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From Fanfic to Funfic

One of my favorite memories of grade school was being read to in class. I first went to Helen Minard Elementary, a tiny school that had no library, but it did have Miss Bourdette. She was my third grade teacher, and she used to read to us the Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren. I loved those stories. With super-strength, independence, a stash of gold pieces, a monkey and a horse for companions as well as two good friends to boot, what eight-year-old girl wouldn't? I always imagined her living in my aunt Bernetta's house and wished sometimes that she really did. I loved Pippi and decided that if I couldn't be her and couldn't actually know her, then…maybe I could write about her!
Pippi Longstocking book coverSometime between the beginning and end of my experience with writing Florsoy the Wild Mare, I decided to try writing about Pippi Longstocking. I didn't have a plot, but I did have a title, which lent itself to a premise. My book was going to be called "Pippi and the Seasons", and for each season of the year, Pippi was going to have an adventure. I still remember the opening line. It went something like this:
Pippi was sitting on the porch counting her gold pieces on a sunny autumn day when Tommy and Annika came to visit.
I think I had written maybe a page, with no illustrations but plenty of ideas. One night, while riding in the car with my parents, I was jabbering away about Pippi Longstocking and how I was going to write the awesomest Pippi book ever when at one point, my parents said that it was really great that I was going to write a book, but that I couldn't write one about Pippi. I was confused. Why not? Well, they explained, because someone else already owned that character and it was illegal to use her in my own stories.
What?? I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
Pippi Longstocking South SeasMy mom tried to console me by saying that maybe I could write a story about some other little girl. Maybe an Indian girl, that way she can have braids too. I sulked. No. I don't want to write about some other girl just because she has braids. I want to write about Pippi because she's awesome. But at the same time I don't want to get into trouble, so… I just stopped. I didn't even save the story. I decided writing wasn't for me, and that was that.
Now, a few things. First, I've gotten over my parents discouraging my Pippi story while educating me about copyright infringement. The fact that they even remotely believed that I'd finish it , much less try to publish it, speaks volumes about their confidence in my talent and abilities. Wow.
Second, I wonder: did fan-fiction even exist in 1972? I don't know, and I had no idea that's what I was writing and neither did my parents. But I do know that I would never advise anyone, no matter their age or experience, against writing it. I once wrote some M*A*S*H fanfic at age twelve just for my own enjoyment, and really wish I still had those stories, especially since one of the characters I injected into them was myself. Hanging out in print, on paper, with Hawkeye, BJ, and Hotlips? What fun!
Nala in Fate's Apology.Third, my own WIP, Fate's Apology, started out taking place in the Star Wars universe. I used no established characters beyond Yoda, but the already-created worlds, technologies, and cultures lent ease toward flexing my writing muscles and developing original characters with which to populate that famous sci-fi universe. I don't regret leaving it behind, but I do know that had I not started there, I likely never would've finally discovered my writing feet and gone off on the journey I'm currently enjoying.
And now, after all these years, I'm doing exactly what my mom said I should do. It took me a while to see it, but when I realized it, I was thunderstruck. I'm writing a story in which my protagonist, Nala, is a strong female character like Pippi, who comes from a historically oppressed and primitive people and…she has braids. See? How did I do that?? I can only imagine it was subconscious.
"Write a story about some other little girl. Maybe an Indian girl, that way she can have braids too."
I am, Mom. I am!