This morning I counted the number of times I have been published. Not every writer can do that but I have the advantage of being able to count my published pieces on my hands. I can recall having published a poem, one short story, and eight non-fiction pieces. I have also had several letters to the editor published. Some people may not count these but they did require some serious thought and a considerable amount of skill to conserve my words.
The first thing I had published was in my own publication back when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I called it The Neighborhood News. It was actually two pages of gossip about my family that I spread around the neighborhood.
I used a mimeograph machine that my grandfather had picked up in an alley. I would write by hand on a long stencil that I then attached to a round drum that had little holes in it. Then I poured ink into the drum. As I cranked the handle, the drum rotated and the ink leaked through the holes created by my pen. Thus my words and pictures miraculously appeared on the paper that was fed through the machine. After the ink dried, I stapled the pages together and dropped them on my neighbors’ doorsteps.
Once I received a piece sent to me in the mail by someone called “anonymous”. It said: “I recently saw a fire hydrant squirting a dog.” Of course, I published it. I drew a picture of a dog to go with it.
In the second edition of the paper, I wrote an article about my cousin, Sally, who was two years older than I. I reported that she had to be taken to the emergency room because she used a tampon and couldn’t get it out. I didn’t know what a tampon was, but I thought someone going to the emergency room was newsworthy. Sally was mad. My parents took away my publishing rights.
I still have the paper in my momento box in my basement. It is a reminder of what I could have become if my parents had only been more supportive.