This blog post was originally published on the old Word Foreword on March 8th, 2017.
In 1999 or 2000, when I was in 5th grade, I was given a project to write a story that reinterpreted another story that my classmates may not know. At the time I attended a Catholic school in the town next to where I lived. I didn't see many of my classmates recreationally and so I didn't know what many of them liked or disliked.
I decided I would rewrite the first few episodes of “Digimon”, an anime I was into at the time, and condense a lot of it. Back then, I considered this filler. It didn’t really fall into character or plot development, but was integral to setting the show up. Most people now refer to this as ‘monster of the week’. I remember being very proud of it at the time; I had implemented a better structure for character development (something that show took 8 or so episodes to do, I did in 12 pages of 12 point Times New Roman).
The last thing I remember about this story was that when I showed it to my mother who was on the phone with someone and said it was cute. She then proceeded to tell her friend that it was plagiarism. It broke my heart when she said that, I was truly upset that she didn’t quite get the project. But I instantly settled on that I had one goal: write better.
The problem with wanting to write and not liking to read is pretty self evident. At the time of writing that plagiarized little story was that I didn't like to read. But I started to. I read kids adventure books and comic books. I never really, truly found my reading groove until my family took a New Years vacation to San Francisco in December 2002, when I was in 8th grade. Though most of this story takes place in early 2003.
We stayed at an awesome hotel called the Sir Francis Drake. There were a handful of things I remember about that trip. The first was that I sat in the closet on the cell phone talking to my, at the time, girlfriend. This is important because when I was in 8th grade I didn't have a cell phone, our family did. And it was really my father's and he let us use it sometimes.
The other thing I remember was being in my first large book store. Where I lived there was only a small Waldenbooks in the mall. Not an anchor store, mind you, a store that was just a bit larger than a GameStop. A few towns away was a Barnes & Noble, and it was large but not huge. This Barnes & Noble in San Francisco was two floors with an escalator. That was a big deal. My father wanted me to find something to read there so that I had something to do while they had a fancy dinner. I came across a book with a mysterious door and a teenage boy on the cover called “Pendragon: Merchant of Death”. I picked it up and read the back and it called to me on a deep level. Next to it I noticed a stack of the sequel “The Lost City of Faar”, which sounded like an Atlantis story which deeply interested me at the time. I asked my father and he said I could only get one because I wouldn't have time to read the other. I assured him that I would, and eventually I got the go ahead.
The last little bit I remember about this trip (I think this happened BEFORE the trip to Barnes & Noble but I'm not 100% sure) was that I bought music for the first time. I'd gotten CDs as gifts, and listened to the radio and all of that was fine because I didn't really have a taste for music. But we visited a mall for my mother and I found an F.Y.E. and purchased a copy of Linkin Park’s ‘Hybrid Theory’.
I didn't finish “The Lost City of Faar” until we were on the plane back home, but it was the fastest I'd ever read any book. I kept up to date with the series, and in May when the third book came out I was prepared. I bugged the Waldenbooks about it several times, enough that when I asked if they were doing a midnight release (this was all the rage back then) they told me if I came in after close they'd give it to me. I hope I don't get anyone in trouble but I’m pretty sure Waldenbooks closed their doors in 2011.