mine she read with a smile, and a belly laugh, and then a sad shake of her head. Words, words I had written had inspired emotion! Well, perhaps I hadn’t really written them, but the teacher would believe that it was I who had moved her.

Miss Bedingfield looked up, saw me at the window and beckoned with a finger. I entered and approached her desk, my manuscript open before her.

‘This is a lovely story my dear. I enjoyed reading it to my great-nephew last week.”
“Last week? But I only wrote it today.”
“Lauren, my dear. You have written fine stories before this one.
You have imagination and flair. Don’t copy. It’s not fair, and not necessary.”

I defended my position briefly, then saw the sadness on her face that I had compounded one lie with another.

“Will you please sit with me at lunchtime dear, and write your own story, then I can mark it with the others. I wont tell anybody this time.”

Then the ancient schoolteacher pulled me in for a hug. ‘Don’t be in a hurry to grow up, dear. You will write your own beautiful stories one day, I am sure.”

Words of comfort where harsher ones could have scalded: words of advice that have lingered since age six: don’t nick other people’s words, marshall your own. Trust your instincts and


Trust the empty page, trust the flow of letters, as one by one you line them up together to form new words, new worlds. Turn off the internal editor that wants you to erase, backspace, rip and burn and get your words out there, where they can breathe, and jump, and shout, and dance.