by Sara Kelly
for Writers' Block: A contribution from our AWA Writers' Group members
I recently finished a Master’s in Creative Writing at LASALLE College of the Arts. During my studies, the teachers repeatedly asked, “Who wants what?”
Have you heard this question before?
Who wants what is the crux of every good story—from novels and movies to screenplays and children’s books.
Let’s take a look…
My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo—Dantés wants revenge on his enemies. Die Hard is a classic—John McClane wants to save his family and kill the baddies. Then there is The Little Mermaid—Ariel, bored under the sea, wants to walk on land.
Apparently, we humans all want something. Except me. I’m almost forty and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life.
Leonardo da Vinci said that every painter paints himself. Well, I believe writers do the same. I pass on my identity crisis to all of my characters. They float aimlessly through my works like leaves in the wind. The teachers kept at me, “Sara! Who wants what?”
I know what you’re thinking. Bullshit. Like every other Creative Writing student, she just wants to write a book.
Listen. I embarked on a master’s for all the wrong reasons. Let me explain.
In my late twenties, I left Australia to explore the world. Living and drinking in London was fun until, one drunken night, I fell off a roof and broke my back. Waking up in Whitechapel Hospital wearing a neck brace was terrifying. Being bedbound for weeks on end, waiting for spinal surgery, was agony. And then there were the years of chronic pain and opiate addiction that followed.
When I described the pain to my doctors, they prescribed more pills. When I mentioned my discomfort at work, they reminded me that I had no more sick days left. And when I moaned to my mum, she chided, “This is all your own fault.”
Pure frustration led me to blogging. I wrote about the accident and the excruciating nerve pain that poisoned my body. Somebody actually read my blog—a prominent London surgeon. Doctor Ranganathan took me into his care, performed a second spinal surgery, and now I am pain free.
Let’s skip ahead to 2018. I was living in Singapore, still blogging, and in a serious job. But I hated the work. Typical me—I didn’t know what else to do. I thought a master’s would answer this question. I randomly chose writing, thinking that, at a minimum, the program would improve my blog.
Oh boy, LASALLE really lifted my blogging game. Soon I was describing the fries at Black Tap as fat and soft, like the plump fingers of a privileged adolescent boy. My no-nonsense instructions on getting to Coney Island by bus were getting 100 hits a day. But I still didn’t know what I wanted…
Halfway through the master’s program was the poetry module. Boring. I couldn’t stand poetry in high school; who cares about the path less travelled?
But then something happened. I got pregnant. And when my son was born, I actually read him poetry. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but I thought his eyes grew round every time I pronounced a silly word or made a rhyme. I began writing my own special brand of “sticky poppy poetry” and created a website, Flossie Bossy, dedicated to kids’ verse.
In the process, I got a little closer to understanding what I want. I want someone to listen to me! For now, I have an audience of one—my son.
Sara Patricia Kelly is a creative storyteller and poet, currently writing her first novel. Based in Singapore, she authors flossiebossy.com, a “sticky poppy poetry” site for kids, and performs spoken word poetry at local events. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from LASALLE College of the Arts.
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"If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it" Toni Morrison