Excerpt from Chapter One of Scourge of the Righteous Haddock

When I first dreamed up the concept behind Scourge of the Righteous Haddock, one of the first images in my head was a giant cupboard–my answer to C.S. Lewis’ enchanted wardrobe–that would contain every imaginable writing instrument. Quill pens. Inkwells. Parchment paper. Inks of every possible color and viscosity. Basically, I wanted writers to pant after this cupboard of literary goodies. And writing is such a psychologically arduous task; I don’t know a single writer who isn’t constantly afraid they’re suddenly going to lose their skill, they’ll wake up one day incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence. I picture this cupboard as the anti-writer’s block, a tool that the students at Trundlewood Academy could turn to when their demons were getting the best of them. It’s not necessary a literal response to Virginia Woolf’s call for a room of one’s own, but this cupboard is situated in a classroom dedicated solely to writing, and I’d like to think Woolf would have been comfortable crafting literature there. 

This is Emily’s (my protagonist, named for Emily Bronte) introduction to the strange cupboard and its even stranger contents: 

“I thought I was the one writing the story,” Emily grumbled. So she was supposed to write a story. That might not be so bad. She compulsively wrote already. Lists mostly. Things to do. Words that sent a shiver up her spine. Objects that looked like other objects altogether in the right light. Things to avoid doing.

The fourth drawer from the left, third from the bottom seemed promising. Until Emily caught a whiff of black licorice and distastefully shut the drawer. But the space directly to the right contained precisely seven pieces of banana paper already fraying at the end. It smelled of custard and Emily would have liked to lick the paper. But Bates was watching. And, furtively, Edith and Shangguan. Nothing bad could possibly happen to the person utilizing this paper—not even subpar grammar or an inattentive audience—any more than something bad could happen at your grandmother’s house. Conjuring your own history is difficult enough without factoring in unfriendly elements like the sickly sweet smell of licorice.

Then, as the coffers stacked higher and mostly smaller, she spied one engraved with a small flock of black-throated magpie-jays and opened it to find a large goose-feather quill. The other students had exercised a kind of restraint; they only opened drawers whose contents they intended to use, and bodily injuries aside, there was none of the litter that usually served as an indicator of persons of ravenous appetites having passed through. Emily blocked her classmates’ view of her activities and rapidly opened drawers. Discovering inkwells with coffee beans ground into a thick, magnificent liquor that smelled like heaven. Freshly steeped tea leaves. Turbid tattoo inks and extracts from soybeans and henna. They came in powders and pastes. Swan feathers. Eagle, owl, hawk, turkey. Mangled vulture plumage.  Tiny hollow bones that rattled delicately in their encasement. Sweetgum bark that could be distilled into a genteel purple or black ink. Seven kinds of berries that could produce 30 different shades of ink depending on how you mixed them. 


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