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Tag Archives: young writers

My First Chapter Book and Some Randomly Related Thoughts

As the self-published author of Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages, I’ve written a chapter book, which is obviously an accomplishment I’m excited about.  However, when recently looking through my “box of old stuff” (most of you know what I’m talking about- old school work and creations from your past), I found the original chapter book I wrote.

It happened in second grade.  Most of the other kids in my class were terrified of the idea of writing a book, but other than the part where we also had to do our own illustrations, I was stoked!  Yes, I loved writing at least as far back as second grade.  Drawing was something I enjoyed, but I knew I was not talented in that art medium- not like the kid Jesse in my class who drew the most amazing landscapes with depth of field you ever saw by a second-grader.  But even then I was sure my writing abilities made up for my drawing inadequacies.


The assignment: Write an illustrated chapter story beginning with, “Lucky me! I was chosen to take the first trip to the planet Cats-A-Lot.”  I threw in weird aliens, a flying cat, and chocolate covered pills for space travel.  Looking back now, I see I could have used an editor, but I was six or seven, so I’m going to let that go now.

green kangaroo

As a YA writer, I also get questions about what kind of books I liked reading when I was a kid.  The first chapter book I read was Judy Blume’s The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and I think I was in third or fourth grade when I read it.  I’m also fairly certain I related to that book even if I wasn’t in the middle.  I remember feeling so mature and accomplished when I told my friends which chapter I was reading.  It was a book picked out of one of those Scholastic book papers we got back in elementary school, the ones where you could also get a free poster of some kind of cute little kitten or puppy if you ordered a certain amount.  I had those hanging all over my walls and doors.

fifth grade

From there I moved on to Cleary’s Ramona books, DeClements’ Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade, and then Pascal’s many Sweet Valley Twins books. I also had many hand-me-down books from my older sisters.  I always had a book in progress.  If I was home sick, I read a book.  If I had a bad day, I read a book.  If I had a good day, I read a book.  I couldn’t get enough; I constantly had to get my fix.  They were like drugs for my developing mind, only they grew my brain cells instead of killing them.  Now, more than anything, I want to see my book and future books as being a part of the readers’ memories when they look back and realize how they connected to my beloved Drew.

Ready to Break Some Rules?

My students would laugh at this following tidbit of a story, or shake their fists at me in anger.  I always tell them not to begin their essays with onomatopoeia.  Seriously, it tends to feel quite juvenile and often they cannot make it flow into their writing.  It might read something like this: “Boom.  That’s the sound the locker made when they boy slammed it shut in the hallway yesterday.”  Agh! It makes me want to pull out my eyelashes one at a time, and it reminds me of Ben Stein’s character on The Wonder Years and in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Then I found an old bit of something I wrote back when I was their age (tenth grade).  I do not teach creative writing though, just academic writing, so there is a difference.  It’s not quite a masterpiece; however, I always was fond of this:

The Gate by Terree Klaes (That’s how I used to spell my name- you know, for create purposes)

Bong! Bong! Bong!  Three a.m.  “Where is he?” I kept thinking to myself.  It was cold out and my whole face was getting numb.  I hated meeting him in the park so early in the morning.  Why couldn’t I just send him the money?

He had said a quarter to three.  I remembered because he had called me at work.  That was something he had never done before.

Once every month I would meet him by the entrance of the park, across from the clock tower.  Never before had he been late.

I always felt like criminal, standing by the gate with a big brown envelope tucked in my trench coat.  What I had done was nothing compared to what I felt like doing to him.  Many times I had imagined him coming to the park for his money.  I would pull out a gun and shoot him in the chest. Finally, I would be through with him.  But I couldn’t take a chance on something like that.  That could just get me into more trouble.

Why he insisted on torturing me, I couldn’t figure out, besides greed.  I had paid back every cent of the money I took.  The way I looked at the situation, it was over.

A shadow was coming up the sidewalk.  At this hour, it had to be him.  The figure walked past.  An elderly woman.

Now he was a half hour late.  Should I leave?  I didn’t know.  If I did, and he showed up, he could ruin me.  But what if he just wasn’t coming?  Then I would be at the park all night.

I had decided to leave the envelope with the money by the gate.  If he showed up, he would find it.  If not, it would be a nice gift for someone else.  Just as I was about to set the envelope down, I heard footsteps.  It was him.  Finally.

We got into an argument about the price I should be paying.  I was furious.  I opened my purse, puled out a gun, and shot him in the chest. Then I ran as fast as I could with the money still in my trench coat.

Nobody ever found out who killed him.  No one had any idea.

I was just thinking about how I also broke the rule I teach my students about not writing too many short, choppy sentences, and yet I had done it to create a feeling of impatience and frustration.  I guess I like to apply the idea of, “you have to know the rules first before you can properly break them.”  Not that this little story is perfect; I was only 14 or 15 when I wrote it.  I’ve been trying to figure out if I should try to do anything else with it or just let it rest in peace.