21 February 2020
A reader's creative non-fiction goes under the editorial microscope
Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's first 300 words and for the full critique, see the April issue of Writing Magazine.
Leaving Home, by Patricia Roberts - original version
It was 4 am in the morning. I kissed my two young sisters on their foreheads as they slept, knowing that I wouldn't be coming back. My older sister Linda had her own room, so I never got to say goodbye.
My mum was waiting downstairs for me, nervously pacing the floor. "Come on Trisha" she tried to whisper to me, so as not to wake the girls up. Dad would be home in an hour, after finishing his night shift.
Outside we could hear the sound of a car purring, waiting for us. I looked once more at the house I loved, that was home for the last seventeen years. When would I see it again?
As we drove off, I looked at my mum, who suddenly seemed ten years older. I felt so sad and guilty that I had caused so much trauma to my family.
The journey was long and painful. We drew up at the court. It must have been about 9 am now. Entering this large building we were ushered into a stark room, where we had to wait for another hour or more. I glanced around the room at the faces staring into space or at the floor. Everyone looking nervous or scared.
It was time to be called in. As my friend and I stood in the dock I suddenly realised that this was no dream. I heard the voices talking about me, strangers deciding my future, people who knew nothing about me and my life before now. About my happy childhood, my lovely sisters and mum and dad, of the street we lived in where we had neighbours who were kind. I was upset to hear my poor mum speaking up for me, saying "she is a good girl really ... just easily led".
Leaving Home - McCredited version
I kissed my two young sisters on their foreheads as they slept, knowing that I wouldn't be coming back. My older sister Linda had her own room so I never got to say goodbye. It was 4 a.m.
Mum was waiting downstairs for me, pacing in the kitchen. “Come on Trisha,” she whispered, probably thinking about my dad returning home from his night shift to find me gone. We could hear the waiting car purring outside.
In the cold air, I looked once more at the house I loved, that had been home for the last seventeen years. Would I really never see it again?
I glanced at my mum as we drove off. She looked pale and gaunt, her mouth drawn into a thin line, and I knew I had caused so much trauma to my family.
The journey was silent, the silence becoming louder the longer nobody spoke. When night faded, the dawn was weak and brittle. Mum looked out of the window at nothing.
When finally we drew up at the court building, it was light but grey and overcast. We were ushered into a stark room where we would have to wait for an unknown period. I glanced around at the faces. People staring into space or at the floor. People looking tired. One youth smirking to himself and picking at his nails. My friend was already there with her parents and she looked up briefly at our entrance, trying to avoid my eyes. The fluorescent strip lights were harsh. Shuffling feet or a rustled newspaper seemed loud.
The door opened and we were beckoned to the dock after more than one hour waiting. I heard the voices talking about me, strangers deciding my future: people who knew nothing about the real me and the truth of my life before now. About my happy childhood, my lovely sisters, my mum and dad and the street we lived in with kind neighbours.
My mother’s voice seemed so small as she spoke for me: "She’s a good girl really ... Just easily led."