I credit Notre Dame Children’s Class, a Montessori school on the North Shore of Boston, with giving me all of my opportunities to begin my work as a writer at just barely seven years old. I can also credit them with providing the journals in which all of my early writing work remains. In the last days of my twenties, I unearthed these journals, kept from kindergarten through second grade. The majority of the material in my early work was written in 1989, and I would be lying if I said that I don’t take a great deal of pride in having begun my own writing career the same year that Madonna released her Like A Prayer album.
One year prior, while Madonna was writing songs with Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray for Like A Prayer, I was telling stories that were being transcribed by teachers and teachers' assistants into my first journal. Many of the journal entries from this time involved pictures that we were assigned to draw followed by short compositions that we dictated to a teacher or TA who then wrote down our “stories”. Sometimes they were poems, including haikus, or answers to hypothetical questions that were presented in pictures and stories. None of my transcribed work was mind-blowing, but the ones I’m most fond of are relatively clever and witty—at least for a first grader. I did very little “writing” that Fall, but I did do lots of storytelling. My words, as written by others, were clearly, hilariously, in the same voice that I have been writing in ever since.
Below are my favorite transcriptions from what I consider the first year of my artistic career: 1988.
September 30th, 1988
(Note: I JUST learned this was written the same day that Elvira: Mistress of the Dark opened in theaters nationwide!)
“Fall gives me
The feeling that Halloween is going to be
The night of horror,
The feeling that there are going to be
Ghosts like deadly demons,
October 17th, 1988
"Once there was a bunch of kittens who went to have a Halloween party in the graveyard. They got dressed up and decorated but, while they were having a Halloween party, a mean old witch came. She saw them from way way up high. She wanted to turn them all into one cat to fly on the broom with her. Then the cats went up to her and said, “We will have a Halloween war. If you win, you can turn us all into one cat. If we win, then we can have all your magic powers.” Then the cats won, and took all her powers and turned her into a stone tombstone. And the cats went on with their Halloween party."
October 28th, 1988
"Freddy Kruger (sic)
Scratching for blood, scaring people, tasting blood
Stabbing with his fingers
November 7th, 1988
"Once a little boy named Jason got a pop-up book. It was all about birds. He saw a red-winged black bird in the book. It was standing on a hill. He then imagined that it was not in a pop-up book, but it was real. Then he imagined that it flew right out of the book. It flew all over the house. Jason tried to catch it, but it flew out the window. The boy couldn’t believe his eyes. Then he saw a feather on the floor. Nobody knows why he saw a feather on the floor. It was a giant mystery. Nobody knows what happened. It could have been a real bird."
November 14th, 1988
"I am thankful for the taste of turkey, not raw but delicious;
The sound of birds in the Audobon Sanctuary in the afternoon;
The feel of cotton balls;
The smell of my mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies;
The sight of humming birds because they hum with their wings softly and gracefully."
November 17th, 1988
(This appeared on the opposite page from a watercolor I made of a rainbow in the shape of the sun....the drawing is nowhere near as funny as this is.)
Beautiful! Gorgeous! Marvelous! Totally fabulous! Thrilling!
Colors of red, orange, green, and blue.
Shines in the sun. Sparkles too!
Like a colorful, beautiful bird.
Most animals think that it is just gorgeous.
I think it’s marvelous!"
December 1st, 1988
(On the opposite page were four magic marker drawings, visual answers to "When I'm..." questions that inspired this particularly amusing transcription of answers from what must have seemed a very odd child!)
"When I’m dreamy I feel like getting married to Mae West.
When I’m frightened I feel like I’m locked in a room with the exorcist.
When I’m jealous I feel like the wicked queen on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
When I’m grateful I feel like Nintendo fell from the sky right into my house."