July 1, 2013

Rejected Stories By First-Graders

by Gordon

N. Hardwell
Editor, ABC Publishing

Mrs. Thompson
Dill Elementary School

July 1, 1987

Mrs. Thompson:

I recently received your submission "A Witch: a Collection of Creative Stories by Mrs. Thompson's First Grade Class" (facsimile below), along with the similarly-subtitled anthologies "I Am the Easter Bunny" and "Ladybugs." As I was between major editing projects, I was able to read through them rather quickly.

I should say start reading through them, because I was unable to make it all the way through any one submission. Frankly, your writers cannot be called 'First Grade' in any sense. Despite being somewhat inured to bad writing (thanks to decades in this cesspool of an industry), after reading "A Witch," I felt so nauseous I had to lay down to avoid vomiting. I had to restore my faith in human language by recalling Dr. Seuss rhymes and reading from a recipe book. I am now reconsidering my life.

Nonetheless, lest you come whining to me later, asking endless questions about why I am rejecting these wastes of paper, or, worse yet, attempting to edit these hopelessly pedestrian stories bit by bit in a futile attempt to redeem them, I will head you off at the pass and tell you EXACTLY what is wrong with these 'creative' stories.

"A Witch"

"It was a dark and stormy night." It is dark in the garbage can, which is where any story that begins this way will wind up. But no, not so with your stories: I am a witch. I am a witch. I am a witch. I am a robot. I cannot think for myself. I will grow up to be a mindless consumer of insipid pop culture. I will eat super-size fast food and have a 9-to-5 job in a cubicle and be underpaid and fat and ugly and stupid and I will look back and remember the cookie-cutter sell-out story Mrs. Thompson made me write as the beginning of the end.

As for "my name is..." In case you didn't proofread these stories (and I think that's fairly evident), let me summarize the variety of names that appear in this collection:
  • The terminally dull: Fred, Brad, Elizabeth, Kerry, Ned, Amy, Hazel, Brad, and Kit. Listen to that - do you hear our readers caring? No? That's because these are obviously boring, pathetic characters. Oh, excuse me - boring, pathetic 'witches.' A witch named BRAD??
  • The trivially descriptive: Monster, Potion-Lady, Spooky, Crackels, Witch-A-Boo, Witchy, Spooky, McBoo, Spooky, Witchy Wash, Witchy Witch, and yes, even... Witch-Witch. What about Black Witch? ...Evil Witch? Have you forgotten Witch-Witch-Witchy-Witch?
  • The 'special needs': Nail, Lizard, Moon, Lizard Brain, and Snakes. Stop feeding your students Ho-Hos for lunch.
  • The bizzare: Boob (?!), Shu-Shu, and, from the young author Gordon, clearly your shining star pupil, MOONTER THEIS.
Then there are the depressingly monotous character descriptions (I like, I like, I can, I can, I, I, I):

I can cook. I'm angry. I look funny.

I can cast a spell. I can cook. I can melt.

Did you tell your pupils to write these like personals ads - as practice for the pitiful personal ads they will someday write as overweight middle-aged lonely losers with broken dreams?

And what about this future JK Rowling?

I hate witches. I am green. I have a black cat. I like witches.

Let me get this straight: you are a witch. You hate witches. You like witches. Fuck you and a giant *F* for attention to detail.

And this young scribist?

I hate you. I do bad things. I am a bad witch. I have a black cat. My friends hate me.

Please shut her away in the counseling office before she endangers your entire school.

I attach a photocopy of the first page of stories here, in case you have forgotten the piercing migraine pain they trigger upon reading.

"I Am the Easter Bunny"

If we published this collection, we would be guilty of plaigarism, artistic bankruptcy, AND bad taste. Obviously your writers have stolen unabashedly from the poor "Peter Rabbit" series of children's books, as well as shamelessly copied the same generic plot from each other. At least there IS a plot, which is more than can be said of your previous collection. Allow me to briefly retell every story in "I Am the Easter Bunny":

I am the Easter Bunny. I am white. I am furry. I am fat. I am fast. I am nice. I am happy. I am love children. I have ears. Do you have ears? I have to deliver 10 eggs in 5 days. I didn't. But then I did. FUCK ME!!!

Some of the more gripping versions of this plotline include:

I got caught. I got saved. I was happy.

I saw a crab, it pinched me so I had to give it an egg.

I live in Bunny Town. Do you like my eggs? I like Easter. Do you like Easter? I do like Easter. It is fun. Some of my eggs break.

Please have this student SEDATED.

Once again, your collective lack of creativity for names is astounding. The Easter Bunny names I tallied include Floppy, Hoppy, Gilbert, Spotty, Fluffy, Swifty, Floppy (again), Easter, Fluffy (again), Heather, Easter (again, WTF??), Gilbert (again), Smarty, and Fluffy (three times). I am surprised and a little disappointed to not see BUNNY or WHITEY on the list.

Amidst the trash, there are a few exceptions to the otherwise forgettable travesties of the English language. A rare coherent plot from one author:

One night it was very dark and I couldn't see. And that night I ran into a tree and broke all of the eggs. That morning the children were very sad and were mad all day and didn't like Easter any more.

After reading this collection, I don't like Easter any more. Although this story about How the Easter Bunny Got Fired is at least amusing. Then there is little Meryl, who tells how the Easter Bunny learned maturity, in a tale far exceeding the morality and conflict-resolution tension of her peers:

One day I had to deliver a chocolate bunny. My eyes started to water. I had to eat it. But I couldn't eat it. Finally I delivered it. I was happy I did not eat it.

