When I was young, I wanted to be the youngest published author. At the time, I was nearing twelve, and my knowledge of the holder of this particular title was the daughter of Mark Twain, who – at the age of thirteen – had penned a biography of her famous father. It began, "My Papa was a very funny man…"
I began with an imitation of Dr. Seuss. Although the particular plot and theme elude me at this late date, I recall believing that my poetry, rhythm, and wit were near perfection. Few would be able to tell the difference between myself, and the famous man. But what to do with it? I certainly couldn’t send it to Dr. Seuss. Besides the fact that I hadn’t the vaguest idea of what his address was…he might be intimidated.
But I had to write. Because in the writing of my Dr. Seuss parody, I had discovered the thrill of living in other worlds. Ones over which I had complete control, and – should there be any mistakes – I could merely relegate those pages to the trash bin as opposed to bearing the consequences in my own personal flesh. Yet, these worlds were as real to me as my own. Not only did I see them played out before my mind’s eye like a mental movie, they were all consuming: possessing the power to elevate my heartbeat, make me rack my brain for solutions, and introduce me to worlds forbidden to girls of my age. I spent many a late night that stretched into the waning hours of the morning, under my bedcovers with a flashlight, penning the latest chapter of a current work in progress…
My parents did not understand me.
They still thought I should be in bed by nine. Should never venture into a public place alone, and – some public places – not ever. Not at all. In comparison, my school activities became dull. During class-work times, or homework sessions, I would more often than not be working away at my latest novel. My grades – which had always been high – suffered. Suddenly, I could care less what teachers thought of me. I could care less what anyone thought of me. I was penning the next great American novel. And it was a masterpiece.
Then one day, while waiting for my mother to conclude her shopping at a local market, I was biding my time at a magazine stand. All at once, my eye fell on a copy of WRITER’S DIGEST, featuring that month an article on the elements of successful mystery fiction. I HAD TO HAVE THAT MAGAZINE. Looking back, I am not ashamed that I resorted to whatever it took to get it. I have a vague recollection that it was throwing a scene in a public place. At any rate, I came home with my mother wondering what in the world had come over me… and my first lessons in acquiring the skills of writing popular fiction. Within those same pages, I found something almost too good to believe. Writers’ Digest offered a fiction writing correspondence school. Anyone who qualified could attend. No age limit. The cost was several hundred dollars, but for the knowledge one could come away with, it was more than worth it. A mere pittance, actually.
Mother thought otherwise.
Is it any wonder the next few years were rebellious ones? No one understood me. Least of all this strange family I had been born into. They were so old-fashioned! My younger brother had more freedoms than me. Several years went by during which I felt all of my problems in life could have been solved if only I had been born a boy. Then I could physically fight my way out of any problems that confronted me. I could run away with half a chance that I could land a good enough job to support myself, no matter how old I was. Before I knew it, I was fourteen…
Devastated that I would never be the youngest published author.
Was there anything left for me in the world?
What’s happening on the farm today: One of the dogs is missing. It is the middle "mut" -- the one with issues – that the neighbor shot two bullets into his head last year for killing one of his wife’s little terriers. Which he deserved every bit of. But because he didn’t die, the neighborhood consensus was to treat it like a hanging gone awry: for some reason the criminal deserved to live. However, he has been progressively weird ever since. Over the last few days, he has taken to running away in terror whenever called. I figure it’s too late for a guilt complex, so someone else in the neighborhood must be after him for other crimes. Now we are on day six of the arctic freeze, and he did not come home with the other two after the usual romp at five in the morning. Probably all for the best considering his propensity for criminal behavior, except that the kids love him and would be crushed if he never came back, again.
Habit status: Day 7 round 2 (and a real digression in subject matter)