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  • Writer's pictureT.S. Curtis

A Love Letter To Our Former Selves

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

The first "novel" type of story I remember finishing was when I was twelve years old. It was based on the stories I would come up with and tell in a quiet corner of the schoolyard, stories of six girls who could turn into animals and travel through time fighting demons and other monsters. We called ourselves The Pack. For girls who didn't fit in, the stories held us together and kept us going despite all of us fighting our own demons as we started struggling with ourselves, our sexualities, and our mental health. Those stories stayed with me. They just had those kinds of characters and storylines that I couldn't let go of, no matter how hard I tried to breathe and move on from them.

When I moved home at the start of the pandemic, I found the notebooks with that little novel sitting on the shelf in my childhood bedroom. One of them says "Tegwyn Skye - Math 7" on the front. There is exactly one page of math in it, and I am hoping I found another notebook to put my maths in. (Fun fact: the notebook next to the two with 'The Pack' was from the same year, and had the very first iteration of what would become Ink & Crown.)

I took the old story, and I knew I wanted to give it a new life. To mold it into something that would better fit the characters and better honour the girls that once inspired me.

I have written a lot of love letters. By hand, pages worth of love letters written in colourful pen and messy handwriting, with sketches and doodles and paintings included. Love letters written to first loves, and momentary loves, and lost loves, and loves I am too afraid to admit to that I want to put a stamp on and declare it but stay packaged in a box in my room. I've written love letters into my poetry to every ex and fleeting love. In poems to my younger self. In poems to my future self. Pages-long letters to my best friends, because I still think platonic is the strongest form of love. Love letters, in all their forms, are something I am really good at, and Shifter WIP is, in my mind, a love letter to the girls who took care of 12-year-old me. Our friendship was fleeting and I don't even really remember how or why it ended. We were twelve, we probably just grew up and grew apart. A couple of the characters in Shifter WIP were made to look like the girls they were based on, and some are more heavily based on their personalities (or at least, the personalities they had when we were 12). Writing Shifter WIP has felt like a tight embrace to the little girl I was, who was trying to be as strong as she could to hold on to friends who were falling apart just as fast as she was.

Writing Shifter WIP has been tough, though. A lot tougher than writing Crash Pointe last month, which may have fooled me into thinking this would be easier than it actually usually is. I think the fact that this is basically a rewrite is holding me back a little bit, my brain playing between two works that are almost entirely separate from each other. Paired with a lot of recent highs and lows, it's been tough but I'm still trudging along, getting words down.

A lot - and I mean a lot - has changed from what it was in my grade 7 notebooks to what I'm writing now (beyond just my actual writing getting better). Everyone got new names, though personalities stayed the same in 4 of the 6 characters. I aged the characters up. I changed when the story was set, from the late 18th century (which we were studying since Canadian Confederation was a big theme in our history class that year) to the early Victorian period (1861 to be exact). Some of the species changed, I added two characters, and completely overhauled the politics of the councils. And the plot has mostly changed. Though the theme of what is a monster has remained, how they get to that question has become very different. The Marquis - the human counterpart in the story - has changed drastically. He was just a very generic lord in the old story, without any actual complete title. His life and motivations were barely brushed over, leaving him a central but passive figure in the story. The story has always been about my girls. I give him a much better piece of the story this time around, making him an active player to better the girls' story. The love stories are slower and feel more authentic and they are not necessarily the main/central theme, more an aching accident on the side. The title has changed, though what it has changed to I could not tell you yet (I'm six pages of notes in and still struggling to name it). The change I'm the most proud of, though, is the ending.

When I first wrote the story of the Pack over ten years ago now, it didn't end well. I killed off the main character in a way that was not very kind, and it stemmed from the issues I was having in my own head. Writing it now is a chance to let my main character survive. Because whether I knew it or not, I needed to see that through whatever it is, we can survive it all. I've said it before: I write strong girls, with sharp edges, who despite all the odds, survive. That is one thing that ties all my stories together. Those were the stories I needed back then, and there are days when those are the stories I need now.

There is one thing that has not changed in this story: my characters are extremely brave, and capable. Because that is what we needed when we were twelve. A reminder of our own ability - in our supernatural little world, and in the real one. That to fight our demons - whatever they may look like, wherever they may exist - we can be the heroes. So this silly little supernatural story is a love letter to our former selves, and a hope for the people we would become, even if we are hundreds of smiles from one another.

If you have time, try writing a love letter to someone you may not think of writing one to - yourself, your best friend, or anyone else who might need to know they are loved.

Happy reading, happy writing loves. -T.S.

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