In 2nd Grade, I wrote a short story that got me invited to a "Young Authors" convention, which I believe took place in either Cleveland or Kent, Ohio. It was a story about four hobos who defeated a giant snow monster by using a mirror to melt him with reflected sunlight. They also published the story in the school paper, complete with interpretative drawings of the snow monster. I remember it not looking like how I pictured, but I approved anyway. My teacher Mrs. Estis had me read the story to the class, and they kept laughing every time I said "hobos." There was another boy named Andy in my class who also got invited to the convention, but I'm sure his story sucked.
The convention was filled with young authors and teachers, and maybe some parents - this is kind of a fuzzy memory, because I never fully had a grasp on why exactly this was all happening. I remember two boys shouting at each other: "My story is SEVEN pages!" "My story is ELEVEN pages!" I was struck how although we were young authors, we were not conducting ourselves with author-like decorum.
What I remember most is the speaker, author William Sleator. I think part of the reason my memory of him is so vivid, is because I really didn't know what was happening or why I was there. He had recently put out his book Interstellar Pig, a science-fiction book for young adults, or young authors as the case may be. He talked about how as an author, he got screwed over financially by his publishers. "If I sell a book for ten dollars, you know how much that I get?," he asked a crowd of children. "One dollar!" He also conducted mind tricks on us, teaching us about misdirection. We either all got a free copy of his book, or we had to pay for it, I can't remember, all I know is that I didn't want it. I took it home and tried to read it, and I didn't know what the hell was going on. The cover looked interesting enough, but there were just a bunch of words inside. I'd of rather been playing an alien board game myself. One school day shortly after the convention, Andy got in front of the class for show-and-tell and began to talk about a book he'd just read called Interstellar Pig. "You gotta be fucking kidding me," I thought, "You mean that book the gave us at that stupid thing you and I went to?"
For years Interstellar Pig sat on my bookshelf at home, and for all I know it's still sitting there in what used to be my bedroom. I've thought about that whole experience from time to time, and how weird it was. Just the other day I googled the book out of curiosity. Turns out the author died in 2011. Apparently he had a problem with alcoholism. Also, he was gay. This convention took place in 1985, which were different times, and I wonder if the people who invited him knew of his homosexuality. If so, kudos to them. Long live the Young Authors.