So I had my main character. But then I thought, hey, two main characters are better than one. I mean, everybody needs a best friend–a bestie, right? So who would be Peas's best buddy?
And I don't know. Maybe I heard a dog barking outside. Or maybe it was one of those moments of inspiration authors hope for. But it came to me that Peas's best friend should be a dog.
But not an ordinary dog. A special one. I got it! A dog that can walk and talk like any ordinary ten-year-old boy. Brilliant!
I know. I know. There are plenty of talking dog characters out there in books, movies, etc. But can you please just give it to me. It really did feel like it was meant to be: Peas and his best friend: a dog who can walk and talk!
So now I needed another name. And so I thought what is a good name for a dog that would also be a good fit with Peas?
I knew that this character would be hip, cool, a wise-guy. Snarky but in a good way. Lovable. Maybe even someone like–dare I say it–Hobbes? Not to compare the two.
So I thought again. (Lot of thinking was happening–did you see the smoke?) What goes with Peas?
And, again, maybe I was hungry at the time. Or maybe lightning struck twice and I had another moment of inspiration. But it cane to me: Ham! That's what goes with peas.
But I needed more than ham. Calling a dog Ham didn't sound right. Can you imagine going: Sit, Ham! Sit!
It needed more. Something like Hambone!
Yeah. That's the ticket!
So I had my two main characters.
So I had my main character. With a cool nickname that I could do a lot with. I mean, really–Peas? It writes itself, doesn't it? Now, I know what you thinking. You: Okay, Mister Think-You-Are-So-Clever Writer, so you're telling me filling your book with potty humor is a good thing? Don't you know we're tired of our kids reading Captain Underpants all day long and want them to read something without talking toilets and poopy underpants? I hear you. And, no, I don't think a book filled with potty humor is a good thing. There has to be more to your story. But I also do think that some potty humor is a way to relate to reluctant readers, especially boys. (I have one at home–a reluctant reader–and trust me I can't tell you how many times he has read the Captain Underpants series. But he READS that series. And I want kids who are reluctant readers to READ. Let me say that again: I WANT RELUCTANT READERS TO READ! I don't think I need to tell you how important reading is. But as a classroom teacher, I can't tell you how many reluctant readers enter my classroom every year. And how hard it is to get a book in their hands. So, yes, I will have a character with a nickname that sounds like a bodily function we all do if it will GET KIDS READING. (Author confession: I do find it kind of funny.) And so that's what I did. I used the nickname Peas to riff on the other peas. The one with two e's that's not a vegetable at all. Has nothing to do with little green spheres and jolly green giants. Ho-ho-ho! No. The one with the two e’s has to do with a certain bodily function we all do, but it’s not like I want to spell it out for you. Here’s a clue: it has to do with yellow streams and “Don’t eat the yellow snow!”
(Can I tell you that when I did a reading a little while back at my town library that the kids we literally on the floor laughing at that last line!)
So I knew I had done something right! Or is that write?!
It's kind of funny how long that sentence sat in a folder on my computer. And then one day this thought came to me. Looking back on it now, it seems to be one of those writer moments where a spark of inspiration is struck and you go, "Why, of course!" And that's how it came to me to give Peter the nickname Peas. A little backstory. When I was little my older brother called me that name. I was a small kid. And I can remember one day he came home from school and gave me this leather wristband. On it he had carved the name Peas. Or maybe he wrote it on. Or maybe he burned it on. I don't truly remember. I think I still have it in a box in the basement somewhere though. Anyway, I thought how perfect to give Peter that nickname as well. And that's how I got to the second sentence: But you can call me Peas.
For a long time all I had written down was that first sentence: My name is Peter. Looking back in my documents now tells me that I first wrote that sentence in 2008. (Almost ten years ago!) And that I named the document: My name is Peter. I had no idea where I was going with it. In the following years, I started and stopped and started again many other drafts of stories. Some good and some not so good. I finished a couple middle grade manuscripts I took to conferences. And based on the feedback I received eventually had the courage to send those manuscripts to agents and publishers. There were no takers. But I kept at it. But all the time I found myself going back to that sentence: My name is Peter.
Now, Peas and Hambone Save Us All didn't start out as Peas and Hambone Save Us All. It actually started out as Peas and Hambone Versus Flesh-Eating Zombie Gorillas. A mouthful, I know. But when I brainstormed titles with my students that was the one they chose as the best. Wait a second. Maybe I should back up a little bit. Okay. Maybe I should back up a lot. It all started with this one sentence: My Name is Peter.
Okay. First things first. As you can see by the title of this post this is not a blog. (But the more I think about it don't you only use the word "post" when describing a blog entry?) I don't know what a blog is, what it should look like, and more importantly how to write one. I feel like the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer from that old SNL bit. But maybe I should tweak it just a little and make it Unfrozen Caveman Writer. "I don't know what a blog is! That word frightens and confuses me! I'm just a writer!"
I know what you're probably thinking. If this is not a blog why did I set up the page like a blog? Good question. But I don't have a good answer. All I can say is I want to write a journal. I've had a journal most of my life. And now instead of writing down my thoughts in one every night before I go to bed I'm going to write them down here.
Now, don't worry. You don't need to click off the page because the thought of reading all about the minutiae of my life fills you with dread. But please don't stay on this page if you're hoping to read something salacious that has happened to me. Remember, I'm a writer. All I do is write. And read. My life is pretty boring and uneventful.
But what's not boring and uneventful to me is the writing process. And I want to share with you the process that led me to write and ultimately publish my first book: Peas and Hambone Save Us All.