Saturday, June 7, 2008

The backstory

Growing up, I was shy, gawky (see photo), and unathletic. When people ask, I tell them I was an "indoor child." It's not like I never went outdoors, but I preferred activities with a PLOTLINE. (Playing outside? Yeah, sure. Playing that we live in Japan outside? Totally! Playing that we are blind orphans stranded in the woods outside? Hells yes!!!) If you gave me a few books, a pen and paper, maybe some markers, I was set for DAYS.

In second grade, I read my first "chapter book" (it was The Valentine Star in the Polk Street School series—ah, Emily and Beast), and there was no going back. I was a bookworm. Actually, I was more than a bookworm: I was a BOOK COBRA. I swallowed books whole. And it was only a matter of time before I was churning out my own. I started with picture books. Early storylines included arguments between owls and skunks, families getting lost in the woods, and the sex lives of our pet rabbits (who it turned out were NOT both female). In a particularly inspired third grade work, a girl nearly meets a tragic end during a family picnic by the river—but is saved by a pair of do-gooder dolphins just seconds before her inflatable boat goes over the falls! (I soon discovered that dolphins do not actually live in rivers.)

Partway through third grade, I decided to cut the crap and start writing my own novels, with much more mature plotlines, mainly revolving around the timeless themes of friendship and boys. Not necessarily in that order. And "start" is really the operative word, because most of them aren't finished. (A couple have endings, but they are... weird. You'll see.) But beginnings? There are a METRIC TON of those. Being a pack rat, of course I still had them all in storage at my parents' house, most of them in neatly labeled manila folders (because I was freaky organized even as a kid). But putting them on the Internet hadn't really crossed my mind (uh, why would it?) until I discovered the twin inspirations of Mortified and blogs recapping young adult books from my youth. Sleep deprivation may have also been involved. A few months later, I visited Cleveland and hauled half my childhood back with me: the aforementioned manila folders (but also a few with puppies and heart-shaped balloons on them, naturally), school journals, diaries, and assorted other goodies. The thing about the suitcase-full? Not hyperbole.

One of the folders, helpfully labeled "Book Information," contains pretty much marketing material. For my unpublished books. Written when I was, like, 12. It includes a list of book titles that is three pages long. Some of them we'll get to, but there's a large portion for which I NEVER WROTE A WORD. Yeah, I just liked coming up with titles. Here's a sampling (asterisk = we'll actually get to read part of it!):

Quintuple Trouble*
We Can Live Without Boys...Can't We?*
Syra Cuse*
Another Way Of Putting It
My Diary*
Mr. Magic
Who Needs Another Mother?*
The Sabrina Story*
Bonnie's Zoo*
The New, Improved Tiffany
Running Away*
Being Me
Cynthia, The One Who Hates The World*

Take-Out Order*
Living With Princesses
No Way To Spend A Summer*
More Quintuple Trouble
(That's right, I was planning SEQUELS to unfinished books)
I Love Boys
It Takes Guts To Be A Girl
Super-Girl Flies Again
Jealousy Is My Best Quality
Gossip Central*
Kayla Takes Over
Ghost Girl
Always And Forever, Cabin 5*
All Of Us*
Baby Ducks Are Ducklings
(You guys, I have no idea...)
Life After Death
Silvie, Open The Door
In The History Of The World*
Miracles Do Happen
One Of The Best Friends You Ever Had
If The Shoe Fits, Wear It
Don't Be Yourself*
The Human Giraffe
Winter In Wonderland
The Good Witch Of Boston
(Please note: I had never been to Boston)
Forever & Friends
B-O-Y-S Spells Trouble
100 Ways To Get Even
That's Why There Are Friends
Ginger, Bubbles, Frieda, And The Styrofoam Witch
(I truly wish this one had a folder)

Are there others not included in this list? You better believe it.

So here's my plan: I'm going to work in a semi-chronological fashion, because that's just how I operate. I don't know exact dates, but because I'm usually the same age as the protagonist, we can go by grade level, starting in third (1986–1987; initially, 30 will be the new 9) and eventually working our way up to eighth (1991–1992). I promise you, there will be bad fashion and references to Chad Allen. I'm going to publish each story in its, uh, "entirety" (complete with spelling errors and possibly offensive content)... all the while making fun of it. I'll discuss anything that I remember as being an influence: other books, TV shows, or (way less likely) actual events. There are several acts of plagiarism I can recall, and probably more that I can't, but I'll fess up to those I remember.

