When I was in the first grade at school the teacher told us we would be writing a book and she would publish it. All we had to do was take the small pieces of paper she would supply, write a story, illustrate it and she would staple them together and add a cover.
I was very excited about this. I planned my story and I spent a long time designing the illustrations. My story was titled ‘Funny Bunny in EasterLand.’ It was about a rabbit (an anthropomorphised rabbit) who one day while digging in his warren dug too far and ended up in EasterLand where he devoured a chamber full of chocolate eggs and then lived happily ever after. It ran eight pages with eight illustrations and the teacher gave me a piece of purple cardboard upon which I drew a cover and she stapled it together and there was my book in all its glory.
All the other kids, (many of whom took it as seriously as I did) also finished and we put our books on a shelf down the back where we could read each others at our leisure. Once you read a book you initialed it and at the end of the week you could see how many people read yours.
Funny Bunny was a run away success. By the end of the first week everyone in the first grade had read it. The teacher commended me and I won some award equivalent to the Nobel Prize in Literature for first graders in Wagga Wagga (the town in which I grew up).
A few years later in fourth grade, the teacher, a frustrated writer herself, announced that we would (again) be publishing a book. It was similar to first grade in every regard, we would write, illustrate and design the cover. The amount of times the books were loaned would be recorded. I recalled my success a few years earlier with Funny Bunny so I was certain I would bring him back to great acclaim.
I wrote the book and illustrated the pages with a burning excitement. I wondered how many times each of my classmates would borrow my work, I wondered how many awards would be heaped upon me. This story was about a theft. Funny Bunny had his chocolate stolen and under great stress made his way to the Police Station to see Chief Turtle. Funny Bunny encounters a horse, a kangaroo, a rat, another rabbit (a lady rabbit), none of whom had seen his chocolate but he also meets pig who has a big moustache. Once Chief Turtle investigates they discover that the pig stole the chocolate and the moustache is chocolate all over his face. WAH – WAH. Pig is arrested but makes amends with a whole new box of chocolates for Funny Bunny.
I sat back when the book was stapled and I went through it one last time. It was sensational, the best adventure yet. I proudly put it next to the other kids work on the shelf and waited for reading time.
Reading time came and everyone went and borrowed a book. Mine was the only one left on the shelf. All week went by and no one read my book. Mine was the only one not to be read. All the other kids had their borrower cards full of signatures. Mine was empty. I even caught whispers among the others that mine was wussy and childish. The other stories were about war and racing cars and finding a million dollars on the street etc.
I learned a few lessons that day. One was that I had few friends, the other was that if you want to be successful with your novel it has to be interesting, it has to be relevant and it has to be good. I missed the mark that day and it burned deeply.