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We All Have to Start Somewhere

One of the goals that I am trying to accomplish with my blog here is to show that writing is a process. It takes time and effort to get from a first draft to a published piece of work. The amazing things we’ve read over the years weren’t amazing when they started out.

This is important to me because so many people out there, including myself, put off writing because they want their piece to be perfect and they don’t know how to achieve it. They never get anything written because of that fear of being less than perfect. That fear can ruin writing for people and it sucks. That is why I constantly mention how writing takes time and hard work. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, and I haven’t even been writing this blog that long yet.

This desire for instantaneous perfection is also why I am constantly uploading my weekly writing prompts. I know my creations for Writing Wednesdays aren’t perfect, but they were fun to create and many of them were exciting enough for me that I’ve added them to my list of projects with the intent of improving them in the future. Case and point being the Melody and Brigida stories.

I figure another way to help show how writing can be improved over time, I could share some of my earliest known works, no matter how embarrassing for me. While going through some old files, I recently discovered printed and graded copies of the first stories I remember writing. I figured I could share one of them as is with the teacher’s comments just to show where I started out in the sixth grade.

Without further ado, word for word with comments from the teacher in bold brackets, I present a story from my 11-year-old mind:

The Disappearing Chickens

Hello and welcome to Acton where the hills are brown and have little green on them. My name is Tyler. Oh, you need to now what today’s date is. It’s October 11, 2004. [Why do we care now what happened a year ago?] You now what, a year ago three of my chickens disappeared. Their names are Adam, Angel and April. It all started on a Saturday evening when my sister Jenny and I went down to round up the chickens into the coop for the night. The next morning Adam was gone! Nothing happened to the chickens during the week. On the following Saturday when Jenny and I went to check on the chickens (since we were gone all day) Angel was gone! That was the last straw for me. So a week later I camped out down at the chicken coop because they kept disappearing on a Saturday.

In the middle of the night there was a strange windstorm and I heard a thud and then the wind changed and I heard another thud when the wind died down. I went to check on the chickens and when I looked into the chicken coop April was gone! At that moment, I started to look for foot prints but the wind had blown them away. So the next morning my dog, Yogi, and I started to look for clues. I found a hole the size of a chicken in our chain link fence in the back of our property [Wouldn’t there be a person sized hole? Or wouldn’t the person carry the chicken over the fence?]. So I climbed the fence and found human footprints and they led to our neighbor’s property. That night I went to spy on our neighbors when I got there I heard our neighbors talking.

First came a younger voice, “Father the hole in the fence worked like a charm,”

Then an older voice, “Good work son, you’ll be a pro in no time.”

The younger voice replied, “Thank you Father.”

I swore I heard Adam and April. [Hmm…] The next day, I told my mom what I thought was going on but we did not think about calling the police because we weren’t going to jump to conclusions. Later that night, my family went to the restaurant La Cabaña, but I stayed home.

When all of a sudden I heard a strange sound and I thought to myself “what’s that noise?”

Yogi and I went to check out the noise when all of a sudden it stopped. I saw a dark figure run away so I watched it go to our neighbor’s yard. After it was out of sight I climbed the fence and followed the foot prints to the exact spot where the figure disappeared and looked around. A twig snap behind me. Since Yogi wasn’t with me I knew the noise wasn’t from him. I turned around and saw a dark figure behind me. When I went to run he grabbed me and asked me what I was doing and I told him I was wondering the same thing.

He replied, “I was fixing a hole in the fence.”

Then I responded, “Oh, the one you put in the fence?,”

Then he answered, “What do you mean by that. I would never do a thing like that.”

I asked. “Then how come I heard you and your dad talking about how the hole was such a huge success?”

The boy said “We just got home this morning,”

“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just that three of our chickens have disappeared so I’ve been trying to find them and now I’m one less step closer to finding them,” I said. [I’m not sure you’re suspicious enough.]

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Well good luck finding them,” he offered.

“Thanks,” I replied.

The next day, my cousins Seth and Kenny came up to visit. That’s when I told them what was going on. All that morning we were searching for clues but found nothing. So we came back inside for lunch. After lunch Jenny wanted to go on a hike to Manzanita Canyon. When we were at the giant juniper we heard someone talking.

“The kid has figured out that those people didn’t take his chickens but he’ll never know that we, the Chicken Bandits, took his chickens,” said a young voice.

Then an older voice replied, “Once again, son, you have made me proud of you.” [Or are these 2 people not the father & son, but a different father and son?]

After that we snuck away from there and ran home. When we got there, we went straight to the internet to find out who the Chicken Bandits were. The web page we found told us this.

“The Chicken Bandits have stolen chickens for ten years. These bandits are very smart for they have never been seen, heard or caught by the police. The reward for their capture is now at $15,000,000.”

