When I was 19, I found myself at a weekend retreat with a bunch of college friends where everyone had paired off but me. Talk about awkward. I wasn’t a writer then, but I have always loved writing, so I begged some paper and a pen and sat down and wrote.
I started with stream-of-conscious about how I was feeling, but soon I found myself telling the story of Annie and Jason and their exploration of the “Great African Jungle.” I was entranced. And during the time it took to write it, I relived my childhood and those carefree days of easy friendship as I wrote about my childhood best friend and I. Of course, none of it had really happened. But it could have.
I didn’t come back to that story for another five years, but when I stumbled upon it, I was drawn to it. At the time, I don’t think I recognized it for what it was, but I was struggling in the face of becoming an adult. I was a semester away from completing my Masters’ and knew that an era of my life would be coming to an end. Plus, I’d recently gotten married. I didn’t admit it at the time, but my future felt so limited. A long line of all work and no play. Of being serious and responsible.
I needed that story I had written. I needed that carefree feeling. That joy that comes from spending time with someone who means the world to you. And I needed more of it. So that’s what I did. I wrote a series of stories from my childhood. Not all of it is true, and of course, gads and gads of it were changed and formed into something that suited the larger story, but many of the events in my book really happened. Often not in the way or at the time that it happens in the book, but it happened nonetheless.
So today, I wanted to share just one event from my book and talk about the truth behind it. But rest assured there are many, many more.
During the hunt for the buried treasure, Annie and Jason come across an actual ‘X’ scratched into the rock. They frantically dig, certain they have found the treasure, only to find nothing but an old, broken Miss Piggy Alarm Clock. An item from Annie’s long-since past. One night, when she was 5, her mother served pork chops for dinner. Annie asked what pork chops were, and her mother glibly answered, “Pig. We’re eating Miss Piggy!” Properly horrified, Annie buried her beloved alarm clock with the help of her best friend.
This really happened to me! When I asked my mom what pork chops were, that is how she responded. Even she can’t explain that momentary lapse of judgement. And for the record, I do not like pork chops to this day. I had a Miss Piggy alarm clock that I loved, but I didn’t bury it. I wish I would have thought of that, because I would have totally done it! Poor Miss Piggy.
I don’t have time to tell more, but I am offering all of you the chance to win a one-of-a-kind annotated ARC in which I note many of the stories behind The Story. Thanks for dropping in, and good luck!
Janet Sumner Johnson
Janet Sumner Johnson lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids. She bakes a mean cinnamon twist and eats way more cookies than are good for her, which explains her running habit. Though her full-time occupation as evil tyrant/benevolent dictator (aka mom) takes most of her time, she sneaks in writing at night when her inner funny bone is fully unleashed. The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is her first novel.