• As a boy, Mark Twain was a talented speller and almost always won the medal for spelling at his school. However, one day he did not win the medal in a spelling contest because he left out the first ‘r’ in “February.” He later admitted that he had done that on purpose, so a childhood sweetheart could win the medal instead of him. (Laura Hawkins, the model for Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was the sweetheart.)
• A female college student in Canada once asked science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, “What is reality?” (He was a good person to ask because much of his writing is concerned with this question.) He thought about the question, then gave her his answer in one sentence: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
• As a teenager, Walter Dean Myers skipped school a lot, so much in fact that he once went to school and found out that it was closed — for summer vacation. As an adult, Mr. Myers became the author of such books as Scorpions, Hoops, and Slam!
• Fan fiction — fiction written by fans using the characters they are fans of — has been around for longer than you may think. When Ray Bradbury was 12 years old in the early 1930s, he was a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of books starring such characters as Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars. Mr. Burroughs sometimes ended a book with a cliffhanger, so the reader would have to buy the next book in the series to find out what had happened. After young Ray had finished a John Carter of Mars novel, he didn’t have enough money to buy the sequel, so he wrote his own sequel. Was it published? Mr. Bradbury says, “I was twelve! It was terrible! I threw it away!”
• As head of her own architectural firm in California at a time when that was rare for a woman, Julia Morgan knew how to make a point. Once, a young man in her employ designed a staircase. Ms. Morgan looked at the drawing and noticed that it was impossible to walk up and down the staircase. She told the young man, “I can’t deal with fiction writers.”
• Barbara Taylor Bradford has written a number of popular books, including A Woman of Substance. Asked if she minded being a “popular novelist,” she replied, “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be an unpopular novelist.”
• When Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, was a little girl, her mother was very strict and would not allow her to eat sugar with her oatmeal; in fact, her mother tasted the oatmeal before Madeleine ate it to make sure it had no sugar. Fortunately, young Madeleine had a nanny, Mrs. O’Connell, who liked to spoil her. Therefore, Mrs. O, as Madeleine called her, would put sugar in the bottom of Madeleine’s oatmeal bowl. Madeleine’s mother would taste the unsweetened oatmeal at the top, and then Mrs. O would stir the oatmeal and sugar and let Madeleine eat the sweetened oatmeal. Madeleine’s mother never figured out why Madeleine would eat oatmeal for Mrs. O, but not for anyone else.
• The first time Gary Paulsen, author of Hatchet, competed in the 1,000-plus-mile sled dog race in Alaska known as the Iditarod, he ran into a problem. One of his dogs refused to eat the food he had available to feed them. Instead, the dog would eat only the food that he had available to feed himself. Dogs are important in the Iditarod, and sled dogs have to eat to get the energy necessary to pull the sled, so Mr. Paulsen fed the dog his own food, leaving only butter for himself to eat. At a race checkpoint, moose chili was available, and Mr. Paulsen gorged himself, eating 19 bowls before he could bring himself to stop.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2 — Buy