I’ve been archiving my papers with the Cushing Library at Texas A&M for several years now, but mostly that’s just meant copy-edited manuscripts and page proofs. I’m reluctant to let go of the boxes in which I keep the papers from each of my novels, because I’m never quite sure when I might need to consult them for some reason; mostly I don’t, but then a random occasion will crop up (e.g. “I need to scan that fight map I drew for Doppelganger so I can include it in Writing Fight Scenes“) and I’ll think, maybe I should hang onto these.
Then it occurred to me that I have about half a shelf of spiral-bound notebooks that I haven’t looked at in . . . more than a decade, certainly. Fifteen years, quite possibly. And those, I decided, are fair game.
But of course I can’t just ship those off to College Station without looking through them first.
Follow me, oh friends, down Juvenilia Lane!
This is like literary archaeology, trying to piece together from clues when the first of these notebooks dates to. Apparently at one point I went through and numbered them, and the early pages contain notes from a class on Native American mythology I took my freshman year of college — or do they? Did I do something else involving Native American mythology? Because that notebook also contains random spates of computer code, and I haven’t taken computer science since my junior year of high school; was I trying to write a program for something writing-related? I seem to recall having done that at one point, though I can’t remember what it was for (and the code itself is not enlightening me). The various snippets of story and notes thereon are no help; I was working on basically the same stuff my freshman year of college as at the end of high school.
Possible clue: I was apparently on a kick wherein I wrote some of those story notes in Spanish or Latin, which were the languages I studied in high school. It isn’t definitive; I might well have been trying to keep my hand in during my freshman year. But more significant is the fact that I don’t have any notes written in Japanese, which is what I studied when I got to college. (I even, god help me, have some bad English-language poetry written in dactylic hexameter. It’s clearly for a story, but the context has long since flown my head.) There are also random bits of Irish Gaelic, but most of those are clearly recognizable as song lyrics: I didn’t take Irish until my sophomore year of college, but prior to that was trying to translate lyrics using a dictionary and no comprehension of Irish grammar whatsoever.
I can watch myself working through the challenges of trying to file the serial numbers off a beloved fanfic idea, which definitely occupied a lot of my time in later high school; it was some time during my freshman year that I shelved it in the hopes that absence would make the heart grow more able to hack it apart as needed. But apparently at one point I decided to set one of the sub-stories from that idea in a Tarot-based world. I have no recollection of this. But it seems it was a thing!
. . . waitasecond. I’ve got half a page here of text from Lies and Prophecy. Half a page of text so old, Liesel is still called Lisa.
(Despite that, some of the sentences are unchanged from this notebook scribble to the finished product.)
IT’S A HIGH SCHOOL NOTEBOOK. I have found the smoking gun, and it comes in the form of my Beowulf notes. My senior year English teacher permitted us to annotate our copies of Beowulf with any information we thought might be useful to us on the test; I have a whole two page here where I was collating line citations for references to fighting, gift-giving, loyalty, Christian/pagan blending, the heroic ideal of excellence, and more. (I inherited three annotated copies of the text from my brother and other previous students to get me started; I still own my copy, and it is the most thoroughly annotated thing I think that teacher ever saw.)
Still don’t know why I was writing computer code in it, though. The early pages might be from my junior year (did we do a Native American mythology section in Theory of Knowledge? We must have), but there’s code in the middle of my Chaucer notes, which is definitely senior year.
And with one and a half lines that might have been me trying to conlang for one of my stories (it’s a cryptic description of the perfect passive participle, and then I didn’t get around to detailing the present participle), we finish out the first of my notebooks. Thank you all for accompanying me down Memory Lane. Stay tuned for further installments, probably, as I wade into notebooks from later in my pre-career!