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The book that nearly destroyed my spirit

And the headmaster who led to the disaster

By Harmony KentPublished 7 months ago Updated 7 months ago 6 min read
Top Story - September 2023
Image courtesy of Canva, with thanks

In all innocence, an incredibly young me responded to a competition at school to write a short story and submit it to the headmaster to read and judge. As a budding writer, and receiving nothing but ridicule at home, I dived into this challenge with my whole heart and being.

The Story was called, Toby the Job Horse, and was inspired by the book-love of my life, Black Beauty. Ah, how many young hearts did the book and subsequent TV series enthral and inspire?

Of course, my effort was incredibly amateur but exceptionally heartfelt, and I poured my heart and soul into the writing of it.

When I handed my full school notebook in, the look on the headmaster's face was one I could only describe as horror. That felt like a punch in the face to me. Only hours later, did I realise he had probably only expected a page or two at most from the largely disintered students. His plan to inspire had backfired somewhat. Still, I held out great hope and looked forward to his feedback, even if I didn't win ... which I didn't expect to. At that point in my life no one in my family had ever encouraged me, but I'd found my love (writing)--an even greater love than that of reading. And I was determined.

Anyway, the days turned into weeks. The weeks turned into months. And no word at all from the headmaster. The winners were announced, and I waited with disappointment for my work of art to be returned to me, as promised. It never arrived.

Over the ensuing weeks, I lost all heart and joy. Eventually, miracle of miracles, my dad noticed. Finally, he came to ask what was wrong, and I broke down in tears, and managed, bit by bit, to explain about the missing story ... my first ever 'book'.

Yes, in hindsight, I know it was far from a masterpiece, and probably arduous to read, but still, it deserved respect. As did I. Unfortunately, it took me years to understand the respect part.

Enraged due to my complete distress and depression, and that I'd given up writing my 'silly' stories, my dad took the unprecedented step of going to the school and having it out with the headmaster, who ultimately admitted he'd lost the book. More tears and devastation from me when Dad came home and gave me the dreadful news.

Then and there, I declared I would never write again. And the headmaster's weak 'Sorry' just didn't cut it. His words meant nothing, and he had lost any and all respect I'd ever had for him.

Amazingly, about six months later ... yes, SIX MONTHS! ... he found the book and returned it to me in his office with a broad smile. I wonder if he ever understood my sullenness when taking hold of that detested notebook full of childish words, which he hadn't even been able to bring himself to read, cherish, or look after.

To this day, I regret deeply that the first thing I did when I got home, tears streaming down my face, was to tear that notebook to pieces and throw it in the bin. Toby the Job Horse was no more. He and his story were dead to me. Just as I was dead to the world. Nothing gave me joy anymore, and all the trials and tribulations of a messed-up family life wore me down like they never had before. Always, I had been the family mediator, the one to try her best to resolve arguments and brighten heavy atmospheres.

Now, I (told myself) I no longer cared. Of course, I did. However, it took a long time to see that.

I tried to write again in my late teens and early twenties but, again, met with ridicule and judgement from those around me. One person even equated the violence in my writing to be a reflection of my character. As you can imagine, that was the most hurtful and worrying of all. Once more, I gave up.

Only at age 40, after leaving the Zen Buddhist temple I'd lived and trained in for the past 13 years, and with a life-changing injury to deal with, did I begin to write. The Battle for Brisingamen was my first novel, and it received excellent reviews. And some kind folks gave me lots of constructive feedback. Oh boy, was I in for a steep learning curve after publishing my first ever book. But, for a change, I had confidence, and people's comments were helpful rather than embarrassing. I took everything to heart and transformed myself.

Soon after, The Glade was born, and it's cover won an award. As did the novel itself. At age forty, when I may have thought my life was over, my inner writer was born and thrived. My life began anew. I'm so pleased I found the crucial confidence to try again.

