I'm currently visiting my family in the town where most of my childhood writing was produced, and this provided the opportunity to unearth some new old material. This work has been preserved for posterity in frames, because it had the distinction of being published in the town newspaper. I may have peaked at the age of 13, given that my acceptance rate has plummeted since then.
I'd actually forgotten how early my first publication was, because I didn't recall that The Craziest Rainbow appeared in the venerable Sudbury Town Crier on December 9, 1982, when I was 7. The illustration unfortunately wasn't printed in color, but you can see I made up for it by hand-decorating the frame. For photos of the original manuscript of this piece and my commentary, check out the first juvenilia post.
My real triumph came on February 23, 1989, when I had not one but two pieces of nonfiction published in the same renowned publication, which of course goes by the full name of Sudbury Town Crier and Fence Viewer. One of these essays is maybe even good, and the other is cringeworthy.
Let's start with the cringing. Here's my impassioned essay taking the controversial position of railing against intolerance:
Living In Harmony
"I have a dream..." These words fill my heart with tears. With the world in the state that it is today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream may never come true.
To me, his dream means that humankind will live together in harmony, regardless of race, creed, or color. Soldiers will put down their guns forever, and prejudice will be nothing but an unpleasant memory. The "drum major of peace" will lead the world, singing, to Paradise.
When Dr. King's dream comes true, young men will let a tired old woman stay at the front of the bus, no matter what color her skin is. Every part of the world will be a rainbow of black, brown, and white. Children will no longer be taught to hate each other. In fact, people will no longer be "black" or "white." They will be "people."
And when this dream comes true, the eternal flame at the foot of Dr. King's grave will shine with joy, and the world will sing of freedom.
This is what Martin Luther King's dream means to me.
I think I hit every bit of cliched rhetoric that has ever appeared in any middle school paper written in honor of MLK Day. I'm not sure what might have been happening in the world that led me to lament "the state that it is today" (though the way the essay is written, there's the weird implication I believed buses were still segregated), but I have bad news for you, Idealistic Young Lisa.
The other essay is the one I remembered seeing on the wall over the years and always kind of liking. I still think it's a decent descriptive work, and since this type of writing is not my strength, I'm not convinced I could do any better today:
Cracks of lightning split the dark sky. A bright flash from the sky's flashbulb lights up the earth. The air shakes with the thunder of a thousand hooves stampeding through the sky. Then all is dark. The only sound is the monotonous patter of rain falling to the ground.
I sit on the porch, taking this all in. The wet air squeezes through the screens and rubs up against my bare arms and legs. It is heavy with the smell of moisture. My whole body is alive with the electricity in the air.
Again and again the violent pattern repeats itself. First, the lightning breaks the sky like a dish. Then the air is ripped by the rolls of thunder. And last, the raindrops fall, like marbles of water hurtling to the earth.
And there I am, one humble person in the midst of these dueling elements. As I watch, listen, and feel, I am filled with awe and a little fear. Some say a storm shows the anger of the gods, but I know that it is Mother Nature displaying herself in all her splendor. For there is nothing grander than a summer storm!
I could probably find things to snark about in here, but I'll dispense with the critique this time so I can get back to visiting with my family.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ At the New Yorker, Ken Kalfus ponders whether, where, and how to purchase a book in A Book Buyer's Lament: "As I descend to the streets of the city where I live, I recall that many fine unread books remain on my overstocked shelves at home. I'm aware of them every hour of the day, even when I look up from the book I'm currently reading. They remind me of promises made to read them when they were bought; some of these promises are now decades old. My shelves also hold certain already-read volumes that deserve a careful, more mature rereading. I should turn back."