In the fourth grade I received an honorable mention in the district-wide Young Author’s Contest for my short story, “How The Turtle Got His Shell.” The following year I repeated with an honorable mention for “The Fire.” My efforts at a three-peat fell short when “The Clown Who Wouldn’t Die” received no honors in the sixth grade.
Even at ten years old, I realized two things, 1) “The Clown Who Wouldn’t Die” was overreach. I tried too hard to win an award. 2) I was in love with the idea of a creative life as much as I loved being creative. Dangerous.
The rest of my creative life has followed similar patterns. I have had small moments of success. Teachers and professors who have seen promise in my creative talents. Projects that might lead somewhere.
I wrote a short story called “Masks” for a college creative writing course. The instructor thought it was good enough to publish in a small literary magazine. I sent it off to a few places and got a few rejection letters in return.
A dozen years ago, I received a small grant to make a documentary. “Neighborhoods” was an experimental, contrapunctual, non-narrative, exploration of Detroit’s neighborhoods from the point of view of children (talk about overreach.) I gave super8 cameras to school kids and had them film life in their neighborhood. I then edited the footage together with overlapping audio interviews with neighborhood activists and street sounds. It was shown at the first annual Detroit Film Festival. But that is as far as it went.
I started writing a novel a few years back. I wrote several hundred pages of a first draft. Then my third son was born and I took a short break. Then I came up with the PEZ MP3 player and it sucked up three years of my life.
My list at 43 Things is incomplete (of course.) But what is on there is pretty much what I would have written in the fourth grade.