Saturday, November 17, 2012
Bob the Slob
In the fall of 1982 I returned to Harmon School in Aurora, Ohio, to teach. I had left in the spring of 1978 (the year of our teachers' strike) and had gone off to teach at Lake Forest College in Illinois, a decision I regretted almost immediately. I loved my colleagues and students at LFC, but I missed middle-schoolers. Very much. Within months I was trying to get back to Aurora.
But there were no openings, and it didn't happen until, as I said, the fall of 1982. That year (1982-83) I taught English 8, German I, and German II--the latter two courses causing me more than a bit of anxiety. But that's a blog for another day.
With the eighth graders that year (1982-83), I recommenced something I'd done with seventh graders in the years before I'd left--something I called "Friday Writing" (which, I think, I've written about here before). Basically, the kids and I wrote for thirty minutes each Friday--about anything we wanted to. Then, the last ten minutes or so, volunteers--I among them--would read aloud.
On Friday, 11 February 1983, that year I wrote at the top of a yellow sheet of paper "The Strange Earthly Sojourn of Bob the Slob, 8th Grader." And then ... this sentence: Bob awoke with the taste of Doritos in his mouth and the wisp of a memory of a dream he had enjoyed so much he knew it must have been about something bad.
This was the opening sentence of what eventually became my first YA novel, Bob the Slob, which I worked on every Friday the rest of the year--and on through the summer--and on into the next year. By the fall of 1984 I had finished a draft I was pretty happy with and was dutifully sending it off to publishers in NYC and elsewhere. And waiting for the good news.
Which did not come. For three years I sent it off. Waited. Got messages that ranged from the much beloved We accept no unsolicited or unagented manuscripts to more agonizing ones: We really enjoyed reading about Bob, but ...
Did you know that the biggest word in English is but? Three little letters can derail a lengthy train of positive clauses aligned behind it. I really did get some nice, encouraging notes and nibbles from editors. But nothing solid.
Anyway, I was soon caught up in other projects and put Bob on a shelf, where he has lain since the late 1980s.
But no more! Bob Arises!
Over the last few months I've been resurrecting Bob. I had to retype the entire book (the program and old Kaypro II I'd used were too obsolete--and I couldn't even find any disks). I made no changes as I typed it. Just wanted the "original." I then spent quite a few weeks revising and updating Bob. (I wrote it when many people still had dial telephones--and the Internet was still in the future.)
And in the next twenty-four hours, I'm going to upload Bob the Slob to Kindle Direct Publishing, where those of you with Kindles can click, download, read it.
A few words about the story: Bob is about to start his 8th grade year in a small Ohio town (!!). He's not looking forward to it. He is a chubby kid, wears thick glasses, and has had to endure some ... unpleasantness ... from his classmates. Making things worse: His "summer reading" book was Lord of the Flies, a book that features a chubby kid with glasses, a kid everyone calls "Piggy." Bob knows what's going to ensue.
Some things happen right away to darken his skies: Some high school kids torment him on his way to school; a (large) classmate has decided to make Bob his personal punching bag; some of his teachers seem clueless. And one annoying teacher has decided to coerce Bob into trying out for the fall play, Dracula.
One bright spot: a new girl.
Bob the Slob follows Bob throughout the fall and culminates with the production of Dracula.
I'll post a note here--and on FB--when the title is available.
BTW, I've left the dedication of the book just the way it was in the 1980s: For Stephen--and for all those Aurora kids.