Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creature Feature, or What I Loved To Write About A Long, Long Time Ago…

I was attempting one of those age-old writer traditions of closet cleaning when I came across a notebook full of stories and writing assignments I’ve managed to hang on to since I was a kid. Out of the many realizations that struck me (one being that I’m not much better at spelling, sigh) was that I had a real penchant for the spooky, scary and downright macabre stuff!

The only explanation for this must have been the influence of television shows like Creature Feature, Twilight Zone and Dark Shadows. Anybody remember Elvira? I just aged myself, didn’t I? Anyway, my cousin and I were terribly addicted to these things at an early age, 8, 9, 10 – where were our parents??

Sometimes we would spend an entire Saturday building a haunted house down in my aunt’s basement, complete with special effects like Bissell brooms disguised as monsters that would slid out from their hiding places when we pulled a string, to squishy, nasty things in bowls you had to touch with your eyes closed. We even used a sound track – Funeral For A Friend, by Elton John. Of course our younger cousins had to go through them time and again.

Thank goodness for hormones and the discovery of romance novels.

But, in honor of all things spooky for Halloween, just days away, I thought I’d include a small sample of my 10 year old mind at work. I didn’t edit, but I did fix the spelling:

Hi my name is Sandy Michaels. Something funny happened to me about a year ago and I wanted to share the story with you.

The Curse

One day I was digging in my backyard to plant a mimosa tree. When I dug up some rocks and one of them was an Indian arrowhead. So I kept it so I could start a collection. I put it aside and finished planting the tree. Then I went inside and washed it off. I was surprised to find it was shiny black and it had a green glow, I loved it. The next day at school I asked my professor if he had a book on arrowheads, and I showed him the one I found. He said yes and gave me the book. After school I went right home and started to read it. I turned the page and there was a picture of my arrowhead. On the page it said, “A long time ago there was a tribe called the Wama-Wama tribe. They had their witchdoctor make a special arrowhead with a curse on it. The curse stated that anyone who rubbed it would turn into a white buffalo and roam the plains on the night of the full moon. This made it easy for them to find and kill their enemies.” I closed the book and turned out the light. All of a sudden I jumped up remembering I had rubbed the arrowhead when I dried it. I grabbed the book and searched to see if I could find an antidote for it. But I could not. The next day before school started I went to the professor and asked if he knew of an antidote, but he did not. He said that I should look for a descendent of the Wama-Wama tribe for help. So, for the past year I have been looking for a descendent of the tribe.

So, if you are ever in the west on the plains and see a white buffalo by the light of a full moon, don’t worry, it’s me!

I want to send out a special thank you to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Sandifer, for nurturing my creativity and budding desire to write, and for slogging through everything I gave her. And Aunt Ann – thanks for letting us turn your basement upside down all those weekends!

So how about you? Do you still have any of those early childhood stories? A favorite Halloween memory? Or maybe an encourager from those early years you haven’t thought of in a while. Let us know.


Carol Burnside said...

If there are any of my writings hanging around somewhere, I'm not aware of them. Most of the stories I made up never made it to paper. My friends/neighbors and I had elaborate stories featuring Barbie, Midge, Ken and Skipper that went on for days.

Nice memory jog, Darcy!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Isn't it interesting that as a child you wrote without the intrusion of backstory dumping! Mine were pretty straight forward at that age too. I guess when we're older we feel the need to explain ourselves more.

Cinthia Hamer said...

Great little story, Darcy! You ought to build on it and turn it into a YA!

Debbie, that's a very astute observation. Wouldn't it be nice if we could capture that same sense of writing in the moment as we did as kids?

Sadly, my first novel, written in a 3-ring binder, was tossed in the trash. My mom went on a spring cleaning spree a few years after I'd moved out. And it was gone. Just like that.

It wasn't anything scary, just a bunch of Scots, wandering around in the heather saying "Ach!" LOL!

I had quite the imagination, though. Not just one imaginary friend, but many, including a turtle (actually a large oval rock with moss growing on it), a cat (a stain on the hardwood floor) and Miss Mary, who lived in the tiny, tiny bathroom of the Airstream trailer we lived in while my dad built our house.

I thought up many, many stories featuring my friends. And one night, as the full moon shone over the mountains, I reached out and held it in my hand. :)

Chicki said...

Are you old enough to remember Zacherly?

He was my Saturday morning favorite back in the day in New Jersey.

