Throughout April, I’m tackling 26 A to Z topics related to children’s literature. Today is all about the letter K, which has me reminiscing about the first chapter I ever wrote: “Koren of the Quest.”
I was still a kid myself when I wrote my first book children’s chapter book.
Between fifth and sixth grade, I was reading The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which consist of four books: “Dealing with Dragons,” “Searching for Dragons,” “Calling on Dragons,” and “Talking to Dragons.” They were my newly found favorites, and my latest goal was to write a book similar to Patricia C. Wrede’s series.
That summer, I collected a ream of loose leaf notebook paper, a few sharp pencils, and a manila envelope that I labeled Top Secret. I dug out a baby name book and wrote down every name that sounded like it belonged in a fantasy story, and I took special care to outline characters based on the name’s meaning. According to the baby book, Leila meant “black or darkness of night.” So I created a character dubbed Leila the Black and Darkness of Night.
The name Koren, incidentally, was said to mean “quest.” I selected Koren as my main character, and the book would be about her quest.
I recall some details of the book better than others. There was a dragon named Tallulah. There were two kingdoms: one consisting of women, and one consisting of men. They were separated by a mountain range, and they never mingled. If either sex crossed into the other’s kingdom, it would spark war. Koren encountered and befriended a lost boy named Owen, who somehow ended up in the women’s kingdom. And Koren’s main goal in life was to get her title. To reach womanhood, every woman had to earn her title. (Such as Leila, whose title was The Black and Darkness of Night.)
I don’t recall the inciting incident that set Koren off on her quest. (I have a vague idea that her quest might have been to return Owen to his kingdom before he was found and killed.) But Koren and Owen set off together, and they eventually are joined by Tallullah and a fairy clan.
I also borrowed heavily (probably to the point of plagiarizing) from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I included vanishing cliffs and dragons bane and melting wizards and the sexless title King of the Dragons, which could be given to male or female dragon rulers.
I regret that, as a teenager, I found the handwritten manuscript and deemed it unworthy of keeping; after all, it was unpublishable in its current form, so I threw it away. At that point, my focus was moving toward writing books for adults.
These days, I wish I still had that folder of loose leaf pages. Even if it never got edited and polished and got bound between covers, it would be nice to have that artifact of my personal writing journey.
To the other writers out there: Do you remember your first full-length project? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
I wrote my first book, a picture book, at age four, I and a Sunhat. It featured opposites, like Up and Down, Dark and Light, Right and Left. With any luck, it’s still around somewhere, since my parents cared about it too much to throw it away. I did mostly picture books for a few years, and then began writing novelette- and novella-length stories around age eight. Sadly, almost all of them were lost when my mother put my box of early writing development out at the curb with recyclables before we moved in 1996, when I was sixteen. She really didn’t think we could take that one extra box in the moving truck.