How I Accidentally Wrote a Book
A sparkling debut about the grieving process and a writing course – all in one!
When 13-year-old Katinka tells people that her mum’s been dead for ten years, they get tears in their eyes, or put their arms around her. “What I don’t get is that other people don’t get that I’m completely used to it,” she says. But is that really true?
When her dad meets a new girlfriend, Dirkje, it turns out that Katinka has hidden her grief away inside. Even though she doesn’t notice it herself, it comes bubbling up in the stories she writes for her neighbour Lidwien, a famous novelist who’s suffering from writer’s block and is now giving writing lessons to Katinka.
Huizing has created not only a powerful children’s book about overcoming grief, but also an inspiring course in how to write. In every chapter, a section printed in blue features the writing tips that Lidwien gives Katinka. She teaches her about rules such as “show, don’t tell” and “kill your darlings”, about incorporating your senses in your writing and about all the little details that make a story believable. These writing lessons show readers the possibilities of language, while revealing to Katinka the changes at home and in herself.
Suddenly Katinka starts to see her dad and Dirkje as characters in a book, subtly describing their behaviour and appearance. All the indications are that Dirkje is nice and kind. “She’s soft. You can kind of sink into her.” And, “She’s always touching you […] perhaps it’s because she’s a physiotherapist and she spends all day pummelling people.”
But when a waiter thinks Dirkje is Katinka’s mother, something snaps and she yells, “She’s not my mum!” Lidwien then gives her a writing exercise that involves trying to get inside Dirkje’s head.
The tone is down to earth, often amusing, and poignant at the right moments. The part where Katinka sees her mother in an old video recording is really heart-breaking. “Touching your reader’s heart isn’t some kind of trick,” says Lidwien. And she’s right.