Before this year began, I decided the idiom of “hindsight is 20/20” was an appropriate chance to reflect on the writing I’ve done over the years. While I managed to collect over 200 pages of my written works from the last 20 years in my latest book, The Ascent of the Writer (available today!), my writing “career” started well before then.
I’ve never been one to throw away anything I’ve created. My basement has quite a few boxes and cardboard portfolios filled with all the visual art that I made throughout my elementary education. Among the pencil sketches and finger painting, I also managed to keep some of my earliest writings. These go back as far as 1992 when I was in the first grade.
Some of my earliest stories were written in 1992.
It’s quite a trip down memory lane reading some of these “stories” I wrote back then. I still remember the inspiration for some of them—some of which were just re-telling television episodes I had seen at the time. Others were inspired by common tropes I had already picked up on by the time I was seven.
What’s fun for me in revisiting these old stories is how I tried to make them as “official” as possible. Almost every one of them has a construction-paper cover (some even had a spiral binding). I even did the illustrations in all of them. My spelling wasn’t phenomenal back then, but I could still get my point across. Here are a few of the titles of these books…
- What I know about Indians (November 25, 1992)
- My Favorite Christmas Carols (December 1992)
- Kinds of Computers (February 2, 1993)
- Dear Daddy (February 5, 1993)
- Valentine (February 14, 1993)
- Chicken Big (March 5, 1993)
- My book about dinosaurs (April 5, 1993)
- All About dinosaurs (April 14, 1993)
- Ant Adventure (May 19, 1993)
- The African Idol (May 26, 1993)
- Horse Tooth (May 31, 1993)
- I like Robbie (June 11, 1993)
- I like Mrs. Disler (June 12, 1993)
- Triceratops! (date unknown)
- P.E. (date unknown)
- Back to the Future: Part III (date unknown)
- The 2 million spiders (date unknown)
- The 13 Days of my Diet (date unknown)
Some of these were writing assignments for school, but others I’m still waiting on the royalty checks (I’m looking at you, Back to the Future: Part III). What shocked me was one of the poems I wrote in this timeframe titled “Hurt No Living Thing.” I’ve typed it up and posted it here so you can see what I mean…
Hurt no living thing,
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping, cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat,
Nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.
I’m still surprised by what I’ve written.
Despite my prolific nature in first grade, the next “book” I wrote was five years later, in 1998. It was likely for a school project in fifth grade about book publishing. The cover was much more professional (it was cardboard and contact paper now), and the trim size was closer to the standard book size, along with all its text printed in Times New Roman font (instead of hand-written). I chose not to include this work in The Ascent of the Writer, even though it’s one of the best things ever written (plus, it didn’t fit neatly in the “20 years” retrospective I was going for with Ascent). Sure, the writing is what you’d expect from a 10-year old boy. Then again, Axe Cop seemed to get away with this, and I’m pretty sure most of the thrillers I’ve read aren’t much more profound than this story. So, for the first time, may I present, “It’s the Blue Wire, Right?”
[Written & Illustrated by Ben Weilert | Plutonium Publishing Company, Los Alamos, New Mexico, U.S.A., Copyright © 1998]
Dedication: To officers on bomb squads everywhere.
BOOM!!! Rick O’Shea cringes in pain as the pipe bomb goes off. Dazed, one of the bomb squad people comes out of the Sacramento Apartment building; the United States Bomb Removal Squad helps the recruit into the car when Rick gets a call from Chicago.
“We have a bomb on the 112th floor at the Sears Tower!” the desk clerk yells, “If someone does not do something, it will go off in 12 hours!” Rick groans as he puts the armored vehicle into gear and guides the squad to the nearest airport where they can get on a private United States jet to Chicago.
Rick is a General in the Bomb Removal Squad and has handled many situations like this. As a man of 27, Rick has gone through college and has received his Masters in Electronics. He uses his skills to defuse bombs and get into small places because he is thin.
As the plane takes off, Rick starts going through his procedure on how to diffuse the bomb.
First, he will have to drive to the Sears Tower. Then, he will get into the freight elevator and go to the 112th floor. He will find the bomb and diffuse it.
“We will be landing in Chicago in three minutes,” the pilot announces through the intercom.
Rick gets ready to land.
After driving from the airport to the Sears Tower, Rick talks to the manager to find out some vital information.
“The elevator is closed from here to the 56th floor,” the manager says.
“Don’t you have another way to get up there?” Rick asks in frustration.
“Well, we do have stairs, but that is ridiculous. No one in their right mind would go all the way to the 112th floor using stairs!” the manager states.
“I know,” Rick says over his shoulder as he dashes over toward the stairs.
A few hours later, Rick arrives at the 56th floor, panting. “Boy, 56 flights of stairs are longer than I thought.” Rick scans the room and quickly finds the elevator. As Rick is pressing the button, he thinks, Gosh, I hope this works. Suddenly, the doors hiss open, and Rick steps inside the elevator.
Besides the horrible elevator music (which sounds like a coyote trapped in quicksand), the ride is not half bad. Since the engineer hadn’t worked out all the bugs yet, the elevator stops on every floor. A 20-minute ride actually takes four hours and 59 minutes! (Now, being blown to smithereens sounds better than listening to that music).
Finally, Rick reaches the top. Since he only has one minute to diffuse the bomb, he scans the room then starts searching through files until he comes to the vending machine. Right where the Warheads candy is supposed to be, he finds a real warhead. Rick shoves his hand in his pocket and finally finds $1.20 and shoves it in the machine. After pressing C-5, he looks at the digital display and sees 00:00:10. He runs over to the somehow opened window and throws the bomb out onto an alien spaceship we’re not supposed to talk about.
After sliding down the railing (because Rick had enough insane music for one day), he finally reached the bottom to find the President of the United States ready to greet him.
Later, Rick gets in a car and drives down the parade route. Arriving at B.R.S. headquarters, his cell phone rings, and a voice comes in, “So you foiled my plan, Rick, is it? Well, this time you won’t get a second chance. There is a bomb on the 105th floor of the Empire State Building. Bwa! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“Here we go again,” Rick sighs as he walks into the building.
Rick then decided to see how many stories in the Empire State Building and finds out it only has 102 floors. Rick decides it must be just some freak caller, but he can never be sure. So he goes off on yet another zany adventure.
The one note about this story is that the “About the Author” section starts the same way it does today (born in Colorado in 1985), but there’s a line that says, “He is still living today.” As if only dead people could write published books.
Going back over everything I’ve ever written, I start to wonder where the love of storytelling came from. Maybe it was my paternal grandfather who would tell his grandchildren stories (like the one about a boy who got trapped in a cave because he liked eating too much gum). Maybe it was all the books my parents read me when I was a child. I know for sure that Pano the Train has left them scarred by how many times I requested they read it to me.
Regardless of the source, I know there was a time when I hated writing. It was a chore relegated to schoolwork and was constantly graded. Luckily, I eventually found myself writing for fun again after I graduated high school. In the years since, I’ve written poems, short stories, and novels. I like to think that my daughter will tell me her own stories someday, and I certainly want to encourage her to do so when that happens.
How about you? When did you start writing?
When did you stop writing?
What was the first thing you ever wrote?