Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Every Writer Starts Somewhere

My mother thought I was brilliant. She also had a sentimental side, causing her to save many things produced by her offspring. Because of her distorted perception of my abilities and her packrat tendencies, I can still put my hands on the first book I ever wrote.


This manuscript has been around for more than half a century. It’s showing its age. But all the elements of a good book seem to be present.


Obviously, the cover needed a graphic artist, but in those days I was blissfully unaware of the need to catch the reader’s interest. Then, I only had to show it to my mother and enjoy her high praise.


At eight years old, I actually went by the horrible name that my parents gave me, so by looking at the cover, you get information about me that few people have known until now. (At thirteen, I staged a minor rebellion and insisted that my family and friends call me by a nickname, which has stuck.)


I dedicated my book to my grandmother, who also thought I was brilliant. And just look at that table of contents. Wasn’t I a precocious child?

The first page shows my religious upbringing. I’m rather impressed by my childish ability to state the essence of Christianity. It’s the Gospel, pure and simple, in three short sentences.

As this page shows, I first aspired to be an artist, but a third grade classmate destroyed that dream. Janie could draw much better than I could, so I decided to be a writer instead.

In those days I even considered myself a poet. It looks like I favored free verse, although I did have one great rhyme in the middle of the poem. I’ve spent years trying to figure out what the heck I meant by that last line. Maybe I was being deliberately obscure. I know some poets like that. They think that if the poem confuses the reader, it’s deep.

I wasn’t above plagiarism. Notice that I didn’t give credit to the author.

This last story came from my own experience. Like seasoned writers, however, I changed the details. Here are the facts: (1) At three years old, I spent several weeks in the hospital. (2) When I returned home, my parents got me a puppy. (3) My dog’s name was Spotty, but I couldn’t pronounce his name correctly, so he was known as Potty. (4) Tip was the name of the dog in my first grade reader. (Does anyone else remember the Tip and Mitten stories from the fifties? At the time, I thought they were great literature.)

Every once in a while, it’s good for me to look at my humble beginnings and realize how far I’ve come with my writing. Now I have a filing cabinet full of manuscripts that show far more promise than this one. All I need is a publisher who thinks I’m brilliant.