word craft


Story Behind the Story #2
The End of the Beginning

Snail TaleTo under­stand this sto­ry about a sto­ry you need to know that my birth cer­tifi­cate name is Edward, though oth­er than sign­ing a cred­it card I nev­er use it.

Once upon a time I had a good friend, since passed, who was a writer. Avon actu­al­ly pub­lished a num­ber of fine non-fic­tion books along with his wife who was a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er. They lived in rur­al North Brook­field, Mass­a­chu­setts, the set­ting for anoth­er book of mine, Emi­ly Upham’s Revenge.

Now the truth is, as a writer, Avon talked his craft very well, with won­der­ful wit. Indeed, he was a won­der­ful sto­ry­teller, with many a good tale to tell. That said, he was a very, very, very slow writer.

Years ago, I went to vis­it him and spent a week with him and his wife. Even back in those days I was always writ­ing some­thing. Indeed, while I was vis­it­ing, I took the time to put in my dai­ly stint. Avon, how­ev­er, did not write one word.

“Avon,” I said, “I’m going to write a book that expos­es you for the slow-poke you are.”

“Dare you.”

That was the ori­gin of a book orig­i­nal­ly titled Snail Tale. It fea­tures a hyper­ac­tive ant named Edward and a snail by the name of Avon, who does things very, very, very slow­ly. It con­cerns their mock-epic adven­tures along one branch.

The leg­endary edi­tor Fabio Cohen took the book.

“Does it need any more work?” I asked.

His answer was per­haps one of the most aston­ish­ing I ever received from an edi­tor. “It needs,” he said, “about eight adjectives.”

The End of the BeginningThe book was pub­lished very mod­est­ly. Years lat­er, anoth­er edi­tor (from a dif­fer­ent pub­lish­ing house) read it, liked it, and want­ed to repub­lish it. She did sug­gest more revi­sions. Done. It was reis­sued with vast­ly supe­ri­or illus­tra­tion and a new title: The End of the Begin­ning.

For some of my read­ers this ver­sion of the book remains their favorite of my writing.

Moral: Some­times writ­ing a good book takes a very, very, very long time.

4 thoughts on “Story Behind the Story #2<br><em>The End of the Beginning</em>”

  1. This was the first book of yours that I read. I LOVED it! I read it to my kids three or four times. We have since read sev­er­al of your books and look for­ward to many more. Avon and Edward are won­der­ful char­ac­ters! Nice­ly done, Avi, as usual.


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