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How I wrote 'How I Wrecked My Summer Vacation'

By Kenton Robinson

Publication: The Day

Published July 16. 2009 4:00AM   Updated September 16. 2009 4:26PM

On the morning of July 4th, 1984, I woke from a curious dream.

There was a boy stuck in a treetop and, somehow, I knew his name: He was Walter Frimhaus, and all of his friends called him Wumpy.

But how did I know this? And why was he stuck in that tree?

As the day wore on, I couldn't stop thinking about him. He was in trouble, big trouble. That I knew. And it had to do with releasing some seals from the aquarium in Mystic.

But why did he do it?

There had to be a girl.

Enter Minerva. As soon as I thought of her, I could see her clearly: tall and skinny with big gray eyes and long blonde hair, and I knew what kind of girl she was.

I had to go to a party at a friend's house that day, but the whole time I was there I kept thinking about Wumpy and Minerva. I couldn't wait to get home and write.

In the weeks that followed, I wrote and wrote - several hours a day - obsessed with telling their story. I borrowed a lot of things from my own life to tell it. I was never like Wumpy exactly, but there were many ways in which Wumpy was like me.

I once cut off a girl's hair, but it was my sister's. I got into more than a couple of fist fights, even though I hated fighting. I had a crush on a girl in sixth grade, whom I dreamed of rescuing. And when I was just a couple years older than Wumpy, I was arrested and thrown in jail for staging a midnight "raid" on my math teacher's house (but that's another story).

I took these things from my life and reshaped them. I even took my old address in Mystic - 1165 River Road - and made it Wumpy's.

When I finished, I had a slender book that I liked well enough, but ... something was missing.

So I put it in a drawer and forgot about it for the next 13 years.

And then one day I took it out, dusted it off and read it. Now I saw what it needed: Eddy MacWeeny. Wumpy had to have a friend to add dramatic tension. And so I sat down and wrote the book all over again.

I created a bunch of new characters, too. Some made the final version; some did not. Most importantly, after Eddy, I invented Miss Stiletto.

When I finished, I had a big fat book that I liked a lot, and I started sending it out to publishers. I got some very nice rejection letters.

But then, because I was training to be a teacher, I got too busy to pursue it. Back into the drawer went Wumpy.

This spring, a dozen years later, I dug out the book and read it again. Wow, I thought, perhaps a bit immodestly, this is pretty good. But it was too long and needed to be cut. And so I spent several more hours paring down my 168-page novel to a svelte 100 pages.

So here we are, 25 years on from the night Wumpy Frimhaus was born, introducing him to the world at last in the pages of The Day.

k.robinson@theday.com

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