This morning we welcome Bridie Hall as she shares with us how integral writing is to her and then gives a look at her new book, Letting Go.
Stories & coloring books
I always had heaps of coloring books around the house as a child. I liked colors, the freedom of creating, of defiantly painting a dog pink and a girl’s face green. Another reason why I liked coloring books was that they contained no words, no stories.
It’s not that I didn’t like stories, quite the contrary, it was the opportunity that coloring books offered me to make up my own tales. I would sit on the balcony overlooking the river in the summer, and I would be turning page after page in a coloring book and weaving the dolls, dogs, parrots, hot air balloons and everything else into one long story. I was trying to see whether I could include each and every object, animal or person in the book into one story and still make sense. I can’t remember whether I succeeded, but I do know this is my first distinct memory of me making up stories, and loving it.
I loved it a tiny bit less when I started school. There was no time for coloring books then, it was all long division and predicates and the year of the French revolution (I mention this year because it’s the only one I remember from History). There was no place or time for my own stories, it seemed all the stories had already been written, and the only thing I was allowed to do was to learn them by heart. It felt like the world didn’t want to listen to what I had to say, to my fairy tales and mysteries and adventure sagas.
In my teens, I returned to stories and started writing them down. I was fourteen, when I had my first story published. The magazine had to pay my mom as I didn’t yet have my own bank account. Mom doesn’t have to ‘lend’ me her account anymore, not because I have my own, but because I mostly don’t get paid for my writing endeavors. But I refuse to let that deter me. I have found the perfect manner to express myself, and while I’m not the most gregarious person you’ll ever meet and I may go long hours, even days, without speaking to anyone, not a day passes without me writing down a few lines, paragraphs or a poem.
For me, writing is not a hobby or a profession. It’s about how I perceive the world around me and inside me. I don’t know whether I would see things differently if I didn’t write, but I’m certain they would make far less sense to me. Somehow, deep down, I must’ve known that already as a child when I felt the need to come up with a raison d’etre for the coloring book characters.
by Bridie Hall
Isabelle is left stranded at the airport, and her only chance of getting home is with her boyfriend’s older brother, Harper. When this good girl and bad boy set off towards home, it turns out that maybe she’s not such a good girl after all. And even bad boys have reasons for their bad behavior.
The road trip is full of shocking revelations and unexpected emotions, bringing the two of them closer than Isabelle ever thought possible. Maybe too close.
Bridie Hall sold her first story at fourteen. Since then, she has written dozens more, translated books, studied writing, and started writing novels. Her days revolve around stories and words, her sleepless nights involve plotting and inventing fascinating new characters. The only activity that takes up more of her time than writing, is reading.
They had to use their jackets to shield themselves from the rain as they ran to the car. It was pouring again.
“I’ve had enough of this rain,” Isabelle said.
“It’s been like this the entire week. Freaky weather.”
“At least I got some sunny days in Paris,” Isabelle sighed as she got in and closed the door.
“Did you go see the Luxembourg gardens?” Harper asked and started the car. Driving down the street, he typed a quick message to Missy, and Isabelle itched to give him a lecture on safety.
“I loved them,” she said instead. “I went there almost every day and watched the people. It was almost like a gallery, but the pictures were alive.”
“Did you see kids playing with the sail boats at the basin?”
“Yeah. It was such a nice, calm place. I can imagine going there to relax or cool off.”
“It’s the perfect spot. But then again, every spot in Paris is damn near perfect.”
“Is it my imagination or are you a hopeless romantic?”
He looked at her and smiled crookedly. “It’s an inspiring city, that’s all.”
“Did you visit it alone?” Isabelle asked, smiling.
“Hm. What happened to her?”
“Come on, tell me.” She only half teased him. She wanted to know more about the Harper she’d glimpsed last night when they talked about his family and earlier in Missy’s kitchen. He astounded her, made her curious.
“She ditched me over a physics student,” he said as if he were ashamed of it.
Harper turned to her.
“What? A physics student as opposed to a web designer that can cook? That’s a no brainer.”
“It certainly was a no brainer for her,” he said dryly.
“You cared about her?”
“I took her to Paris, didn’t I?”
They fell silent. Isabelle mulled over the things she had learnt about him. She’d only dated one boy before Jamie and it wasn’t very serious at all. Still, when he dumped her, her pride was hurt. Chloe went on a mission of returning her self-esteem by taking her on shopping trips where they spent most of their time assessing the boys they saw because neither of them could afford to buy anything. That was how Isabelle first noticed Jamie. He was in front of them in the line at the ice cream place at the mall and she remembered he chose vanilla and chocolate. The ice cream was why she noticed him. She had a habit of choosing the flavors with the wildest colors, so she rarely picked vanilla and chocolate. Jamie, as she learned later, always picked the same flavors.
“Did it hurt?” she now asked Harper.
“I got over it,” he said. But the way he said it answered her question better than the words. She could imagine his heartache and it made her sad. His entire life had been sad, Isabelle thought. She guessed that was one of the reasons for the distance that he created between himself and the people around him by being sarcastic and unkind. He deserved a break. He deserved someone to make him happy. Why was it that some people never got to be happy?
“What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” she asked, thinking of Jamie standing in line at the mall. When Jamie had turned and smiled at her, she thought he was cute. Decent and good.
“I don’t have one. I always pick a different flavor. Why?”
“Just curious,” she said, her smile tense. “And thanks. For a wonderful morning.”
“It wasn’t as bad as you expected, was it?”
“It wasn’t bad at all.”
“See? I told you that you could trust me.”
“I’m beginning to realize that sometimes it’s easier to trust others than myself.”
Glancing at her, he said, “What got you thinking that?”
“Life in general,” she shrugged. “It’s messier, less controllable than I’d like to think. I often misjudge situations. There’s plenty of confusing grey areas.”
“That it is,” he agreed. “Don’t let it get to you. Grey’s a cool color.”
“I don’t know.” Isabelle looked out of the window into all the rainy greyness. “If you don’t mind a Miss Pageant moment, I’d say that if I had the magic wand, I’d make everyone happy. That would make the world more pleasant and easier to live in.”
“You’d definitely win the pageant, but you could never make everyone happy. Not even with a magic wand.”
“Why not?” she said, frustrated.
He glanced at her, but when she met his eyes, he looked away. “For example, someone will want a sunny day, but their neighbor might like rain. Or to be less prosaic, say, two people are in love with the same person …”
Harper let the rest of the sentence hang in the air. Isabelle froze when his words amalgamated into a coherent sentence in her mind. She didn’t dare guess whom he was talking about. She didn’t respond.
“Yup,” Harper said off-handedly a moment later.