First publication, that is.
My first publication ever was a three-sentence paragraph on tadpoles. No, I’m not making this up . . . I wrote it in first grade, because when I was six years old I thought that the whole egg-tadpole-frog thing was fascinating. And my mother thought the paragraph was cute enough to send in to the “By Our Readers” page of Jack and Jill Magazine, which accepted it. And then didn’t print it until I was in the fifth grade.
(If I’d known then what I know now about slush piles and backlogs, I wouldn’t have been so surprised. But what does a fifth-grader know about publishing?)
My first paid publication was also my mother’s idea. I was in the eighth grade, and prone to writing dreadful poetry. She sent in one of the slightly-less-dreadful pieces to the “By Our Readers” page of our church denomination’s national youth magazine, and they accepted it. They also sent me a check for three dollars and seventy-five cents (which at that point in time was three-and-a-bit times the cost of a paperback novel), and I was so deliriously happy that I ran barefoot to our next-door neighbor’s house to share the good news.
It was high summer in Texas and my feet got stuck full of sand-spurs, but I didn’t care. Somebody who wasn’t related to me had liked something I’d written well enough to pay me actual, spendable money for it.
My fate was sealed.