One of the first books I owned as a child was a hardcover collection of stories by Beatrix Potter. I still have it, one of exactly two childhood possessions, both books, that have been nearly everywhere I have been. It’s not my favourite book from childhood, or the most familiar, but it is the first book I remember being able to read by myself, which, for a precocious four year-old, was a defining act of independence.
Writing my first story came a short time later. I don’t remember what it was about, but I have a clear memory of carving the words out on double-ruled paper, pressing so hard with the pencil that erasing them left stubborn smudges on the page. Even then, there was a feeling — an intuition — that words were worth the effort of getting right.