Sunday, September 15, 2013

Olly Olly Oxen Free!

My first published book is titled How I Survived Being A Girl. It was bought by the same editor with whom I've worked on all my books, but she was at HarperCollins at the time so it's not part of the catalog I have at Knopf and (long story short) it is now out of print.

When I wrote HISBAG I had no idea what it meant to be published. Oh, I had a theoretical idea, but having written several books that never saw publication, I didn't think through the hazards of giving characters names too similar to those of the people on whom those characters were based.

Maybe I just didn't believe that this one would ever see the light of day (or bookstore shelves) either.

Nicknames seemed safe. Who would ever claim to be those characters? In real life (and in the book) the people next door were called Freeko and Fattabutta. (You read that right, and I will skip over the whole explanation of this because, really, nothing can explain away those names. Or excuse the things we did to them. Those are tales better left to the pages of a novel.)

When HISBAG came out in 1997 my mother suggested that I take out liability insurance in case Freeko and Fattabutta decided to sue me. I wasn't worried. We'd moved away ages before, and they didn't seem like readers.

Definitely not readers.

But fast forward to 2013 and sudden I am worried. Not about being sued. And not about any of the adults from the neighborhood. The last one standing moved into a 'home' earlier this year. (Which makes me very sad. She was an awesome neighbor. And such what a tolerant person! Her house was headquarters and she had so much patience for the wild neighborhood kids tearing through her house and yard.)

No, I'm suddenly worried because next weekend I'm traveling back to my hometown for an "elementary school reunion."

No kidding!

Most of me is super excited about it. Some of these kids I knew from K-6th. Formative stuff happens during that time and it'll be so much fun to reminisce about our shared experiences and hear each other's varied recollections. Just to see these people again after all these years and find out where they've wound up is going to be great. It's way better than a high school reunion. It's way more...pure.

But someone in the reunion group posted a comment about how I'd written a book about the neighborhood. And all of a sudden I'm going Uh-oh! I mean, it's been quite a while since I've read the book. What did I say about people? I remember that Andy down the block became Little Andy in the book. (Do you think he'll figure that out?) And will Wobblehead know who she is?

There's even a map in the beginning of the book pointing out who lives where!

And it's clearly The Neighborhood.

I guess all I can do at this point is hope that the "kids" take the book in the spirit intended, and recognize that it represents a magical time in our lives--a time where you could go "bombs away" on boys from the top of the jungle gym and no one posted you. A time where there were no rules in four square (back slaps and spins were fair and fine and expected). A time when getting slammed in dodgeball just meant you'd better move faster the next time someone hurled a ball at you.

I hope I still have some of my moves, 'cause there's no hiding from this, and I may just need to dodge and duck if enough of them have read the book.

Olly olly oxen free!


Unknown said...

I always thought that if I ever wrote a book, I'd be pretty worried if anyone I knew read the book....... because I base most of my characters off of real people in my life, or a blend of people to make one or more characters.

So this is kind of entertaining; it's like seeing my thoughts appear on paper (Or a computer screen). :D

Good luck!

Kylie said...

I have never heard of an elementary school reunion. That is such a great idea.

I wish you good luck at the reunion!


Unknown said...

Oh my goodness!! I read this book I absoulty loved it!! (Don't forget about Helen..hehe) I love how wendelin comes up with these great names to remember people, and this book is full of them!! It's really funny to and I can relate to a lot of it'
So good luck at your reunion and let us know how it went!=)

RowAn said...

Wow...that is truly terrifying. I'd be scared to let any of my old classmates read some of my does not treat them kindly...

Let us know how it goes! And good luck!


Anonymous said...

I was at the library once and I found How I Survived Being a Girl on the "for sale" shelf for 50 of course I bought it since I had never read it before and I couldn't find it anywhere! Plus it was a great deal. Still haven't read it yet though..but I'm planning to, from this post it sounds quite entertaining!

Gabrielle said...

I got my Killer Cruise!! Can't wait to read it!!! And I like the sticky note, I will enjoy it. :)


Brienna Erin said...

I watched Anthony Horowitz (author of the Alex Rider series) being interviewed about his books and he claimed that he named his antagonists after mean and stirct teachers from his boarding school days...
I too draw from personal I think a pseudonym would be a good idea (;

BTW i just finished Killer Cruise and I totally loved Kip.

Caradith Craven said...

