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Katie Chase, Age 9

Author of the story collection Man and Wife, Katie Chase has published fiction in journals such as Narrative, Joyland, ZYZZYVA, and Prairie Schooner, and has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Presented here is a collection of excerpts from Weird Woman Magazine, which she wrote, illustrated, and published at the age of nine.

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— Katie Chase, Age 9

“When I produced the short-lived serial Weird Woman Magazine (sometimes incarnated as Weird Women), I was not as meticulous a record keeper as I am now (ha!); thus, the age of nine is an estimate. But my life in childhood didn’t change so much from year to year: my parents stayed married, and we remained in the same suburban home in which they still live. My sister, whom, due to our great difference in age, I like to think of now as having helped raised (as opposed to my brother, close enough to be more of a nemesis and friend), was born when I was eight; when I was ten, my family hosted a Danish female exchange student, whose teenage exploits I imagined at length. What matters is the crux of that era: I was a child peering out onto womanhood and the society in which it’s defined. My mother was a ‘stay-at-home.’ My environment was one of talk shows, music videos, and women’s fashion magazines. It wouldn’t be long before I was a subscriber, to Teen, to Sassy, to Brio (a magazine for Christian girls an aunt had gifted).

In early childhood, silliness is celebrated; by early adolescence, oddness is punishable. It was only later that I, like the Weird Woman character Sidney Slopper (clearly inspired by Cyndi Lauper), would wear green nail polish, and go thrifting for the ill-fitting clothes of ironically beloved bygone times. I like to think that at age nine, I was already my true self; it was the period that came after, when I stopped drawing, writing stories, and stapling pages into volumes, in which I forgot myself for a little while.

A mere six issues of Weird Woman Magazine exist in completion, with a seventh abandoned in-progress (the cover, with its feature article of ‘How to Be the Perfect Housewife,’ drafted but not yet inked). I suspect the same problem that plagues me as a writer now plagued me then: I became bored by my own project, the parameters both I and conventions had set, and moved on to another.”