Most of my friends, coworkers, and family know I’m obsessed with pirates. Check my internet search history and it comes up with things like ‘frigate breadth’ and ‘carracks vs caravels’, and ‘how to cook salamagundy’. I’m doing an Honours thesis on pirates in pre-modern England, and I’m working on a pirate novel. My favourite historical figure is the wild and wonderful Grace O’Malley.
I think I am drawn to pirates because I am their complete opposite. I am indoors-y and bookish, and my adventures are mostly confined to the page. In spite of my love of ships, I am most assuredly not a sailor.
A dear friend of mine – an American artist named Kristin Lane – is familiar with my pirate obsession, and she encourages it shamelessly. A few years ago, she asked me what flag is flown by the pirates in my novel. I described a red flag with a black rose, modelled off the Tudor rose. To my delight, some months later Kristin sent me a small canvas panel with the design painted on it. She had also added a little something of her own, saying:
“The red is easy to see from a distance, but the black wouldn’t be so contrasting. The white not only draws the eye and makes the design more readable, but also serves a purpose. White is fresh, new, pure, and unused. The longer the flag flies, the more weathered and discoloured it gets. I took this principle from early martial arts training. Before they started dyeing the belts you only had one which would get dirtier and dirtier the more you trained. This is why we go from white belt to black belt.”
I keep the flag on my desk. It reminds me of the journey my pirate captain must make. When she starts to sail she is untried, uncertain, and unprepared for the responsibility of a ship and crew. By the end of the novel, she must know where she stands on the deck, and she must know what she stands for. The centre of her flag must go from white to black.
Like my captain, I’m new to the business; my debut novel is being released this year. The canvas panel, with white blazing in the centre, reminds me of how far I have to go. I have a lot to learn, and a lot of work still to do. Moreover, the flag helps me to deal with all the things that are so daunting to a newcomer in the world of professional writing. The flag enables me to see the late nights, early mornings, weeks of solitude, rejection letters, deleted drafts, and rewrites not as failures – but as weathering. Evidence that I can sail.
Meg Caddy has a BA in English Literature and History from the University of Western Australia, and is currently writing an Honours dissertation on pirates. In 2013, her YA fantasy novel was shortlisted for the Text Prize, which led to a contract with Text Publishing. Meg was the 2013 Young Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre. Her short story ‘ was shortlisted for the Questions Writing Prize, and her poetry has been shortlisted for the Ethel Webb Bundell Poetry Prize. In 2014, her poem ‘Tiddalik’ was published in the 2015 Poetry d’Amour anthology.
For the past five years, Meg has been working with children of all ages. She is passionate about storytelling, cooking, pirates, and lizards.
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