Thursday, August 30, 2007

Still MORE from the Attic

Okay, by popular demand (all right, all right: by two requests, but don’t say I don’t listen), I’ve decided to select two stories from My Story Book, written when I was nine or ten or so. I have to explain that I had cut out pictures from cards, stickers, etc.; pasted them onto notebook paper, which I’d stapled together; and then written stories about them. I’ve kept all original spelling and grammar (especially my interesting paragraph breaks) intact in these reprints.

Betsy’s Butterflys [love the alliteration. This one is accompanied by a picture of two white butterflies with orange-tipped wings hovering around some yellow flowers]

Betsy loved butterflys. She loved to look out her window at the beautiful butterflys she saw [I’m wondering where Betsy lived that butterflies seemed to be a dime a dozen from her window, certainly not in my hometown in N.C.].

One day she was looking out her window and saw the prettiest butterflys she had ever seen in her whole life [which is saying a lot, given the seemingly huge butterfly population right out her window]. Then she went to get a jar to catch them [it must have been one of those magical jars that could turn itself into a net and back]. When she got outside she caught two that were sitting on some flowers [on second thought, maybe Betsy was a butterfly whisperer and knew how to lure them without a net, since it all sounds so easy]. They were taken inside and put in her room. Betsy had forgotten that Butterflys [note the sudden capitalization of the word. Think it’s meant to add dramatic flair?] need air to live. She forgot to punch holes in the top of the jar and they died. [I have a sneaky suspicion the demise of the butterflies is based on a true story concerning some other sort of creature in a jar, but don’t quote me on that.]

But now when Betsy catches Butterflys she always lets them go. [Sort of like in those oh-so-popular-and-very-wise posters from the 1970s telling us if we love something to let it go and that if it comes back to us, it’s ours, but if it doesn’t, it never really was.]

The End [My "The Ends" in this collection are very fancy, almost as if
each story was written just to be able to produce these works of art at the

The Smart Goldfish [accompanied by a picture of a goldfish swimming among some sea plants]

Once there was a very smart goldfish. All the other fish would call him Smarty Larty. He would never go into old caves in case of a whale or octopus [because we all know how extremely dangerous octopi are to goldfish and how whales lurk in caves]. He would never go near plants that he could get tangled up in [the future scuba diver here knowing how treacherous it can be to get tangled up in plants]. He would always just miss them as he went by [marvelous
attention to detail wouldn’t you say, since the picture shows him swimming with such plants?]

One day it came to be the day (a very sad day) [I just love the way I put that parenthetical bit in there] that Smarty Larty wasn’t smart at all. Smarty Larty was having great fun, not watching out at all and he was killed by a shark [that’s what can happen to you, you know, when you’re having great fun].

But don’t you feel sorry for him now [sounds like I'd just seen Song of the South, doesn't it?] because he knew he was smart, and he acted smart, and he bragged that nothing could outsmart him [hmmm…seems that even in those days I wasn’t real big on pseudo-intellectuals. Also
seems that the easiest way to get to that fancy "The End" was just to kill off my characters].

The End

I have a feeling that the reason this little book of stories survived is what comes at the end. I’m going to risk the wrath of my two sisters, whose permission I did not get for these before making the decision to reprint them. Right after the Smarty Larty story is this story:

The Little Story Writer
Once upon a time there was a little girl. Now, this little girl loved to write stories. Whenever her big sister would write a story, she would write a story, too. She wrote about Teddy Bears [that was the first "book" I ever wrote at age 7, and I do still have that one], and her home state
[don’t remember this at all], and her father’s home state [nor this one]. She often wrote books with little stories in them.

One day her big sister found one of her story books that was unfinished [not hard to find one of those lying about the house. My storybooks were like diaries, usually fizzling out before
they were complete]. So her big sister wrote in that story book. The little girl was very surprised the next day, when she read in the book. "Why this story’s about me!" she cried, and so it was.

The End

And this one follows that:

Another Surprise
Once there was a family of writers. Well, almost a family of writers. The oldest sister wrote sad or serious stories (and poems). The middle sister wrote funny stories (she used to write dumb poems). The youngest sister wrote short stories. The mother wrote all kinds of stories. (The brother and father didn’t or couldn’t write.) [Actually, the father did write, but since he
was a professor, it was nothing his children had read, so we must have assumed he didn’t.] One day the youngest sister wrote a book full of short stories. At the end of the book the oldest sister wrote a story about the youngest sister. Then another story appeared at the end of the book. It was about the almost family of writers. At the end of the story, whoever wrote the story said that the oldest, middle, and youngest sisters would all become very good writers,
because they already are.

The End (Now we have to wait for the youngest
brother to learn to
write.) [And we all know that he became a very good writer
as well.]

So, that’s how it all began, but one day they all died. Don’t feel sorry for them, now, though, because we all know everybody has to die sometime.



Rebecca said...

I love 'The Smart Goldfish'. And I can't believe you guys were playing with meta-narratives at that age. How intimidating is that?
I am very thankful that if any of my juvenilia did survive adolescence, it certainly did not survive the move to America.

IM said...

I have a couple of comments

I think Smarty Larty is the best character name of all time.

I remember that one about the Teddy Bears, you should post it.

I'm glad I finally joined the family canon.

Unknown said...

Smarty Larty? That is the My favorite part of these stories is how you choose to directly address the reader at the end of each, so the reader has the appropriate response. No misreadings of Emily Barton's work, no way!

Anonymous said...

Oh Emily! These are priceless! I loved Smarty Larty getting eaten by a shark. Thanks for sharing these.

Anonymous said...

I remember Smarty Larty! You must have showed that one to me (or else I was the older sister that read the younger sister's stories and wrote in them).

Rebecca H. said...

Oh, these are great. You are part of one talented family.

Emily Barton said...

Becky, hmmm...I always thought we were weird. I MUCH prefer intimidating.

Ian, maybe one day, when I have time to figure out all the ins and outs of scanning, I'll scan "This is Teddy," as it's mostly illustrations.

Court, glad you like the name. And yes, I was certainly going to make sure any reader had the appropriate response, wasn't I? I have a feeling I still might be prone to that.

Stef, you're welcome. Thanks for urging me.

Linser, I'm pretty sure we used to laugh (what else?) about Smarty Larty.

Dorr, I used to complain that my parents gave all the talents to my siblings and left me with nothing, but as I've gotten older, I've changed my mind about that. I just don't have all the MULTIPLE talents the others do.

Froshty said...

I remember Smarty Larty, too. I also vaguely remember the Teddy Bears. I don't remember the stories about the older sisters, though--maybe I was too busy writing serious stories and poems. By the way, I'd love to know what my multiple talents are, because I think I only inherited the writing gene. I dabbled in other stuff but I wasn't good at any of it.