I’ve been writing professionally since I was five… Seriously. Granted, there wasn’t much money in it, but my needs were few, my tastes cheap, and it worked out to be a pretty good overall gig.
To encourage creativity, my mother – a grade school teacher before she brought me and my sisters into the world – offered us a deal for some extra money. She would pay us for stories that we would write. And, ever in need of spare change for such important items as candy bars and Star Wars figures, I continued to take her up on this over the years. I even provided the artwork for some of the early classics, such as “Quentin and Blentin” and “Fido Finds a Home” (the latter being a shameless and utterly unsuccessful play for getting a dog of my own).
When I completed a new story, I would submit the pages to my mom for her review. She’d take it to the kitchen table and read it through carefully while I stood nearby, nervously watching her face for any expression that would clue me into what she thought about my creation. And, once she finished reading through it, she would take out a pen and read it again.
Spelling errors were the first to be circled, followed quickly by the grammatical ones. She’d scribble a note if she caught an error using quotations or didn’t use paragraph breaks correctly. And, if the story line was reminiscent of a book I’d recently checked out from the library or a recent television show, then the sale price was immediately impacted. But, as honest as she was in her editing, she was always encouraging and positive, making it clear that you’d done something creative and appreciated.
On the last page, she would total it all up. Something like:
Original Story – $2.50 (starting price completely dependent on her mood)
Spelling – 3 errors. -.30 (My college-lined notebook didn’t have spell-check)
Total – $2.20 Great Job!!
She started me out young and always seemed to have just the right amount of change in her purse for payment. And my passion was lit.
But…did I sell my rights too cheap? Well… At least it was enough to keep me in Snickers and Stormtroopers. So who could complain with a childhood like that?