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Darcy,
(I'm finally back on-line with the blog...sad to say, my guests from Oregon have returned home)

I was constantly writing as a child, but most of them were lost somewhere. I started writing a romance when I was about 10. There was a car wreck and everyone in the car died except me and this handsome boy rescued me and carried me off to his home for a week until the police could get around to responding to the call.

Yes, I know, stupid, but it was a beginning. Nothing scary since I didn't envision or elaborate on the dead people, just the handsome guy.

Great brought back memories and gave me a smile.


Cyrano said...

Oh Darcy,
Wish I had known you back then. I would have had a ball decorating your aunts basement and playing haunted house with you!!!
And, like you, I started writing at an early age. The teacher who inspired and urged my creativity on was a man named Mr. Winter. I was in elementary school, but can't remember the grades he taught. No one really liked him, he was old (to us kids he looked ancient, but he was probably no more than 40 or 50) He was very proper and well mannered. He wore sweater vests, perfectly creased slacks and smelled like tabaco, so he didn't endear many students to him. But I adored him. He always gave out writing asignments and I loved that about him. He also always called on me to read my stories out loud. I loved that too because I wanted others to hear what I wrote.
I guess thats why I want to be a published author so badly.
I want others to read what I write.
Great post Darcy!
Have a gorgeous Wednesday,

Marilyn Baron said...


I really enjoyed reading your early work. I too started writing at an early age. I remember some of the titles and I probably still have them around or my mother does. We're both pack rats.

I doubt I could do anything with them today. One was called "The Gold Lace Dress" about a dress I saw in a window and wanted, and the other "East West Island," which was an adventure featuring kids in my fourth grade class.

I do remember a particular teacher (I blogged about it earlier this month) Mr. Provisero who encouraged me. I had him for fourth grade and again for sixth. He's no longer alive but he did inspire me to become a writer.

I don't have any particular Halloween stories but Cynthia's comment about the Scots reminded me of a book I just finished, "An Echo in the Bone," by Diana Gabaldon that was filled with "Achs." It was wonderful if any of you are interested in reading it.

Enjoyed your trip down memory lane.

Marilyn Baron

Nike.Chillemi said...

Sounds like you had a ball in your Aunt's basement.

I also wrote as a child, even illustrated my books. Some about horses. Was in love with horses as a preteen. Most of mine were lost, alass.

Darcy Crowder said...

Hi Carol. I played with Ken & Barbie too, but more with Matchbox cars - go figure. :) Don't know how I held on to these stories for so long, but it was fun going threw them again.

Debbie, I totally agree. Children just have that blessed gift of living in the moment.

Cinthia, so sorry your book got tossed! We moved a lot and many things seemed to always get thrown out, so I feel your pain. I've still got notes and drafts of my first romance too... Ach! :)

Darcy Crowder said...

Hi Chicki, thanks for stopping by. Sorry, I don't remember Zacherly, but thanks for the link, I'll go check it out.

Sandy! Welcome back. :) Such a dashing hero in your first romance. My first romance plot took place in a diamond mine hidden under my grandmother's house. LOL. Yeah, in Maryland.

Tamara, you would have had so much fun. We used EVERYTHING we could get our hands on. It was way too much fun. But we were pretty good about putting stuff away, so I guess the grown-ups felt like it kept us busy and out of their hair. :)

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Hi, Darcy--

Your post does bring back memories. I started writing stories because it was, apparently, a requirement for all East Chester Elementary teachers to assign stories using spelling words in 3rd through 5th grade. Let me tell you, it's challenge to write a coherent story using tomato and vaccuum in it. (And I hope that's spelled correctly)

In junior high I started writing all sorts of stories using my friends and the New Kids on the Block as protagonists (dating and embarassing myself here). I owe those guys a lot because I have an entire crate full of adventure stories I wouldn't begin to be brave enough to share with you guys. You'll just have to wonder. : )


Darcy Crowder said...

Marilyn, It's just fun to travel down memory lane sometimes, isn't it? The Gold Lace Dress sounds lovely, and who knows, maybe you could turn that East West Island into a YA. :) I haven't read anything by Diana Gabaldon in years, but I love that title, An Echo in the Bone. Sounds like I need to check it out - she's wonderful.

Nike - thanks for visiting. :) Yes, we always had so much fun at her house. I moved around a lot as a kid, so her home always felt like home base. In fact, I just visited there earlier this year and it has hardly changed at all over the years. I cherish that.

How neat that you illustrated your stories, I've always envied those who could draw. Horses are such beautiful creatures. It was always about dogs for me. I can't seem to write a story without one these days.

Linsey Lanier said...

