The Lost Works of Ty Unglebower
Only in the last ten years or so have I put specific, sustained effort into writing fiction. I’d kick around an idea here and there before that, but for the most part, starting in high school, I was all about non-fiction such as articles, essays and editorials. I was, and am, quite adept at such writing.
However as a kid, though I was never as obsessed with writing fiction as many authors claim they were in their formative years, I did produce fiction more frequently than I did in my early adulthood. Most of it was the result of school assignments, and most of it is now lost. Some of my writings from those days still stick out in my mind, however.
I don’t remember the first story I ever wrote, but the earliest story of which I have any memory I wrote in second grade. It involved a goblin being defeated in some fashion. I don’t have the physical pages anymore, so I don’t recall most of it.I don’t remember most of it, but i do remember the last sentence. Because the goblin had been defeated, instead of writing “The End” at the story’s conclusion, I wrote “The (goblins) End.” Note that I had no concept of an apostrophe, but somehow had a sense of what parenthesis were about. Don’t ask me how, I don’t really know.
There were more stories, but the next one I jump to I wrote the following year. I had a horrible, nasty teacher in third grade. One of the first indications of her wretchedness was when she made fun of said story I wrote for the assignment in front of the other kids, some of whom of course laughed.
We’d be given this assignment: “What if you were a detective right now? Write about why you’d be the best.”
I wrote of me having plenty of water guns, a bike on which I could chase other kids trying to run away, and a basement apartment I could use for a secret office.
“Come on, you really think it would be enough to just have a water gun?” the old crone asked me in class once I’d read the story out loud, her already pinched face scrunched even further in condescension.
I had, you see, written a story exactly as assigned. What if I, at that moment, were made a detective? The other stories involved the other kids driving their cars down the highway, with real gun and other accessories. It had not been specified to make everything up that I would have wished. Only that if I, as I was at that moment, were made a detective. Such was my first realism piece, I dare say.
In art class during the same year, the art teacher, (who also, sadly, was a mean woman who would mock how poorly I drew and cut out shapes) assigned us to write a picture book. This I believe I still have in a box, somewhere. It was called “Mixed Up Land.” I remember the first line without digging for the box:
“Mixed Up land is weird.”
The story was about this place where the landmarks and national monuments we all know and admire on earth were in different cities and countries in Mixed Up Land. The White House was on top of Mt, Fuji, The Hollywood sign was on an island. That sort of thing. It’s not easy making a White House out of construction paper and memory.
I went to a certain private school from fourth to sixth grade. More than the public school, creative writing was a part of our daily curriculum. Only a few stories stand out now. One was an adaptation I wrote of an old Native American folk story about the creation of the bat. (The animal.) I didn’t know what the word “adaptation” was at the time, but looking back, that is the appropriate term. I improved the dialogue, and made it funnier than the folktale I had heard. No offence to that story’s tribe of origin. (Which I have forgotten.) Like most of this early fiction, it too is lost to history.
As is another longer story I wrote the following year, but I remember having a great deal of fun writing it. The principal of that private school was about half crazy, to tell you the truth. Bit of a wannabe hippie. But one of his strengths was assigning primo creative writing assignments. Each of us were assigned a sea animal we had studied during the unit, and were told to write a story in the form of a log written by a submarine captain, whose mission it was to study the creature. We were also to include some “life on board” posts in the log. I had the sea urchin, I believe.
I would often write my classmates into my assigned stories, and sometimes write stand alone adventures starring me and they, which I would then pass around to them for their approval.
During that time, I worked on what would in comparison be my first novel, called simply, Time Travelers. I wrote the novel long hand in my fat, terrible handwriting, in one of those small hardback notebooks full of blank, lined pages. The story was a partially unconscious homage to the old “Voyagers” TV show reruns which I watched as a kid, with some “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” tone to it.
It starred Sam and Bobby going to different times and getting into all kinds of adventures with historical figures. I never explained how they spoke the same languages. The two of them went to ancient Egypt, England in the Middle Ages, the Lincoln White House. (They traveled with him to Gettysburg to give the Address, which I painstakingly copied down, word for difficult word, in the journal’s blank pages.) They also hung out in prehistoric times for a while. Also into the future for a bit, which they decided to change because they didn’t like the outcome.
My friend at the time, (one of my few) also considered himself a writer, and was writing what I suppose was an action adventure novel in his own little notebook. Though he was reluctant at first, I convinced him, (after much persistence) to cross over a chapter with my own novel. Not a great idea, looking back, but it seemed cool at the time.
Eventually, Sam and Bobby’s time machine got damaged, and they ended up stuck in Nazi Germany. That’s where I left them as a kid, and that’s where they remain; the promised, Time Travelers II, which I mentioned would be “coming soon” on the final page of the journal, never happened.
I did revisit the time travel idea, though. In seventh and eighth grade I moved to a different private school. Not as many writing assignments in that school, though there were a few. One of them was to write a sequel for a short story we’d read in our text books in English class. The assignment came before we read the actual ending. I don’t remember what it was called, but it involved some old ’49er trapped on a disused pulley car, suspended above a ravine. In my sequel, I wrote myself into the story, and saved the man, explaining I’d come from the future in a time machine I’d built. The fictionalized Ty told this guy that in the future, his descendant owed me money, which I would never collect unless I saved him (the old man.) The part I found clever was that though I was a character, i still wrote it in third-person. More humor than sci-fi on that one.
I transferred to yet another school in 9th ninth grade.I wrote some short fiction, (such as a funny parody of that year’s presidential election for an assignment.) Once in a while I even started a novel once or twice in high school, my production dropped for years, until adulthood. I focused more on academic and non-fiction writing. Editorials and term papers, both of which earned high praise much of the time. But for a good many years, fiction was just not on the docket, as it were.
And now it is again, what with my novel coming out soon, my short stories from last year, and several other places I’ve published online for free. I’ve not written as much in the last few months as I like, but it seems that fiction is now a regular part of my writing arsenal for the foreseeable future.
I wish I had some more of these lost writings, though. Sure, in some ways they would be embarrassing to read, as Time Travels is when I can decipher my own writing. But in these stories, written either just for friends, or just for teachers there is something free. Something unhindered by marketing and publishing worries, trends, formulas and audience. In these mostly lost works is a version of this author that though he sought a good grade, wrote mainly what came to him, and made him feel happy, excited or scared as he wrote it. It should always be as straight forward as that.
Actually, it is.