The first time I published here on Vocal I felt terrified and certain everyone would hate my work, despite the small successes of my novels. For certain, writing on Vocal has helped me to hone my short story telling skills hugely, and I'm so grateful to the community and the team for helping me along the way. Even better was when comments came into being on the platform. Now we can all learn and grow and be inspired together.

So, while poor old Toby is long dead and yet not quite forgotten, the passion for story telling has grown into its own being with its own life. And the writer lives, even if she has to slow down these days. When she can, she loves even more to come onto Vocal and read the many stories and poems on here, even though, sadly, at times she cannot always comment. But she does always heart at the very least.

Perhaps that early devastation planted a seed that germinated quietly in the darkness of despair, and waited until the conditions were ripe for that seed to sprout, bud, and bloom. For certain, it taught a young and unskilled writer to never give up hope. Never give up at all. Persevere, and you'll get there. Though it took a while to sink in.

While I cringe at my earlier writings, it shows me how much I've learnt and grown--otherwise, I wouldn't see anything wrong or cringeworthy, so even that is a blessing.

My heartfelt thanks go out to the writing community, and the Vocal community, for helping me and my writing with sage advice and such fantastic encouragement. Mostly, writing is a lonely occupation, yet we all have stories to tell and lessons to offer, as well as comfort and consolation when needed. Honestly, all of you keep me going and give me a reason to write. And my memories of Toby the Job Horse, and the headmaster who almost destroyed my spirit, have helped thicken my skin and keep me determined.

I hope you can relate to my experience and that, in some small way, it may encourage some of you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading this short piece about a slice of my life and writing. With hugs and love, Harmony 💕😊

LifeWriter's BlockPublishingProcessInspirationChallengeAchievements

About the Creator

Harmony Kent

The multi-genre author who gets write into your head

I began writing at 40 after a life-changing injury. An avid reader & writer, I love to review & support my fellow authors.

Find Me:


Story Empire

Amazon Author Page




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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (37)

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  • Novel Allen7 months ago

    Oh, this is so heartfelt and a little sad. So sorry the HM never realized how important this was to you. I know how much our hearts can break because we fell let down. But, from this experience rose a lovely writer, that was a stepping stone, however sad, to who you are today. Congrats on a deserved recognition.

  • Congratulations 🎉 ✌️💖

  • Robbie Cheadle7 months ago

    Hi Harmony, I am sorry your headmaster’s actions caused you so much pain. I’m glad you overcome it and moved on, but it’s a pity it happened at all.

  • Beem Weeks7 months ago

    I am so happy you rediscovered the spark that sets aflame the fire to write from your soul, Harmony. I am a fan for always!

  • Darkos7 months ago

    Oh Woaw Thank You for sharing Your real life experience i am also 40 years old and I feel the effort of healing and being and writing again its a pure joy that You are in here. I also went thru a lot Many of the things i did in life and still doing were damaged by narcissistic people and still are entirely so I know what You went through emotionally and physically i lived like a monk but inside the storm, i feel Your strength! Sharing such difficult and painful experience it does help to not to give up I also think age or experience is not where skills are, the way narcissistic people as the guy who lost your book on purpose there is no excuse to such behaviour a Monster who love to damage talented young females how many of them we encountered in our educational system and in real life! and how long we need to heal and bring back ourselves You should have no doubts about Your skills the strength determination and love You carry for writing and Your big heart is so much already to heal through writing and help to heal another ! Thank You so much for the courage! Being so open in here its not easy! You really have that love inside of You emanating! Glad You are on Your real truth path! much Love to You !

  • Phil Flannery7 months ago

    I'm glad you found writing again. It's difficult enough as an adult to suffer rejection with dignity. As a child, the adults around you should have shown more care and encouragement. Congratulations on top story.

  • John W. Howell7 months ago

    An excellent story, Harmony. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  • Jan Sikes7 months ago

    Oh, Harmony, my heart broke for that little girl whose hard work was cast aside. I hope the headmaster learned something from that. At least the little girl didn't give up, even if it did take a few years to bring the writing goal to fruition. Thank you for sharing!