Eyes starting to water? Do you mean crying, or your mouth watering? You might want to review with Meryl that lesson about What Parts of Your Face Are Called. Lastly, there is a pupil I mentioned before - a certain Gordon - whose story begins:

I am the Easter Bunny. I have pink ears and whiskers that are droopy. I have a long fluffy tail.

Standard so far. But then:

My name is Rainbow Egg.

The first sign that something is amiss. Next:

One day on Easter Eve I hopped to the planet Jupiter.

FTW! Suffice to say, with his brave inclusion of a space monster and discussion of linguistic difficulties with space monster language, Gordon has gone above and beyond your pendantic little exercise. I will forward his story for consideration in our juvenile science-fiction anthology. Here I attach the photocopy, with corrections I have drawn from the handwritten manuscript (which was in two inch-high block pencil letters and eraser smudges, I might add). Whoever did your transcriptions (and deserves to be beaten) did not pay enough attention to distinguish one space monster from many, one easter egg from many, and monster language from space monster language.

I also appreciate the accompanying illustrations:


Your third collection is once again filled with anemic prose and the kind of tedious repetition that makes me want to slit my wrists: I am a ladybug, I have a red body and black spots, I have black spots, we are red-orange with black spots, I am an insect with spots, I am shiny, I am nice, I like to fly, spots, I like aphids, I, I, spots, I I I me me me PLEASE GOD LET ME DIE!

Then there are your dependably dopey names: Freddy, Blazer, Tornado, Gilbirt (again, but you've forgotten how to spell it, you little prick), Charles, Sparkler, Shiny, Dottie, Dot, Spotty, Joe, Tony, Ray, Harry Scarry Pot and Mot, Rad, Sandy, Windy, Happy, Messy, Spots, Lady, George, Lupe, Cloudy, Spotty, and Charlie. And once again lines like:

I like you very, very much.

I am chubby and nice.

More practice for the miserable personal ads they will someday pen.

That said, your small authors' skill in plotting has increased marginally but perceptibly when compared to the first collection. Here is some of the feedback I would offer:

He went on an adventure to find gold. He went past high mountains. He found the mine. He looked for gold. He found gold. He brought gold back to his family. They felt happy.

So it's all about gold, is it? All about money, money, money? This young man is on track to lead a soulless life filled with avarice and devoid of human passion.

This morning I saw something that I have never seen before. It was something new to me. I was so scared. So I ran to my mom and dad. They did not believe me. So they spanked me. I cried all the way to my room.

At least little Danielle follows the maxim 'write what you know.' However, for utterly failing to describe the 'something' in question with even two words, she deserves multiple spankings.

I saw some aphids and then a greedy ladybug came. It ate all the aphids. It said, "Do you want a fight?" I was scared and I saw some aphids. I said, "Do you want to share?" "Yes," and we did and I flew home.

This is not how the world works. Our readers prefer stories that are more grounded in modern, gritty, urban reality. In real life, the answer to "do you want to share?" is "no," your wussy ladybug gets beaten, all his aphids are stolen, then he starves to death over the winter. Oh, and then the orphaned children of the aphids come and dance on his lifeless decaying husk and shit all over it.

One day I saw something in front of me. I was very scared. I thought it was something from outer space. It had two things on its head. But it was not something from outer space. It was a bear.

Ah, so close, so close - yet so far. A mysterious two-headed creature, product of an actually imaginative mind, or?... a bear. I can almost see this poor student struggling to overcome mediocrity. Fighting a losing internal battle in his thick little lopsided head, trying desperately to rise above the mere regurgitation of cultural and literary slop for which his school has trained him... and... FAILURE. All for nothing. Someday he may remember this - the last day in his cruelly long life when he attempted to be original, to be creative, and then failed, sliding backwards into the stagnant festering stupidity of the slobbering masses.

But then little Meagan writes:

One day when I went to school, I met a police man. His name was Mr. Kilpatrick. He was very nice. He said, "I am going to arrest your teacher."

Ha! Ha! Ha! If aiding and abetting the mauling of the English language were criminal, you would be arrested and EUTHANIZED - and your student knows it! An 'A' for her!!

And once again, your pupil Gordon turns your intellectually undemanding exercise on its head, weaving his ladybug story back into the witch story:

I am also touched by the illustrations he included:

In summary, I must say that in all my decades as editor here at ABC Publishing, I have read countless thousands of submissions, sent by countless thousands of would-be and amateur and self-titled authors from countless walks of life; and out of those thousand manuscripts, not ONE has ever failed to prove vastly superior to the three collections you have just sent me. I have had submissions from rural China, by farmers who learned English by reading pesticide ingredient labels, that were better than "A Witch." A novella dictated through sign-language by an aging gorilla with palsy and gonorrhea that blows "I Am the Easter Bunny" out of the water. Short stories by limbless deaf and blind child cancer patients that put "Ladybugs" to shame.

I would rather drink my own urine than read another collection from your students. I would sooner jump in front of a Mack truck than read another story beginning with "I am the Easter Bunny." I would cut off my ears before hearing again what Spotty the Ladybug had for breakfast - maybe some FUCKING APHIDS??? Since he's a fucking LADYBUG for FUCK'S SAKE???? And Fluffy the Bunny and Witchy Witch can shove their damn eggs and their damn broomsticks up each other's asses and go play HIDE AND GO FUCK THEMSELVES.

On a positive note, the migraines induced by reading your submissions will allow me to apply for disability. Also, I can say now without a doubt that I have read the absolutely most soul-sucking horrifying war crimes of literature that I will ever read: everything from now on can only get better.

Please do not contact me again, as I plan to be out of the office for a long, long time.

Cordially yours,

N. Hardwell
Editor, ABC Publishing

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