When I was in fifth grade, I wrote my first short story for a school assignment. I say it wasoptimized short, but my teacher at the time would have disagreed. The assignment was to write a hand-written short story of two or three pages and to read it out loud to the class. I submitted a sixteen-page horror story (front and back) about a ghoul living in the attic of a house inhabited by two young sisters.

I was not a popular child. I spent most of my time deliberately getting into trouble so my teacher would keep me inside for recess where I could read in the safety of an empty classroom. Writing my story was a breeze for me during those solitary recesses spent indoors. Reading it to a full classroom of children who despised me was a different matter. I was terrified to share what I had written. I remember my heart pounding in class that day as my teacher called out our names, praying that the bell for break would ring before she reached my name, but my name was called and I had no choice but to stand up and read what I had written.

I walked to the front of the classroom and took a shaky breath, beginning to read the first few sentences of my story. I didn’t take my eyes off of my paper for the first few pages; I was too afraid of gazing upon the faces of the children whom I expected to snicker and whisper through my reading. To my bewilderment, I realised that I had been reading for several minutes to a silent room. I looked up to see that every single person in the classroom was gazing at me intently, leaning eagerly over the front of their desks to catch every word.

Both shocked and bolstered by this unexpected turn of events, I began reading with more confidence until I was making up different voices for the characters and acting out the story. By the time I reached the climax of the story where one of the sisters dies a particularly brutal and bloody death, my classmates were gasping and covering their mouths in fear. A few of them even jumped in their seats when the ghoul devoured the younger sister in a gory shower of guts and blood. In hindsight, I’m quite surprised my teacher did not send me to the school counsellor for writing such a disturbing story. I’m certain that sixteen pages of murder and gore described in excruciating detail is not something that usually springs from the mind of a ten-year-old.

I finished my story and there was a moment of silence so long that it felt like it lasted hours and then… applause. My classmates were applauding me and smiling. It was the genuine applause of a crowd that had just witnessed something truly enjoyable and not the apathetic, scattered applause of bored school children. This was something I had never before experienced and I had an epiphany in that moment which would shape the path of the rest of my life. It dawned on me that words had incredible power and that I could use these words to change the world around me and the attitudes of those who heard and read them. Suddenly, I was not “Ashleigh, the unlikable outcast,” any longer. I was “Ashleigh, the storyteller.” I had discovered a craft I was good at and which would earn me the acceptance and encouragement of many of my peers and instructors.

That ten-year-old girl with her sixteen-page story scribbled out in dull pencil on crinkled lined paper went on to write more stories. She went on to university to study literature and philosophy and religions, receiving her B.A. from Nipissing University in 2014. She went on to write a novel and start this website. She went on to write the small memoir you are reading right now.

Of course, I have other interests that lie outside of literature. When I am not writing or reading, I enjoy playing video games, keeping up with a select few television series, conversing with other writers and readers through social media and spending quality time with my cats. I also drink entirely too much coffee and write feverishly by night.

Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias