Wednesday 2 May 2007

stepping outside she is free...

Do you remember Wandering Scribe?

Wandering Scribe was the blogger who was homeless and living in her car in a laneway in a wood.

Here's how she described herself:

"Feb, 2006. For the past five months I have been living alone in a car at the edge of the woods — jobless and homeless and totally unable to find a way out of it. I can't sing, I can't dance, I can't scream loudly enough, all I can do is write. So here I am laying down tracks...hopefully the start of an online paper trail out of here."

The thing that grabbed me first about her blog was not her situation (although that seemed remarkable enough) - I was grabbed by the writing. I don't think I have seen any other blog with such a high and sustained level of quality. I was absolutely gripped by it and the way that the author managed to hang onto her dignity in some of the most difficult of circumstances. I particularly remember her description of how she found somewhere to have a shower in the bowels of a faceless hospital. The way she is certain that she looks out of place and will be caught and thrown out, the way she describes the feeling as the hot water cleans her body and helps wash some of the kinks and aches out of her muscles. The way she is completely thrown by a stranger's small talk..... it's desperate stuff, and very moving.

"Parked car in hospital carpark and hurried the long way round, around the back, into the toilets, where had a long, hot shower and hairwash. Been going there to wash for months now. Most days it's easy to slip in unseen among all the patients and visitors and doctors and nurses hurrying urgently about up and down the corridors. It's like a small city, with its own laws and rules, all those smells and sounds. In my head I try to imagine I am rushing in there to visit someone who has just been rushed in — which could account for my just-jumped-out-of-the-wrong-side-of-bed look. People seem to make allowances for that in a hospital, don't stare so much, or judge.

I weave in and out among all the moving trolleys and wheelchairs and stunned-looking patients in dressing gowns shuffling about attached to drips. Make my way, fox-like, down to the toilets with the showers in — threading my way through the crowd, head down, the way I see the foxes do at night, slinking in wet through the trees. Some mornings it is busier than others, often it's like walking into an episode of Casualty. Would be easy to imagine myself as an extra, part of the crowd scene. But don't allow myself to think like that, slipping off into fantasies — dangerous thinking.

Though it's getting more and more difficult to merge into the crowd unnoticed these days. Lots of the staff seem to recognise me now, and must know I'm not working or visiting — walking in there creased and unwashed first thing in the morning — or at least every other morning — dishevelled, disorientated, more and more down at hill. Nowadays they give me very hostile, cold looks, or the two black security men who tower above most of the others follow me with cold, suspicious eyes, which makes me want to break down and cry. Which is what everybody seems to want to do, break me down, get me into a loony bin. But I won't be broken, I am not mad, and I will not be made to go mad."

Wandering Scribe was "discovered" by the media and was featured in a number of high profile places like the BBC News website (here and here)and the New York Times. Inevitably, the trolls soon appeared and seemed to make it their mission to crush her. I have never seen such a sustained campaign of hatred against anyone on the internet. They took this to sometimes extraordinary lengths and seemed hellbent on destruction. It was horrible to watch, but I felt powerless to help. Maybe she was a fraud, but even if she was, would she deserve all that vitriol?

I left supportive comments and sent the odd email of solidarity, but it really didn't feel like much, and before long she seemed to be drawn back into her shell. Updates to the blog became less frequent and comments were disabled.

I was worried, but Wandering Scribe's life was changing. There was a book deal and enough money to move away from the laneway and into a flat. There was a story to write.

Well, that story was published yesterday.

...and bless her heart, it turns out that my occasional comments and my ridiculous profile picture cheered her up from time to time. She emailed me to tell me that she's sending me a copy of her book. It's a lovely gesture, but I would have gone out to go and buy it anyway. This girl is talented and she has a story to tell.


Well done Anya. Here's to the next chapter.


  1. Weirdly, I just finished reading a magazine article about this exact book. Call me a heartless witch, but it's just not my cup of tea - I can't bear that victim memoire genre that's sprung up over the last few years. I have to confess that I was more interested in the backlash speculating it was an elaborate hoax than the actual blog. (Yup, heartless again.) Different strokes, I suppose, and good luck to her.

  2. It doesn't surprise me at all that your emails meant something to her. You are one in a million, my friend.

  3. This just goes to show that all blogs are linked within 7 blogs of ST's place.

    you my friend are the Kevin Bacon of the blogworld.

  4. "...the Kevin Bacon of the blogworld."

    I'm so using that.


  5. I came across Wandering Scribe's blog via yours, I think, and enjoyed it for quite a while - as you say, the writing was very good, particularly given the awful circumstances.

    But like Cat this just isn't the sort of book I want to read. Not sure what the difference is between it and the blog (i.e. what the grounds for my feelings are) - that's just the way it is.

    I recently posted about the boom in "misery memoirs" - they might help those who write them, both financially and emotionally / psychologically (and fair play to WS - that's exactly what 'Abandoned' has done for her), but I'm much more cynical about the reasons publishers and readers have for producing and consuming them respectively.

  6. I too read WS for a while after your original tip off and her writing was very good.

    It's nice that she remembered you and gave you a little token of thanks; it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

    Doesn't sound like a very cheery read though does it? I'd be really interested to hear what you think of it when you're done. I couldn't hack reading her blog for too long; although it was well written and touching I also found it frustrating to read.

    I hope she does well and that this gives her the strength and confidence she needs to never have to slip to a point that low again.

  7. That's lovely. I read her blog for a bit, but ended up stopping...mostly because as a social worker it was too frustrating not to be able to get in there and do something.

    Still, I'd be interesting in reading the book. I don't know about "misery memoirs," but I'm happy anytime someone publishes about their history of abuse. I think it helps open people's eyes to what can and does happen to children in our society.