  • Naveedkk 7 months ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story

  • 😮❤️📝💯🎉🥹Congratulations on Your Top Story🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Alex H Mittelman 7 months ago

    I’m so sorry that happened! Nobody should disuade anyone from writing ever, ESPECIALLY a child! If you ever piece back together Toby the Job Horse, I’ll read it AND give it an A+!

  • I am so glad that your earlier trials and tribulations did not result in you losing your love for writing all together. I’m so glad that you still tried, time after time, and you succeeded, even when you were afraid. Toby’s story may not have succeeded, but Toby inspired you to keep going. Toby is your job horse, helping you to succeed.

  • Omggggg! He freaking lost your book?! The audacity! People will never know how much their actions impact us. I mean yeah he found the book again but at what cost. I'm just so glad you're writing again after that horrible experience. Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Rachel Deeming7 months ago

    Toby the Job Horse. Great title! I loved your article, an insight into you. Looking forward to reading more of your writing. And that headmaster - what a muppet.

  • Leslie Writes7 months ago

    That headmaster was so terribly insensitive! Who gave that guy a job working with children? He should have praised your effort with a smile when you first turned it in! I get that he lost it. We are all human. But then when he found it again he had a second chance to make it right, read the thing, and give you some flippin' feedback! Personally, I am often coming up short when I write. I admire your ability to expand on your ideas. The sheer tenacity it takes to write a whole dang novel never ceases to amaze me. I hope to join that club someday. Your stories always captivate me from beginning to end and I sometimes have trouble focusing when reading! I have just subscribed. Thank you for sharing a bit of your history. <3

  • Meggen Olson 7 months ago

    thank you for sharing this with us. I have faced judgement and ridicule from people deriding my work and accusing me of "being in my head" too much. My writing and my art help me cope in the world and I can tell it does something similar for you. Keep up the good work.

  • Dana Crandell7 months ago

    While I'm sorry you had that experience, I'm glad you went to the trouble of sharing it. The writer you are now is a testament to your strength, will and determination, not to mention your talent. Congratulations, Harmony! You rock!

  • Suze Kay7 months ago

    Isn’t it horrible how so many of us have experiences like yours? My heart breaks for you as a little kid! And again as a teen - I remember those stages so painfully well. It’s hard to become a person and a writer at the same time. Kudos to you for recovering in such style!

  • David Prosser7 months ago

    So sorry about your bad experience. I'm glad you didn't take it to heart and give up as so many of us would have missed so much.had you done so.Keep writing and sharing sweetie you encourag so many to better efforts. Huge Hugs

  • Veronica Coldiron7 months ago

    I find it amazing that sometimes our deepest tragedy can be a defining moment. It is such a blessing that you moved forward and continued in your love of writing. That is something that comes from the beautiful being inside of you and no one can take that from you. This was a LOVELY piece and I'm glad we're writing friends! 😉

  • Celia in Underland7 months ago

    Headteacher was a Muppet! Such a had warming story and so lovely to read about your wonderful successes with writing! Congratulations on Top story! 🤍

  • Sarah Stuart7 months ago

    I didn't, as you expected, "whizz through", Harmony. My cooker buzzer has recovered. Fewer burned meals - more annoying interruptions. I FUMED while I did the veg and the dessert... thought of a dozen cogent comments, and came back to find everything had been said. I can only thank my mother - or I would if she was still with us - for praising everything I ever wrote. I didn't think Dad was interested until I "moved up" from junior school. I won a prize for English. "Well of course you did, Sarah." It made me very careful how I reacted to my own daughter's successes, and this post has shown me I'd learned a good lesson in parenting,

  • Paul Stewart7 months ago

    Annnnnnnnnnnnnd what did I tell you earlier? Congrats Harmony on a very well-deserved Top Story!

  • Matthew Fromm7 months ago

    A tale familiar to every aspiring writer, I appreciate you putting yourself out there!

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