Thanks for being brave enough to share that with us, Darcy. It was cute and not half bad. Early on, you showed a good eye for detail. Very important. I think you could even use it as a starting point for a paranormal that could sell today.

My first grade story about a "Happy Bear" was sort of Goldilocks from the baby bear's point of view. I'll have to dig it up and take a closer look. :)

I never would have imagined you going in for scary stuff. We learn a lot on this blog, don't we? :)


Barbara Monajem said...

Fun story, Darcy. You were way ahead of your time. I don't think I've ever read about a were-buffalo before!

My first story was about apple tree gnomes. In my memory it's fabulous. Maybe it's a good thing I don't have the real thing to see how bad it was. I do know that when the teacher read the first half she was so encouraging that I freaked out and wrote a really lame ending.

ECSpurlock said...

Isn't it fun to look back and see where the seeds of writing took root? My mom saved everything I did, I think because she always wanted to be a writer herself. I have several little books I wrote and illustrated when I was about five, as well as various stories and poems throughout my school years, that she pasted into my photo album.

My third grade teacher Miss Moher was the first, and about the only, teacher I had who encouraged me to stretch my brain and my talent, rather than trying to make me fit in with the rest of the kids. She helped me believe that being different was a good thing, and I've held on to that all my life.

Fun post today, Darcy, and thanks for the glimpse into your writing origins! Also BTW, great clue today, CiCi! It reminds me of a short story I wrote in college, only mine didn't have a happy ending!

Maxine Davis said...


Really enjoyed your post and your story. You were talented even then!

I did write a story in 9th grade that the teacher read anonymously. Everyone probably knew it was me I squirmed so and turned so red. I remember they did applaud. I was smitten. Had to write.

Tami Brothers said...

I LOVE this, Darcy!!! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

I made up stories out loud for my sisters and the kids I babysat. But I never wrote them down. I had to do an essay for a fire prevention thing in fifth grade and won a really neat statue of liberty bank. I also was invited to New York to participate with other kids my age, but my parents couldn't afford it so I wasn't able to participate...

I have always been a huge reader and even though I always said in the back of my mind that I wanted to write, until I hit the age of 29, I never did it. It wasn't until I was staring at that 'hill' that I realized how much of my life I was putting off until the 'future'.

Thanks so much for sharing this and reminding me that I need to nurture the creativity my son is showing.


Darcy Crowder said...

Sally - A whole crate full of stories! Wow, it sounds like you have the makings of some YA or childrens books for sure.

Linsey- Let me tell ya, as soon as I pushed the post button I had second and third thoughts. It sounded fun at the time....glad you liked the story. :)

Happy Bear sounds adorable. One of my kids favorites was a book about the Three Little Pigs told from the big bad wolf's POV. Very funny.

Ya know, I totally don't like the scary stuff now. That's one of the things I found so interesting.

Barbara, you should go hunt up that apple tree gnome never know what that seed of an idea might lead to. :) I know what you mean about freaking out. I had some early success with my first book and it totally froze me.

EC - How wonderful that your mother saved so much for you. I don't have any scrapbooks or anything, just a handfull of stories stuffed into a folder. :)It has been fun to look back. In all honesty, most of my short stories and poems from childhood started out as school assignments.

Thanks, Maxine. It's never easy to share our work, is it. :)

Thanks, Tami! I'm so sorry you didn't get to go to New York, but what an honor!

Sounds like we had similar experiences. I loved writing as a kid, but settled for being an avid reader thinking you had to be "special" somehow to become a writer. It wasn't until just these past few years that I've attempted the dream. Hey, guess that means all of us here at PF&HT are pretty "special". LOL.

Definitely nurture that creativity - but I'm sure you already are, you're such a great mom. :) And save what you never know.

Tammy Schubert said...

Darcy, thank you for sharing your earlier work. I used to have a diary where I wrote stuff down I would love to see again. Unfortunatly, it is gone now. You are very lucky to have access to material from when you were young. I enjoyed the read.

Susan May said...

You always have the most interesting posts. This one was great. I remeber my dad reading a book to us that had spooky stories in it. He would make all the sound effects making it scarier. My mother still has the book and I guess I'll get it someday. It'll be one of those things you just have to keep.

Darcy Crowder said...

Tammy - I guess I'm just a packrat at heart. Though you wouldn't know it the way I'm always trying to clean things out around here. :)

Susan - Thanks! I have some books like that too. No matter what, I can't bring myself to part with them. Hey, you can look forward to reading that book to your grandchildren someday, now that you have a married daughter. :)