>Relics of the Past

>Saturday I dug into my closet looking for something, and ended up overhauling the whole thing. Put together a big bag of clothes to go to the Goodwill, and managed to reduce my collection of hoarded shit from four boxes to two (but doubled what will go out on the street for garbage pickup this week)(and if I could bring myself to toss my old D&D stuff I could reduce the hoard another 50%)(still, not bad for a guy of my advancing years). While going through all of it, I found this little book:

This is a little journal I received as the “Reading Award” when I graduated from the 8th grade back in . . . 1981, I guess; Frenchtown Elementary was the school, in Frenchtown, MT. The inscription inside is from my teacher, Mrs. Parker. She was also my 3rd grade teacher, but then moved up to be a junior high teacher instead, so I had her again. It was a small school — my high school class of 1985 graduated a whopping 50 students. Here’s the inscription:

In case you can’t really see it (clicking on the image to make it larger should do the trick), it says:

To Chris —

This is a little something to help you on your way to writing your first “fantasy” novel. I have enjoyed having you as a student.

Best wishes always,
Mrs. Parker

And it did! The first few pages are filled with notes I took while interviewing a wildlife biologist about wolves in about ’92 or ’93. I submitted the article to Bugle, the magazine of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. It didn’t see publication (I’m sure it sucked). Then a few pages are devoted to the first novel I ever wrote, back in ’93 or ’94, which was a fantasy novel. Perusing the notes, I could vaguely recall some of it, but it was still amusing to look at them. I toiled away on that thing, writing on an old computer that used two of the big floppy drives — it didn’t have a hard drive, if I recall — for a couple months and completed the first draft. I also used a little Brother word processor my folks had given me.

That novel, which was no doubt a piece of shit, does not survive to this day. It died the death of the un-backed-up when an old PC I had crashed. I wrote a second novel shortly after that one, collaborating with a friend, which is also a fantasy. I still have that one. It probably sucks too. I’ll need to take it out and look at it. I remember we were writing it in hopes of getting it published as part of TSR‘s (RIP) line of Forgotten Realms books. They weren’t interested, but some years later I received a letter from them (or Wizards of the Coast at that point, actually) asking me to submit a proposal for another Realms book. I sent my proposal but was denied. I was disappointed, but I don’t think they ever published the book they were after — it was to have a pretty specific theme, and they never did one that I know of along those lines. So maybe they just decided it wasn’t such a great idea. I had a sense they were trying to nick the theme from Jacqueline Carey‘s Kushiel’s Legacy books.

Then I didn’t write for a long time afterward. I have notes for novel ideas going back into the late 90s, but it’s only been the last year or so that I started writing again with any seriousness. I started writing for New West and the Independent — neither of which I’m doing anything for now — a couple years ago, but didn’t dive back into fiction until just under a year ago. It feels good to be doing it again.

As for Mrs. Parker, she is one of those teachers that had an impact on me that I still remember fondly. She urged my parents to get me the original Dune Trilogy for Christmas one year, and that is a series that would be my desert island choice for sci-fi, without question. Beyond that she really pushed me, and wasn’t one of those teachers that looked down her nose at the choices I was making for what I wanted to read. That’s pretty important for young readers, I think.

Earlier this year I learned that a guy I play soccer with is actually a teacher out at Frenchtown Elementary. Turns out Mrs. Parker is still there. I think I might have to look her up. . . .

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