That’s all it said and after that we arranged for Seth, Kenny, Claire and James, my other cousins, to spend the night in a tent on the very back of our property. That night, we woke up at 12:00 and went down to the giant juniper. When we got there we heard foot steps coming down the hill. Then a flash light turned on and we ducked down and heard them start to talk.

The younger voice announced, “Father, I will now leave to get the bigger golden hen.”

The older voice responded, “Hurry back son. We leave in 10 minutes whether you’re here or not.” That was James’s cue to start whistling since he can make bird sounds. When the bandits heard this they spooked and searched franticaly for where it was coming from. When they did this, I ran up the hill and listened for the sound of chickens. I heard them, but it sounded like they were right under me. Then it hit me they were hidden under some wood. I could remember seeing them bring some wood here a week before the first disappearance so I felt around on the ground and found a lever. I pulled it and the ground in front of me fell. I crawled and dropped down in to the hole. I tripped over some sleeping bags and fell to the floor. When I fell I turned the switch on and saw the 3 chickens. I went and turned the switch off and climbed out of the hole.

Then I shouted to the bandits, “Hey losers!”

James stopped whistling and I started to talk again. “You looking for me? Oh, and don’t worry about the chickens. They’ll be safe at home with me and my sister”

The older voice yelled back, “Do you really think you can just walk away with our chickens?”

I remarked, “Correction. They’re my chickens and, no, I don’t suspect to just leave without a fight.”

He replied, “Oh, yeah! You and what army?”

Seth shouted, “Him and this army!”

The bandits turned around just to see Seth, Kenny, Jenny and Claire charging at them while James was jumping out of the tree at them. As for me, I used my mom’s cell phone to call the police and used some of the fireworks to let them know were we where. After that I jumped down some with rope to help my cousins and sister wrap things up. A couple minutes later the police arrived and took the bandits away, gave us the reward and took us home. When we arrived Mom and Dad came running out and told us they heard the fireworks and went to wake us up to see what was going on. But when they didn’t see us in the tent they were so worried that Mom almost fainted. I told her that we caught all of the thieves. That night was one of the happiest nights of our lives. If you’re wondering what happened to the chicken bandits, well they went to court and ended up telling the court the whole story.

The older thieve started, “First we went in the middle of the night to where they kept the chickens and nabbed the white rooster. Then a week later when we checked out the house nobody was home so we stole the little golden hen.”

The younger thieve continued, “Then in five days they were not home so we made a hole in the fence the size of a chicken. Two days later on the night he camped out we got our giant portable fans and put one on each side of the chicken house. We turned my dad’s fan first to blow the door in the back down which startled the black hen out. We turned his fan off and my fan on to shut the door and that’s how we did it.”

The judge spoke, “I hereby sentence you to 20 years in prison.”

The dad answered, “But your honor…”

That is all the judge told me. Well, that is how it happened and I’m glad it ended the way it did.

[Very detailed & suspenseful story! I especially liked your use of dialogue. There were a couple of places I was confused or wanted more info. One) Why tell a story a year old? 2) What about all of the other chickens the bandits stole? 3) Did you get the reward $ for catching them? It seemed like a main part of the story but then it wasn’t mentioned again. I really liked this – the detective work and false leads made me want to keep reading.]

My Thoughts on the Story.

Oh boy… that sure was something. Rewriting it for the blog has been a bit embarrassing and cringe-inducing. I have to keep reminding myself that I was only 11 when I wrote this. This a pretty important part of my history as a writer. It is one of the earliest pieces I ever wrote and can remember.

There are the obvious typos and grammatical errors that are common for young writers. Then there is the lack of detail. A lot of that I feel falls under that easy mistake of, I the writer knew what I was talking about and didn’t feel the need to explain it further. I mention several places but never give any reference to where they are in relation to one another or even bother describing them.

Lastly, there is the simple kid logic used, which is especially prominent in the finale. I mean, setting off fireworks to get police attention? In that area, that is a sure-fire way to cause a wildfire and cause millions, if not billions, in damages. I’m pretty sure I stole that idea from Home Alone 2. Then there is the bandits’ scheme and how goofy that is. Why steal the chickens in the first place, and why take three weeks to do so? Don’t even get me started on the absurdity of the fans and how that is somehow easier than just grabbing the chickens. And I thought the sequel to this was out there.

Yes, there is a sequel….

No, I’m not sharing it. Yet.

Despite the embarrassment that this story causes, it still holds a place in my heart. Even though I doubt it actually is, I view this as my first story and haven’t forgotten about it after all of these years. I was so excited to find this when packing for the move.

I still think this is a cute story, and with some proper reworking, a lot of editing, and adding of content, it could be made into a kid’s chapter book like The Boxcar Children. I may do that someday, if I can ever get over the embarrassment.

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