I wrote my first story when I was seven. I covered a hole-punched sheet of notebook paper with the first adventure of Professor Harold Gimple, sort of a picaro to whom accidents happen. Accidents like accidentally discovering the automobile-fueling properties of chocolate ice cream. I rewrote Professor Gimple’s story neater, on plain paper, and celebrated when my work was accepted for publication on the copy machine at my father’s office. Copies were distributed to my early supporters (AKA grandparents) and for subsequent chapters, I called my grandmother and read her the story, and she mailed an envelope of illustrations of Prof. Gimple and his wife, Lila. Creativity has been our bond ever since.
My first poem occurred at age 8 or 9. It was a short snippet about a unicorn, and I used it to try and teach myself to use our family’s first computer, the old bulky TRS-80. WHen my father came home and found me trying to use the computer, he knew he’d found a bribe that would work - in exchange for learning my multiplication tables by heart, he offered to teach me to use the computer.
My first computer program followed shortly after. With the early personal computers, most programs came printed in books, and you had to type them in, so I learned the basics of input and output by example. On the computer in our 3rd grade classroom, near the end of that year, I programmed a Mad Lib that requested four or five nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and displayed on the screen a short paragraph of story with the requested words inserted. It entertained my class for about an hour, but then the recess bell rang.
My first essay, in the five paragraphs, introduction, conclusion sense, was a school assignment. We were assigned to write a persuasive essay, and I chose as my premise that students should not be required to write persuasive essays. Although I did not convince my teacher, my attitude towards persuasion hasn’t altered.
My first essai, in the classic French understanding, is always the one I am writing. They all feel like the first, like I am trying something for the very first time. And that is the beauty of them.