How a story comes to be written is always a story in itself. Some writers tell you a bit about themselves and thank a lot of people who helped them along the way. That’s nice but not very informative. Here’s how this story came about.
Once upon a time – many years ago now – my granddaughter Lulu, aged eight, spent a lot of time with us in Sydney. For six months we lived together while her mother was travelling. Her school was located a few suburbs away, and I would drive her there in the morning. It was a great school, with children from many backgrounds and a strong commitment to environmental issues. But getting there wasn’t always fun. The Sydney traffic was pretty terrible, and we would find ourselves sitting in the car waiting … waiting …. waiting. So, to pass the time, Lulu said we should make up a story. We would tell it first, and then she would try writing it down.The Priceless Princess emerged during those hot summer mornings sitting in the car. Somehow the idea of a wizard with a scary growing fingernail who could turn you into ice became part of the morning ritual. We would imagine the long fingernail growing, growing, and Lulu would laugh and shrink back in her seat and wait for the fingernail to touch her forehead. Bits and pieces of the story spread out from there. Lulu loved the idea of Barbarabar, the woman who looked like a shrub. We had fun thinking about Mr Bobby and Barbarabar going on dating sites, how they would describe themselves. The McFrugal boys popped up in their football shorts and balaclavas. Lulu was realising the way society expected conformity, how people dressed and spoke and lived in different ways according to their backgrounds and families.
Lulu did write a few pages of the story – in her own words and spelling – but we couldn’t find them. Then, cleaning up old files on my computer, this popped up. All the elements and the feeling of the story are there. I must have transcribed it from Lulu’s original hand-writing at that time.
… in a puff of dust the princess was in a box thrown in a truck. She cried out and yelled. She was sent to the local toy shop. O my golly gosh I am going to sell this toy for 60 smacekroos, see in Hala-baloo they call money smakaroos) by that price it will be the most popure toy in town theres going to be a traffic gams and so there was swevery single princec toy they had was gone in harlf a tick. The shop keepers name was Mr Bobby. He had black greasy hair, his wifes name was BarBara. Barbara was tall skinnyh with grey hair on top of he rhead in a bun. One day Mr Bobby said how can we get the best price for this frozen asset? She must be worth plenty but all the clowns who have come into the shop so far only want to pay peanuts. Ms Bobby said “Ive got a good idea why don’t we sell her on ebay?”
Jolly good idea said Mr Bobby rubbing his hands through his hair until it dripped with oil. So they put an add on ebay which said for sale life size proncess doll perfect in evry way only speaks when spoken to unique and rare. Can only be collected from Mr Bobby’s Toy Shop, Hullabaloo. :What reserve price do you think dear?
But that was all I could find of her story. Lulu was growing up, she stayed less often and went to a different school. I kept on writing some bits and pieces, and reading them to her, but she was losing interest. The world was full of other adventures. The Priceless Princess went quietly away to wherever stories go when nobody is telling them, waiting patiently to be finished.
Soon I stopped working and had more time. In 2016 I decided it was going to be the year of tying up loose ends. And there was the Priceless Princess, tucked away in her file. Almost without trying I started the story again and it flowed out quickly. I hadn’t intended this to be the first story I would publish, but it just came out that way. It changed over many versions and numerous edits. I don’t think we imagined the Empire of the Blue-Bellied Black Snakes or its scary Emperor, or what might happen to the Princess when she was kidnapped from the castle.
I sent an early draft to Lulu. She was studying for her final year at school then and didn’t have much time for children’s books – but she said maybe it was too scary for children today. I hope that isn’t so. Parents will have to make up their own minds and I certainly don’t mean to frighten young children. But I enjoyed the Grimm’s Fairy Tales when I was a child and they were a lot more gruesome. In a post, I will talk about how I developed the ideas for the cover, and the wonderful work of Keith Draws bringing these ideas to life.
And a very special thanks to my other granddaughter, Lily Ann Anthony, whose gave her fabulous red hair and lovely look to the Princess.
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