After a visit with my parents last February, I brought my old computer home with me. When I say “old,” I do mean old. We’re talking about a desktop computer manufactured in 1991 with enough hard drive space to hold maybe a quarter of what is on my laptop and, most importantly, MS-DOS and Windows 3.1.
Yes, I am that old.
So why all this talk about old computers?
Because the last time I booted up that computer was in the late 90s, when I was in late elementary school going into middle school. And on that computer were all of my old stories.
When I wasn’t sucked into a book or playing outside making up countries and languages (I was a language nerd even then!), I used that old computer as my hub of entertainment. I spent more hours than I could ever count just writing stories about people. Well, and I also played games. Raise your hand if you’ve ever played Math Rescue, Word Rescue, Commander Keen, Hocus Pocus, Jazz Jackrabbit, and other shareware games. Ohhhhhhh yeah…..
But we’re not hear to wax nostalgic about that.
You see, on that old computer were a group of stories that I wrote about a group of friends in my age group who traveled together. I called them The Travel Club. I had read the Babysitters Club series from cover to cover, even rereading my favorites several times over. Inspired by those books, I wanted to write a similar set of stories. The friendship aspect was particularly important to me. Being a loner kind of kid, I didn’t have a close-knit group of friends of my own at school, so I wanted to live vicariously through my characters. I wanted to know what it was like to be a part of a group of girls who all spent time together and shared things.
However, I wanted my stories to be different from the BSC. I decided, why not take my girls on traveling adventures?
I wanted to see the world, and this was my way of doing so.
So over the course of a dozen different stories, Nellie Tryke, Patty McIop, Lavinia Sharp, Myoko Nevern, and Anna Anderson traveled to France, Texas, and Japan. Never mind that I had never been to those places. In retrospect, the stories were very unrealistic (unlimited funds and time, for one thing), but hey, I was a kid having fun writing. If I had been bogged down in realistic details, the stories wouldn’t have flourished the way they did. Who thinks about time and money when you’re a kid anyway?
In addition to traveling, I wrote Travel Club stories set in their school where the girls had to deal with more humdrum aspects of teenage life, such as dating and family relations. I stopped after a few stories because I upgraded to a newer computer, so the stories sat on that old hard drive collecting dust.
And I forgot about them until last year.
During my visit, I booted up that old computer for curiosity’s sake. I played an older version of Oregon Trail and a European geography game I remember buying with my dad at a computer show. The game is so old that it still had Bonn listed as the capital of Germany, Czechoslovakia was still a country, and the Balkan countries had not broken up yet. After amusing myself with those old programs, I decided to check out the stories I wrote. They were still on there too, all loaded in Ami Pro.
So I began to pull those old stories off the computer hard drive before it self-destructed from age. I was still surprised that the computer still loaded, considering how old it was. Most notably, I saved as many of those Travel Club stories as I could to a floppy disk, since the computer is so old that there were no USB ports yet.
When I brought the computer home with me (200 miles in the car strapped in to the back seat belts), I was eager to boot it up and show my husband my old computer. The thing that I spent hours typing stories on. My entertainment center. My beacon of 90sness.
It wouldn’t load.
The fan started up, but not the hard drive.
No amount of hooking the hard drive up to other sources would work.
In short, the stories were gone. Every last one of them.
For a two-decade old computer, it sure lasted a lot longer than expected. I have no idea what really happened. It loaded fine at home but not at my house. Maybe the car ride jostled it too much and it just couldn’t boot anymore. Or it was just plain too old. I will never know.
Since the stories were gone, I knew I had to do something with those Travel Club stories so that they could live on somehow. So at the urging of my husband Andrew, I decided to revive those stories. If they couldn’t live on in their original Ami Pro-ness, then I would take the original idea and update it. Make it more realistic. More modern.
In short, turn it into this:
I usually say that I am proud of whatever I have just written. A lot of authors say that. Here’s the thing. I don’t say that to appeal to emotions. I say that because I truly am proud of any story I write. The hours that go in to planning the story, writing, revising, writing, revising again, watching my characters grow in sometimes unexpected ways (Lavinia’s phone call to her mum at the end of the story, for example, was not planned), and just watching something come to life that didn’t exist before, are why I write. There’s a scene in Saturday in the Park with George that shows the painter speaking a line and suddenly an image of a plant pops up on stage. That’s how the creativity process feels for me. You say a word and something comes into existence that wasn’t there before. And I love that. I live for that happy feeling of creation.
Boy, if twelve-year-old me who wrote those stories in Ami Pro could see what I’d done with those ideas, and especially to see them published for anyone to read, I know she would be doing a Snoopy happy dance all over the room. That’s what I did yesterday when I got the e-mail that Amazon approved the Kindle edition and that it was now available! All the hard work. And now it’s here.
And this is only the beginning of their stories. Trust me. I have quite a bit of adventure planned for Nellie, Lavinia, Patty, Miyoko, and Anna!