word craft


Story Behind the Story #32: Keep Your Eye on Amanda

Keep Your Eye on AmandaWhen I was a boy, liv­ing in New York City, my par­ents took The New York Times. I thought it was a very dull paper. It had no car­toons, not even polit­i­cal ones. Its rival, The New York Her­ald Tri­bune, not only had car­toons, but ran a dai­ly ser­i­al for kids by Thorn­ton W. Burgess. These ani­mal sto­ries were illus­trat­ed by Har­ri­son Cady. When I had the chance to read the Tri­bune, I always read these tales. It was a hap­py day for me when I learned they had also been pub­lished in book form, and I could buy them at a near­by used book­store for twen­ty five cents a volume.

The point is that seri­al­iza­tion made a big impres­sion on me.

When I wrote Beyond the West­ern Sea, recent­ly writ­ten about in this blog, I struc­tured the book with short chap­ters, as if it were a seri­al­ized story.

By the time I fin­ished that book I was liv­ing in Col­orado, where there were small, local news­pa­pers. These news­pa­pers seemed far more acces­si­ble than the New York Times. Why not, I asked myself, write a seri­al­ized sto­ry for these papers? And then rac­coons invad­ed my house one night in search of pantry food and gave me the idea for a sto­ry: Keep Your Eye on Aman­da, a seri­al­ized sto­ry of twen­ty-one chap­ters. I con­tact­ed local Boul­der illus­tra­tor Janet Stevens and she indi­cat­ed a will­ing­ness to do the art.

The first news­pa­per inter­est­ed in run­ning the ser­i­al was in Col­orado Springs, the Gazette Tele­graph.

It was enor­mous­ly suc­cess­ful. It was so suc­cess­ful I could not han­dle the vol­ume of news­pa­per inter­est, but my wife, Lin­da Wright, could. She took the pub­lish­ing venture—now called Break­fast Seri­als—and grew it with such suc­cess that Break­fast Seri­als cre­at­ed a read­er­ship of some thir­ty-three mil­lion annu­al read­ers per chap­ter. Indeed, at its high point, Break­fast Seri­als was per­haps the pub­lish­er with the nation’s largest readership.

Then the inter­net arrived and did much to dimin­ish Amer­i­can news­pa­pers. While Break­fast Seri­als still exists, far few­er news­pa­pers run it.

As for Keep Your Eye on Aman­da, it was also pub­lished in book form. But when I sold the book to a trade pub­lish­er I did not think review­ers would under­stand the form. No review copies were sent out. As a result there are almost no reviews for the book.

That said, it was one of most wide­ly read of my books.

[No longer in print, Keep Your Eye on Aman­da can be read online, at www.InstantSerials.com.]


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