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Adam Perry, Age 8

Adam Perry is the author of The Magicians of Elephant County, forthcoming from HarperCollins in 2018. He wrote this story, “Daddy’s ‘Little’ Angels,” in the third grade.

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— Adam Perry, Age 8

“I always loved reading. My mom was an elementary librarian, and I spent a lot of time surrounded by books. From a young age I wanted to write stories, but it always seemed like something I needed permission to do. Surely authors didn’t just sit down and write!

So when a creative writing assignment came up in third grade, I finally had the approval to try it out. My teacher handed out sheets of paper and instructed the class to write a story about anything we wanted, as long as it filled two pages. That seemed like a lot, but I put pencil to paper and started writing. The idea came quick. I was obsessed with National Geographic that year, and was struck by a picture of two pandas playing. Maybe they didn’t want to live in the jungle. Maybe they wanted to go to a zoo. How would they get there? Would they plan their own capture? I remember the buzz as my looping cursive filled the first page. The story sizzled in my head, flowing out faster than I could put the words to paper. Minutes later I had filled my first sheet. At the front of the room was a stack of extra notebook paper and I stood to get another. My classmates stared. A quick glance over the room showed me that most had only written a few lines. I returned to my seat and continued writing, filling another sheet, then another, then another. By the end of the hour I had filled twelve sheets of wide-ruled notebook paper with increasingly sloppy writing. Graphite smudges covered my hand and I was dizzy with excitement. I had written a story. It was my first writer’s high—and one that I am still chasing today.

That night, my dad helped me type it out on our black and white computer. We designed a cover, and printed it out in beautiful early 90s dot matrix. I cut out the picture from the National Geographic and glued it to the front. I was officially a published author. I got an A+ for creativity, which meant the world to me at the time, though I can’t help but think the teacher was being generous. The story doesn’t really make sense, and as an adult, I can think of a bunch of reasons I would have slapped a C on the front and crushed a little boy’s dreams. The story has some glaring issues. For instance: The fact that pandas don’t live in Africa. The obviously stolen line from Aladdin (it was a hot movie that year). The ‘holy cow’ dad humor. The rushed middle and confusing conclusion. Still, I’m grateful for his encouragement, because this was the spark that told me anything was possible—that if I could imagine things and put them to paper, they were real. This was the start of something. I didn’t need permission anymore.”