I was digging through some old stuff to prepare for an upcoming trip to Texas, and I came across an illustrated story I wrote that dates to 1979 or ’80. (I was 9 or 10 years old.)

Some background: A high school friend of my mother’s, Valerie Hubbard Damon, had just released an illustrated book called Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers. I’m really sorry that I can’t find any of the illustrations from it, because they were simply wonderful — intricate, warm, highly detailed depictions of fanciful creatures. To the child I was, the book was an absolute visual feast. And that my mom knew a published author — wow!

So I set about creating my own illustrated work, armed with absolutely no illustrating skill but plenty of pluck. Here is the result:

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Now, I'll grant you that "The Winkwerts and the Setterwinks" doesn't exactly have the mellifluous ring of "Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers," but I did the best I could with the brain I had at the time.

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However, unlike many artists, I made no secret of the source of my inspiration, and I was quite generous with my praise of another author's work.

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I even dedicated the book to Valerie. I guess I didn't have a girlfriend at the time. (Wait, it was a schoolboy version of me: I can *assure you* that I didn't have a girlfriend at the time.)

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Note to young authors: Don't publish while you're still editing.

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I get straight to the conflict. A pro writing move, that.

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An amateur writing move: I made the story pivot on a minor character.

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The climactic moment! The tension is too much!

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A moment of seriousness: One of the things I'm struck by as I look at this after so many years is that I had a good grasp of sentence structure and grammar. Not perfect, by any means. But pretty good.

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Note to young illustrators: It's best not to give your readers any reason to think that you've intentionally slipped a phallus into your art. I'm just sayin'.

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A nice little denouement, no? (And note the budding pacifist at work.)

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Isn't that sweet? I made my own little imprint logo. (Also, the mimicking continued: Valerie's book was published by *Star* Publications.)

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