Open here and start

writeI recently rediscovered a pile of old stories and drawings I’d made when I was about the age my daughter is now. She, too, loves to make “books,” and whenever we end up in a conversation with someone about the fact that I am a writer, she pipes up, “I’m a writer too.” Sometimes we take one of her homemade books to the library, and sneak it on to a shelf, as in Daniel Kirk’s Library Mouse, in the hopes another reader will discover and enjoy it. It strikes me that she is very conscious of the book itself, not just the story it contains. She’s aware of the author and, when applicable, the illustrator. She talks about the cover and the flap that protects it (and wraps her own creations in plastic so they won’t stand out from the rest on the shelf); she’s aware of the chapter titles and the page numbers, and she loves bookmarks.

Some of my own first books contain instructions:

bk1before moving into the actual world of the story. This particular example comes from my version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, and it’s interesting for me to see that such a story continued to fascinate me for decades. One of these days I will post a more updated version of The Ugly Duckling, about a boy who runs away from home. But for now, here is my first try, circa 1972.



bk4I love the line “it wasn’t a chicken at all” — actually I used it again later, but more about that another time. I also love the red checkmark at the end — how good it must have felt to see that. The equivalent of a great review these days, or a kind letter from a reader.

Lately, as September approaches, I’m excited for my daughter to start Grade One and be in school full time. She is in for so many adventures, and I get to watch all of that unfold. September has that odd mix of beginning and ending about it — a melancholy feeling and a wide open sense of possibility at the same time. It’s strange how that lasts, for so many people, into adulthood.

I’m looking forward to my own “open here and start” when she is off to school, too. Although I’ve written all through the last six years, I’ve had to use pockets of time and wee hours (again, like Library Mouse, who works through the night in the school library, experimenting with various genres). I remember cradling my newborn on my lap while I tinkered on the last drafts of Origin of Haloes. And nearly falling asleep at my desk during The Occupied Garden. Now the days will be clear and consistent; structured. But as is the way with milestones, there is something lost here too.



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6 responses to “Open here and start

  1. Julie Gregson

    Those instructions are just too funny!

  2. Stella

    I love that you two put her books on library shelves!

  3. Marilyn

    Maybe you will have another writer in the family. It’s so cute that she wants her books to be in the library too. I’m so glad you found all those original writings.

    I agree about September. It’s the end of summer that we wait so anxiously for in the spring, but it’s also the beginning of the adventure of another school year that will bring a new teacher, new friends and experiences. Even though my teaching years are far behind me, I am still excited about the first day of school and want to know what has happened with my grandchildren. I try to phone them to find out how their first day went.

    • kristendenhartog

      Maybe so! Though these days she also wants to be a rock star and an artist…. And a “vegan vegetarian.”

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