One of the best aspects of JBACHINGTAWHS (Just Because Anything Can Happen Is No Guarantee That Anything Will Happen Sunday, formerly known as Anything Can Happen Sunday, or ACHS), is its flexibility. So, if on Sunday I were to close my eyes for a bit in an effort to vanquish a headache, only to wake up hours later with the day almost over and nothing written, it’s perfectly acceptable to open the publishing window a little wider and post Sunday’s story on Monday.
Initially I’d planned to share an article that I’d written for my hometown newspaper in 1978 after I’d been invited to spend the day learning about the news business with one of their reporters. But I’d forgotten that in addition to what I’d written, Ken Palke, the reporter I’d shadowed, had written his column about me.
And there was no way my narcissism and self-importance would let me post another adolescent example of something that I’d written, when I had the opportunity to share what someone else had written about me.
Oh, to be young and brash
And, they’re getting younger all the time.
That point was driven home this week when a 13-year-old aspiring writer, Baroness Buttercup, spent a day at the Southeast News offices.
The diminutive Buttercup mad the morning rounds with reporters covering their news beats. Then she carefully observed the production of the paper – from the reporters to the word-processing computers to the printing presses – and detailed her observations in a short news story.
I had the pleasure of escorting the inquisitive “cub” to the weekly press conference held by city officials and then onto the police station to examine the crime reports on the blotter.
During the drive to City Hall, I learned quite a bit about this energetic youngster. For instance, she is the daughter of IBM executive GH and his wife AH. She has two brothers, BH, 15 a high school student, and AIH, 9, who’s in grade school.
In four weeks, young Buttercup with be an eighth grader at the Middle School and she will be Student Body President.
She has several interesting hobbies which include collecting Mad magazines (“because they’re funny”) and pocket knives.
“I have 72 knives in my collection now and it keeps growing,” she explained, making sure I was taking “correct” notes. “I have two Swiss Army knives, lots of pen knives, one that looks like a fish and a World War II paratroopers knife. They come from Europe – my grandma brings me a lot – and from other places.”
She also remembers her European doll collection.
These pursuits are not unusual for a 13-year-old, but then she added she’s edited and published her own newspaper and written three “books.”
When she told me that, I felt a little twinge of jealousy. I’ve been in this business more than four years, edited one small town newspaper and have never written a single book and I’ve got 17 years on young Buttercup.
When we arrived back at the office, I thought I’d show her some newspaper interviewing techniques by interviewing her.
Naturally, with my curiosity piqued my first question was: “Tell me about these books?”
“I wrote my first book, only about 15 pages, when I was in the fifth grade,” she explained with a deliberateness belying her age. “It was titled ‘Life With Sam – Great Ape’ and it was about two girls who spent their summer vacation in Africa and adopted an ape.”
Her second story, a more ambitious 21-page effort, was written when she was a sixth grader.
“I called that one ‘Grandma Was Right’ and it was about two girls who fought over nothing,” Buttercup explained. This one had a moral, because in the end grandma was right for telling them not to fight.”
Buttercup’s third novel, a bulging 109 pages, is untitled, but it’s about five couples in their early 20s who travel to South America, wind up marooned and spend four years on an island.
The whiz kid has also published a newspaper – The Sun distributed through her neighborhood and at school – and a magazine that only lasted a single edition, called Wow.
Knowing all this, my next question was: “Why do you write?”
“When I write my books, I can make things happen that don’t happen in real life,” she answered. :Then when I read it back, I feel like I was really there.”
“I also write when I’m mad and to get away from things.”
Buttercup added that she enjoyed her tour around the news offices and her visit to City Hall and The Rotary Club meeting with our Home and Living scribe, Mary Lou Githens.
“I plan on being a newspaper person or an author,” Buttercup said. “I like the field because it’s busy and not boring.”
Lookout Woodward and Bernstein. Here comes Buttercup!