Three months ago a friend’s doodle moved me.
It was not an unusually significant drawing. It was a simple black and white drawing of a Hippo, above its head floated a think bubble containing a horn, below text that read: “Deborah knew that, really, she was a Unicorn”. That’s it.
On the whole the doodle was largely, hugely inoffensive yet, fun. So why did the damned thing spark my interest-keeping me awake most of the night? I couldn’t place a finger on it. Then it came to me: this Hippo was in the throes of an identity crisis. No, more than that…this Hippo knew what she was, but her skin did not reflect her true identity. This Unicorn, Deborah, was a transgender person.
Inspired, I wished to show my appreciation to my friend and so I decided to write her a short story based on Deborah. What I thought would be simple, became a story written in verse and rhyming couplets. What I thought would be minimalist, became a whole planet, “Za-Ram/Dar…home home to every animal: the big, small, fast and slow”. What I thought would take an afternoon, took me two weeks to write.
It is worth noting that I am not a writer and the highest English Qualification I hold is an E in GCSE English. Yet, there I was writing a gift for a woman with a BA in Creative writing and a Masters in Middle English.
Did I feel foolish? Yes.
Was I anxious about presenting her with her gift? Yes, but I find that greater your capacity for red wine the less capacity you have for anxieties.
Here’s the thing: she loved it. The next thing I know, she decides to illustrate the story, then there’s a Facebook page, then people have read the manuscript and are leaving five-star reviews. Then I discover that our beloved Unicorn in a Hippo skin has caught the eye of a journalist and they wish to read it to their children. Finally, today I start to gain a sense that maybe we maybe able to share Deborah further than either of us had anticipated.
As the influx of illustrations, Facebook likes and Deborah memorabilia such as T-shirts and cups come thick and fast; I feel more and more like a fraud. As if at any moment someone is going to shout, “She’s no author, she’s a maverick!” But I understand that, no one will because I am the only human in the 21st century who is uncool enough to use the word ‘maverick’.
So, this is it…I am an accidental children’s author and I think I’m going to run with it.
Deborah, the Unicorn of Za-ram/dar: