One of the most important skills a child can be taught is how to read.
As described on their website, Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress established National Young Reader’s Week to remind Americans of the joys and importance of reading for young people. Schools, libraries, families and communities nationwide to celebrate reading in a variety of ways.
I’m not even going to make the obvious joke about how Pizza Hut has a vested interest in making sure children can read. (Yes, I am): Otherwise how will they be able to tell their parents they want the three cheese stuffed crust supreme and an order of the HERSHEYS® Chocolate Dunkers® with Chocolate Sauce.
I will mention, however, that just like there are young readers, there are young writers. I recently had reason to dig through a metal box my grandmother kept of all my early writing efforts.
I’ll share some here:
One of my earliest masterpieces (at least in my grandmother’s opinion) was my fanfiction spin on a Batman tale. I was kind of obsessed with the caped crusader when I was in second grade, and I still kind of am. The story starts in President Nixon’s White House and is three pages long. The second page, not much more than filler really, also contains the misspellings of the words strange, craft, stopped, wharf, and followed. The third page ends with words that spell out the last resort of every writer who has run out of ideas: CONTINUED IN NEXT ISSUE. Continued is spelled coteued.
Another early endeavor was Work in Washington, a play I wrote about me, my third grade best friend Harvey Hortman, and my cousin Mark being F.B.I. agents who work in Washington.
In the business, that’s called ‘High Concept’. Duh.
The Busy Body was my first novelization of a film. It happened to be a pretty bad 1967 Sid Caeser movie about mob money and a corpse, but something about it must have spoken to me on that afternoon movie on our old black and white TV. Maybe because it was Richard Pryor’s first movie. Guess I had a feeling that young man was going to go places.
I remember my grandmother laughing hysterically while reading this and calling my cousin to share with him. Mark probably could not have cared less then, and as an adult, I don’t believe his opinion of my writing has changed.
The Dead Dogs and the Mission Team was my first attempt at a crime story. The most interesting part is in the ‘About the Author’ forward where my visiting cousin from Massachusetts, Carol Ann, wrote “He was born in Maryland. He has lived there all his life.” I was ten.
In 7th grade, along with a couple of co-authors, Lewis Shanks and Ricky Caporin, I told a story that started like this:
As it always happens after purchasing a new Green Beret hat, Bruce Wayne’s flight to visit his “cute little stewardess” (sorry, ladies) is hijacked.
In a foreshadowing of historic events a quarter century later, the other passengers join forces to combat the airborne forces of evil. Unfortunately, such circumstances in real life did not result in the same outcome as it did in the homeroom ponderings of three thirteen year olds.
The rest of Batman & the Teen Titans in the Mystery of Murderers Hall’s plot concerns a kidnapping scheme so unnecessarily complicated it makes no sense whatsoever. The authors seem overly fixated on what time of day every event happens. There’s a villain’s hideout with a sign that reads: JOKERS INNER SANCTION, which kind of works if there were any chance that last word wasn’t clearly a misspelling. A character named Jack Ripperson is described as being vulgar, always cussing and talking about sickening things. He calls Robin “a punk, a nut, a commie freak and everything else” and he gets beat up by the kid in elf shoes for it. Then Mr. Ripperson disappears from the story completely and without explanation.
On page 17, about halfway through the stapled novel on lined paper, a nugget of dialogue gold shines when Bruce Wayne says, “I guess I gotta let him kidnap me then.”
And there are snakes.
There are almost always snakes in anything written by boys.
And it took three of us to write that.
Finally, the piece-de-resistance, at least as far as my grandmother was concerned is a letter I wrote to complain to a company called Gandolf about a mail order (I was crazy about mail order) poster I’d paid for but had not received:
I think she was glad to see that even at eleven, I wasn’t gonna’ take no shit from the man.
I got my poster. The company returned my complaint letter.
Maybe the good people at Gandolf knew there was a grandmother out there somewhere that would treasure that crinkled peice of paper like a prized possession.
Or maybe they were just afraid of being reported…to somebody.