I will use the term manuscript loosely because… well, because this is my post and I feel like it.
The year was 1981 (yes, ’81.. I’m old). I was sitting in a second grade classroom listening to the teacher speak in a language I didn’t understand. I had only been in America for a month. In a small deep Midwest town, I was probably the only foreigner in the school. No ESOL programs for me. Sink or swim. Sitting in Mrs. Magruder’s second grade class I was bored. And so I wrote a story, complete with pictures on every page. About a lonely little girl who left behind her life to come to a new country, where she didn’t speak the language, didn’t have any friends and had a very bleak outlook on the future. I don’t remember the plot, the exposition, characterization or metaphors. I don’t remember the dark moment, the turning points, the scenes or the chapters. I don’t remember the secondary characters and whether they supported the hero and heroine. Hell, I don’t even know if there was a hero. I don’t remember if it was in first person or third, whether there was deep POV, symbolism or too many adverbs. I don’t remember whether there were clichés or passive voice, the worry whether I would get an agent, whether anyone would read it, whether I would get a contract.
But there are things I do remember. Clearly, distinctly, nearly 40 years later. The small bubbles of joy as I quietly pulled the ever-growing sheets of paper from the pouch beneath my 1980s school desk. The feel of the thin, lined grayish paper that waited to receive my words. The slide of the crayons, mostly dark colors, in the square box above the Cyrillic script etched in pencil, depicting a scene from the page. The staples I carefully inserted along the home-made spine. Reading and re-reading the Russian words, knitted together, that released the cauldron of emotions I was unable to articulate in any language, other than on thin gray paper.
Was it a “manuscript?” Who knows. Who cares. It served its purpose.