Alison Bruce has an honours degree in history and philosophy, which has nothing to do with any regular job she’s held since. A liberal arts education did prepare her to be a writer, however. She penned her first novel during lectures while pretending to take notes.
In the interest of veracity, I didn’t pen that novel in either history or philosophy. In fact, it was before attending university and the program wasn’t liberal arts. Ryerson is a university now, but when I attended it was still a Polytechnical Institute. I was taking Home Economics because I didn’t make it into the journalism program.
The course was Nutrition. It was BOR-RING, not because I had no interest in food and food science, but because I already knew quite a bit of the material. Not all of it. In fact, I think the only reason I got a passing grade was because I had perfect attendance. My attendance was perfect because the class was a great opportunity to write.
I was in my science fiction phase. I had read everything by Robert Heinlein, Asimov’s Foundation series, Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Frank Herbert’s Dune plus a selection of other classic SF books and even more humorous SF. I was also a Star Trek fan and had written some fanfic for the amusement of my friend and family.
The friend was my BF Nancy. The family was my sister Joanne. I did not have a wide audience at this stage of my career.
Inspiration came, as it still does sometimes, in dreams. All the day dreams and what if scenarios that bombarded my brain during the waking hours would scramble and sort themselves out into mini-movies in my dreams. Sometimes I was watching the scenes. Sometimes I was part of them. Sometimes I just knew stuff that had happened to fill in the gaps. Taken together, they made up plotlines with more holes than Swiss cheese. But they gave me a start.
I had plotted out this dream-inspired story start to finish, with notes for a potential sequel. I had about fifty pages written, in longhand, stored, with my plot and character information, in a clipboard folder. The day’s class notes were in there too, but I cleared them out every day to leave room for my novel. One day, between Nutrition and Chemistry (a class I didn’t dare write in) I left the whole kit-and-caboodle in the second floor washroom of the Quad.
I went back right after Chemistry but the clipboard was gone.
That was the end of that novel.
I don’t remember the details of the story. The loss was so traumatic. It had to do with a youth program that covered for the gathering of a team of special kids that would go into space. That much I remember because, a year later, I heard about the Canadian youth program Katimavik. It gathered young adults from ages 17 to 21 and sent them to different parts of Canada to engage in community projects. The spiel was almost exactly what I’d made up for the program in my novel.
Naturally I had to apply. Who knows, I might have been selected for a special program like my main character.
I wasn’t. However, I did start my second novel in Katimavik. It gave me something else to think about while doing a particularly disgusting job. I still haven’t finished that book–though it has been plotted out a dozen times or more–but that’s another story.