Also, a lot of the folders contain extra stuff: drawings of the characters, so you don't have to waste your time trying to picture them in your head; things written and/or drawn by the characters (I was a method writer, apparently); ill-conceived floor plans of their houses; etc. I'm also going to sprinkle in various other writings: school journals (fourth grade's is a comedy goldmine), personal diaries, book reports, scripts for radio (read: tape recorder) programs, and more. It's going to be fun. And embarrassing. Extremely embarrassing.

NEXT TIME: My first attempt at chapter-booking (and at naming a book after a popular song), That's What Friends Are For, featuring Liz Craw, the coolest (and least modest) girl in the third grade.


Miss Banshee said...

I freaking love you so much. I cannot WAIT for this. And also? So bummed I do not have MY manilla envelopes full of disturbing pre-adolescent fiction anymore.

Sada said...

That truly is a shame, because I'm hoping to have guest authors at some point.

Genie said...

the sex lives of our rabbits!? you BETTER tell me more about that (not necessarily the whole world, though...)

Miss Banshee said...

well, none of mine were as good as, say, Jeff Ament fanfiction, but they were pretty damn stellar, if I do say so myself.

Steve said...

freakin awesome!

Jamie said...

fuck yeah, dude, fuck yeah!

Camila said...

Sada, this is great! Please don't stop writing. EVER!

Can't wait to read the next entry.

(I found a typo in my previous comment. Thank GOD I caught it. Yes, I've become completely neurotic since freshman year of college. Go figure...!)

Linley said...

This makes me want to hunt down my third-grade masterpiece, "My Dilemmas As a Babysitter." Perhaps you'll have to set up a sister blog on which your fans may post their childhood writings. Heh.

carey said...

ok, i am so, so happy to have found this blog.

Desiree said...

Amazing! This all sounds so awesomely, embarrassingly familiar. I definitely attempted to write "chapter books" - but concentrated more on the character drawings and of course, their individual handwriting styles. Think BSC super specials. Also tragic plays that read more like Lurlene McDaniel stories. Plus probably a bunch of other shit I don't even remember...Luckily, I still have all of this and you've inspired to run home after work and dork out. Let me know if you ever do the guestblogger thing...I know the Dance Club #1: The Secret Joke is ripe for criticism.

Sada said...

I was also into crafting each character's handwriting! (I think that started around fifth grade...) It was clearly much more important than, say, plot. And I am definitely going to have guest authors—I've promised my sister she can be the first—so keep the Dance Club #1 handy!

Anonymous said...

This sounds amazing. I can't wait to read more. I wish I had saved all of my old stories!

KT said...

This is absolutely awesome! I say that as someone who recently rediscovered a whole binder from 5th grade, full of different stories etc about a girl my friend and I didn't like. Total mortification!

james said...

Um, I think that family must have been picnicking in the Amazon, because there are such things as river dolphins (and they're known for their do-goodery)! Some are even pink!

Anonymous said...

OMG you remind me of ME! I wrote a tone of stuff when I was a kid and I still have them for memories. Most of them are not finished . . . some are (sort of). You should definitely create a sister site or something for other bloggers to post their stuff. I just graduated high school last year though, does that mean I shouldn't be apart of this?

Sada said...

Embarrassing childhood writing is timeless. I will not be enforcing age constraints. If you have anything you want to share, definitely e-mail me! Or check out this post first.

Anonymous said...

Book Information. Awesome.

- Kristin

Keller's little sister said...

You truly are the coolest. I love all of it...

Deathycat said...

Wow. I'm not alone. Stuff written and drawn by the characters, drawings, characters handwriting, and floor plans. I can't believe someone else made floor plans. I also did Horoscope readings for all my main characters and made their family trees dating back to the 17th century. And I drew my covers. Unfortunately, most of those are lost. You are awesome. ^_^

martha grover said...


Kelly L said...

OH MY GOD. This is awesome. Also: you had like the exact same childhood as me. I no longer feel like a socially-impaired freak! My mother will be pleased.

Kelly L said...

And by socially-impaired freak, I meant being the kid who stayed inside and drew and wrote "books". That's, um, the childhood you had too, right? RIGHT?

kevin christy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Small-Town American Girl said...

Love it! I just started a related blog, with 1980s writings. To follow james: There are river dolphins in SE Asia, too.