Those of you who have read, are reading, or plan to read Killer Cruise need to consider writing a review on Amazon in appreciation of Wendelin's commitment to writing an amazing series that just keeps getting better with every book, and has entertained her reading audience for over fifteen years. Let Amazon shoppers know how terrific this latest installment in the series is.

Jessica said...

Hopefully the fact that it's out of print and that people might have to actually look for it will stop them from reading it. I hope you had a good disclaimer in the front, and that anyone who reads it will understand that they were just a jumping off point. Maybe (re-)read "Harriet the Spy" and see how she handled it? Or preemptively give them excerpts of the book that you think they'd all appreciate, and maybe they won't look for the rest...

Gabrielle said...

Just finished Killer Cruise!!! It was absolutely amazing!!!


Unknown said...

Gabrielle did you look back at the coded words Yusa put last post yet?

Kylie said...

I finally got Killer Cruise in the mail! I am so excited to read it, but I need to finish my homework first.

Gabrielle said...

Yes, Bella, I did!! Once I read about it I remembered that comment. :)
But I can't believe the series is almost over!!! Killer Cruise was the last book in Sammy's POV! But it was awesome!! :D


Yusa said...

Haha i tried to make the code.. the only hard part is not being able to make every word. But i tried...

I'm glad a lot of people are getting to read it :)

An elementary school reunion is a great idea!
Yeah i am thinking if i ever do anything big i have a pseudonym in mind.

And btw I LOVE ANTHONY HOROWITZ :) Alex Rider is like one of my favorite series. Other than SK.

I do have HISBAG because of my librarian in middle school. I basically hoarded all the books she would be donating to Goodwill or throwing because of the bad condition or too many copies so she gave them to me because i asked. I think it might be signed also but i have to check. Not signed for me though :P


Jessica said...

Anyone else find it funny that we're only at like 10% of the comments from last week, even though the week's halfway over?

I tried to decipher the code a little, but I'm sick and didn't have a lot of time to try. (I dropped the cryptography class, too, because it had this whole secret language that it assumed you already knew; if I knew how to crack a secret language, I wouldn't need a cryptography class!) And I asked at the library, and they couldn't check if Killer Cruise had even been ordered yet -- but they did confirm that orders are only placed once a month. So it looks like I've got another 2-3 weeks to wait.

I don't know Anthony Horowitz or Alex Rider or why that was even brought up, nor do I know Nero Wolfe. I of course googled them, and now I have lots of things to add to my reading list. I swear it grows faster than I can tackle it. Sometimes I wish I could get paid to read.

Yusa said...

Jessica: Don't stress yourself with the code. And i hope you get KC soon i know how hard the wait can be since i have had to wait a month for a SK book to come in the library once.

And Brienna brought the Alex Rider topic... (PS @ Brienna : are you new to this blog? I don't remember seeing you :)

Yeah my reading list is long but my time to read is so short with sophomore year in highschool killing me.


Azhar said...

That must sound nerve wracking! Every time I attempt to write a short story for class, I always find myself using one of my friend's name and pray they don't somehow come across it...

KC hasn't arrived at my library yet either. They said it's in transit, but I think they haven't ordered it and are trying to cover up that fact, hahaa.

Alex Rider is such an awesome series! You really should read it, Jessica! If you like books about teenage spies saving the world and adventure then you'll enjoy it.

High school - I've found - time consuming... I'm in grade 11 now and I've found I can't even finish a book without homework getting in the way... good luck! :))

Azhar said...

Whoops, forgot the *is* before 'time consuming'... lol

Jessica said...

Reminder: today is free book Friday on Twitter! Check @WendelinVanD's post for how to enter. And good luck to all who do.

Kylie said...

I just finished to book and can I say I am in love with Darren and Marko. But in love like I want to be best friends with them. I won't say much because I don't want to spoil anything, but I really loved the book. I can't believe there is only one left!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Just made copies of my 4th, 5th, & 6th grade class photos.

Now I'm off to find a 4-square ball!

PS Bella, "Helen" will be there!

Jessica said...

How was the reunion? Did you have to play dodgeball (literally or figuratively)?

I just noticed the title of this post. We always said "Olly olly ox come free!" which admittedly doesn't make any more sense (unless you're talking to an ox named Olly who got stuck somewhere, I suppose -- we weren't). I wonder what other regional variations there are for this phrase.

Gabrielle said...

I finished The Running Dream! It was amazing! Just like all your other books, Wendelin! :)