Hem. I couldn't sleep, so I ended up digging out the box that my loving family put all my desk papers in when they lovingly kicked me out of my room (after I left for school) to make room for the white man, er, my brother.
These are mostly papers from my junior year of high school and earlier, back when a large amount (or most of) my writing was, at least for first drafts, done by hand in notebooks or on loose pieces of paper. I have separated the papers into piles of Sentimental Hogwash (conference notes of various kinds, signatures, mementos--things I want to keep but only for the memories), Entertainment (stuff that's bad at this point but also entertaining), First Drafts (of works of wildly varying value), and a small pile of things I might actually use or refer back to.
The earliest thing I can find here is a printed copy of the journal I kept for a computer applications class I took at the local middle school in the year 2000. The longest entry is six simple sentences, most entries shorter than that, but they brought back memories I would probably never have revisited otherwise.
I found what are sort of the three touchstones of my "early" career, by which I mean the time when I was thirteen and started writing regularly (and this without conscious decision, really, I just started doing it). The first is a play I wrote, involving a disastrous mixer recall. The second a short story that took me from 2002 to 2004 to finish; it is about a small town in Iowa in which is represented every religion, sect, and cult in the world. Strangely enough, the story itself was not about this aspect, but about several other equally strange things. The third is The Passing of the Anars, the novel that came out of my attempt at creating a Tolkien-esque fantasy world, which I worked on from 2002 to 2005. I was looking through it; it's awful, but the notebook containing it has a really kick-ass cover (thanks to the artistic talent of a friend of mine, whose drawing ability far outshone my writing). Actually, the plot I had outlined (I abandoned it a quarter of the way through) is still, I think, fairly good if it could be written well; it's symbolic on several levels, and... y'know, stuff.
Actually, adding to these early touchstones, I found a Composition Book filled with radio scripts I started writing at age twelve.
I found the first draft of The Fall of the Kingdom, the short story I sent to Merlyn's Pen (a student writing magazine that published one percent or so of its submissions) that Merlyn's Pen told me they would totally have published--had they not just gone bankrupt.
I found the story I wrote from the perspective of Grumpy the Dwarf, a character with whom I have always sympathized.
I found a lot of cryptic notes and messages to myself, which I can only assume made sense at one point. For example, an entire sheet of blank white paper devoted to the question: What happens to Gon? On the other hand, I encountered some notes I took with the thought of writing an alternate history, and only realized after reading them that not everybody would see the phrase "cheese-eaters" and immediately know it meant "French."
In view of recent discussion regarding opening lines, I would like to reproduce two I found written on the same sheet of paper, during what I can only imagine was a trying time for me:
Small animals crawling over the walls is never a good thing. But drunken shirtless frat boys with baseball bats trying to kill them is actually worse. And this, I knew from long experience of my sister's parties, was the high point of the evening, the point from which things only got worse.
Bad enough. But, printed as though it's the very next paragraph though apparently it isn't, is this:
When Ella sat down at the table, her hair was waving and her cheeks that dark red color that it used to be only I could make them. But that was back before I decided to be gay, and before she decided to sleep with the boss.
Eep! I have a feeling that if my sixteen-year-old self had known these would see the light of day, he would be very embarrassed.
As a general note, it seems the general arc of my early writing (with the exception of the attempts at Tolkien-ism) has been to de-Twain-ify. My early pieces smack of attempted Twain, while as they progress they become more modern and only throw in phrases like "discommode" or "cogitate" once in a while, for effect.
Also, as a further general note, I now distrust my ability to edit my own poetry. I found several first drafts of poems I had edited and posted various places, and about three quarters of the time found I liked the non-edited versions better.
On that note, I'll end by throwing a couple newly re-discovered poems up here, as they will serve as much purpose here as they will once they're back in my box of papers. These were written before I thought I could write poetry. They are unedited.
The water on the shoreline takes me back to the land where my allegiance lies
The water on the shoreline takes me back to the time when we were young
The water on the shoreline takes me back to the dry country
To the place we used to play in the time before you cried...
Spiral of years
Spiral of tears
A much-maligned cacophany
Of wishes, hopes, and fears
What's it all mean, then?
Was there a plan, then?
Or did you pick me up to let me drop?
All my doubts and
Wash over in a
Flood of resentment
I've not enough faith to pass
I've not enough faith to last
I shall surely fall by the way-side
I nailed Him to a tree
Whose only crime was
Surely I am the basest of
Thought, word, and deed
I've naught left but to plead
And hope His grace will cover me
Christ came to me and said,
"Fear not my son,
The battle's already fought and won..."
He took me to the River
Dunked my head
"Fear not my son you're
No more dead..."
In the middle of my night He came to me
Proclaimed his victory on the Tree
Robed me all in white
Bathed me in water
Fed me with bread