Someday, if I publish a book that people read and love, someone might want to interview me. And, if I’m lucky enough to pen a bestseller, and my name begins to be mispronounced* on tongues all over the literary world, someone might want to know, “But what was her earliest work? What did she write before she was famous?”
Well, I’ve got a little time on my hands, so I’m going to go ahead and save you all some trouble.
[*Note: Juettner is pronounced YOOT-ner. It’s German, and was a gift from my husband. My maiden name, Kinder, is pronounced like kindergarten, not like more kind than you. Kinder is also German and means children.]
Opening the Vault (And By “Vault” I Mean the Door to My Parents’ House)
My parents keep everything. I’m tempted to add the word “literally” to the end of that sentence, but since you won’t see them on an episode of Hoarders, I’m going to leave it off. They keep ALMOST everything.
My feelings about their tendency to over-collect are hard to express. During visits home, I can often be heard saying things like, “I can’t believe you kept all this stuff. Why did you keep all this stuff? You know, eventually, you’re going to need to get rid of… OOO! Is that my She-Ra coloring book? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Apparently I send mixed signals.
The truth is every time I open a box at my parents’ house or rummage through an old cabinet, I find more treasure. I then move the treasure to my house, while shaking my head at myself.
Recently, I unearthed a pretty good find.
My First Published Pieces
Three things I remember about second grade:
- It rained a lot that year. We ended up with a lot of “indoor recess” days where we played games and worked puzzles on the floor instead of running around outside. I now know that these were probably not fun days for my sweet teacher, Mrs. Medina. One of the games we had was Memory. In my memory, no one would play Memory with me because I was too good, but in reality it was more likely because I was a sore winner.
- We kept eggs under an incubator in Mrs. Medina’s room and hatched some of them into chicks. However, we also cracked open several of the eggs at various stages of chick development to see what was going on in there. It was VERY educational. I have no idea what happened to the hatched chicks.
- We made a book—a real, honest-to-goodness book—called All About Friendship. My story “The Runaway Horses” was published in it. Here it is in its entirety:
I also designed the cover of All About Friendship. While my writing has been published in various places over the years, I believe this may be the only professional illustrating I ever did.
In fourth grade, Mrs. Hammack took us on our first trip to Enterprise City. Enterprise City is a fake city inside a building where kids get to practice for the “real world.” We learned how to write and cash checks and make out receipts and everyone had a job—You could work at the bank or a store or the post office… There was even a police officer who could write tickets for anyone breaking the laws, like walking across the grass (carpet) where we weren’t supposed to walk. We all had work shifts, for which we were paid in Enterprise City money, and then we had time to walk around “town” and shop or hangout. It was pretty cool. I worked at the newspaper as the reporter.
Unfortunately, I was extremely biased in my reporting. Here’s a sample article, written in cursive like all good newspapers:
Paul Toal was my friend and coworker at the newspaper, Kelley Hamrick was my cousin, and Carie Kinder was… Oh, wait! That’s me! Yeah, the whole paper was like that. I dedicated an entire page to my best friend Camille’s store (Cami’s Snacks) but wrote not a word on the town’s crime statistics. Oh well.
In sixth grade, our teachers produced an eighty-page (eighty actual pieces of paper because page numbers were only written on one side) book called Reading and Writing Work Together! which included multiple writing pieces from every student in the sixth grade. This mammoth publication was printed on bright orange paper and a copy was given to every student. (80 pages x 40-something students = a number that would give any principal today a copy-budget-related heart attack, but these were different times.)
By this time, a boy named David Liu had taken over the job of cover artist, and rightly so. We were in awe of his dragon drawings. But I was well-represented in the pages of the book. My work in the anthology included two poems about Halloween, a descriptive paragraph about spring, a persuasive piece entitled “GIRLS’ RIGHTS,” and a personal narrative about the day I got braces. [Excerpt: “As we were about to pull into the driveway, I asked my mom if I could punch my brother if he called me names. She said no. I punched him anyway.”]
However, my favorite piece was my short story, “Mystery Mansion.” Here it is, with present-day commentary:
Hmm… a horror story with a cliffhanger ending? Yep, I’m still partial to those today. For proof, you can check out “The Jack-in-the-Box.”
My earliest work has taught me that I’m on the right track. I’ve abandoned my dreams of illustrating and have (wisely) veered away from a career in investigative journalism. Fiction, poetry, and memoir writing seem to be my niche, and I’m sticking to them. Who knows, maybe I’ll turn “Mystery Mansion” into a full length novel someday.
Thank you to my 2nd, 4th, and 6th grade teachers– Mrs. Medina, Mrs. Hammack, Mrs. Fordyce, Mrs. Cottam, and Ms. Ouzts– for providing me with such a great start in my writing career and for giving me such wonderful souvenirs of my time at Terrace Elementary. Thank you also to my 3rd and 5th grade teachers– Mrs. Jonas, Mrs. Henderson, and Mr. Dodd. I have so many wonderful memories from your classrooms.