By Madeline Harvey
The third in this short season of retrospection sees
Kate Bush Madeline Harvey talk about insecurity and the very special joy of being the New Girl.
Honestly, I’m not supposed to be here.
This place in the Pankhearst collective, the rather intimidating seat I am perched upon, is actually supposed to hold the beautiful arse of a more talented lady, or ladies. This is nothing but truth. I simply do not have the credentials or experience or drive the others have.
When Cars & Girls first got underway, I was dancing on the outside, admiring the ladies on the inside, kind of like a kid pressing her face against the glass of a sweet shop. Never in my life did I consider publishing a story of mine. The people who do those sorts of things, give their work to others to read, query agents and put their manuscripts out on virtual paper for the world to see, they are far braver than I. Truthfully put, I am a bit of a coward. One who loves to pretend she’s not a mouse and has the guts to share her creative side with the world.
You see, I love pretending. I’m fairly good at it. For years, I pretended I wasn’t published or working with groups or even part of a writing forum because I was honing my skills, crafting my style and developing as an artist. I pretended that when I was ready, I’d make the leap and put myself out there. The years passed. The little girl who told stories to her tattered teddy bear turned into an awkward teenager who wrote terrible love stories about boys who adored boringly plain girls with crooked bangs and from there a twenty-something year old dreamer in need of a massive shove.
The shove came in the form of an email. A kindly worded, three sentence email, from the commander and chief of Pankhearst, this independent writers collective, I’d been hearing a bit about because I was stalking the lead singer and following the band halfway around the world.
Due to a series of unfortunate incidents, I was called upon to be a replacement. To which I said, send in the clowns. Surely, it had to be a mistake. Still, the annoyingly persistent, overly encouraging, whip cracking leading lady made me a proposition. If I write a story for her collab project titled Cars & Girls, then she’d make me a famous-nobody with millions of imaginary dollars.
Needless to say, I leapt at the chance. Jumped. I thought this was an opportunity to grow and to be part of something magnificent. So, I replied to the email before I actually thought about what I was signing up for.
Then, I floundered.
I had to come up with a story. One to match the calibre of the two other shorts already submitted, or at least not destroy the quality of the book altogether. This I was not prepared for. Truthfully, I didn’t belong with the likes of these lovely ladies. My creative scope centered around nearly mundane stories, fit for every day life, with run of the mill twists and rife with cliches and adverbs.
Why did Jennings call upon me? Little Maddy Harvey, who clearly lacked the confidence and courage to actively participate in the manner needed for such a tightly knit group?
Now, Jennings knows my sister rather well. The two ran in the same circles when they were younger, listened to the same music and kissed the same boys and girls. I was actually surprised to hear she knew of my writings. I mean, I never talked about the stories I hid in my knicker drawer, which consequently smelled of rosewater soap because of the bar I keep on the left hand side. We all need pretty smelling scanties.
As it turned out, my sister has a rather big mouth, and sticky fingers. A short story I wrote called Ugly Girls somehow found its way into the hands of my current editor. It was right shit, really. I wrote in my younger more emotionally handicapped days and it centered around a dysfunctional fat girl who eats ugly. It made no sense, but Jennings must have saw something noteworthy in it.
So, with a bit of ego stroking, I managed to turn out the first draft of Barracuda. Put simply, it felt contrived and forced, like I was trying to be witty and gritty in hopes of keeping up with the other two loudmouths. I wanted to live up to their expectations too.
Finally, I realised, they didn’t have expectations of me. Well, nothing more than delivering notes and blogs and edits and stories on time and in a semi-presentable fashion. These women didn’t want me to fill the shoes of the pervious people who took the high road. I wasn’t just the replacement. I was one of them. Which is when I developed the confidence to really go for it with Barracuda and somehow also convinced them to take on Zoe as well.
I think the other members might feel differently than I about this collective. As the replacement, I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity I have been given. Finally, I don’t feel so much like a coward anymore. In fact, I feel a bit brave.
That doesn’t change the fact, I really am not supposed to be here.