Every writer starts somewhere: The itch begins with a book that makes our spirits soar, or a teacher who affirms our creativity, or a spirit within us that insists on crafting stories. I have my own list of writing influences, but my first taste of publishing itself came at the encouragement of my 6th grade English teacher, who submitted a piece of my creative writing to a young writers’ publishing contest.

Contests and publishing moving at the pace they do, it wasn’t until 8th grade that the winning pieces were published in a book: Creatures Unlimited (The Flying Pencil Press 1989, edited by Charlotte Towner Graeber), a collection of more than 50 poems, stories & artwork by young people ages 8-14. The experience was fabulous and surreal — my introduction to the possibility that words can circulate far beyond oneself. (Also, I was interviewed for local TV; my glasses frames…oh the 80s!)

Bearing in mind that I wrote this piece at age 11, here is my first published writing: “King Cat.”

drawing by Mike Sheppard, also published in "Creatures Unlimited"

drawing by Mike Sheppard, also published in “Creatures Unlimited”

As I peered out of my window, I saw a cat stalking the corn field as if he were a king proudly walking throughout his own country.

The cat’s face had ears pricked straight into a point. Its eyes were green with a black slit in the middle of each eye. His nose was pink, and his mouth was curved into a sly smile, as if he knew something that I didn’t.

This cat’s body was sleek, and a small arch in its back gave it a graceful appearance. From a small bulge in its stomach, I guessed that he had found a fat mouse for dinner.

The cat’s tail was standing almost straight up with a small curve on the tip. Its body was snow white, and although it limped a little, the cat was beautiful.

As I continued watching, the cat, after a quick pause, walked out of the field and into the woods.

Although he was out of sight, I imagined King Humfred the Cat (that’s what I named him) walking into his home territory — a proud, victorious king. His people would welcome him home, and great knights from afar would come and ask how he had conquered the fiercest enemy in the land. Fair maidens would arrive in great caravans.

Late into the night, the king would hold a feast for the people of his kingdom — knights from afar and the fair maidens.

I woke up. My mother was calling me for supper.

“Coming,” I called back. As I turned to leave, a thought crossed my mind. “My monarch…?” I turned back to the window. There he was, King Humfred the Cat, standing again in the field. To this day, I still swear that he winked at me that night.

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