Tag Archives: stories

Because of Allen Brewster

The first real book I have a clear memory of read was a children’s chapter book called The Strange Thing that Happened to Allen Brewster. It was about a kid who turned into a plant.

Better than it sounds. Trust me.

I’d like to think that this book is part of the reason I turned out the way I have both as a writer and as a reader. For one thing it was deep. I distinctly remember the scene where Allen’s grandfather is talking to him and he holds up an apple and he asks Allen what it is. Allen naturally responds that it’s an apple. At which point, Allen’s grandfather turns the apple and shows him that it’s really only half an apple. “What you see is not the same as what is,” the grandfather tells Allen. Deep stuff for a six-year-old.

It was also, unusually dark for a children’s book. Allen ends up turning almost completely into a plant. He stands out in the sun for hours on end and the roots in his feet start to grow down into the earth. In the end, Allen himself is saved, but his mean teacher who also takes the formula is implied to be stuck turning into a plant for good. The final page of the book is a picture of a tree with the terrified face of a woman forever trapped in the prison of her own body.

And I loved it.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve always been measuring my fiction against the standard of The Strange Thing that Happened to Allen Brewster for my entire life. Or maybe not.

But I do believe that stories can change kid’s lives. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenthood after my wife’s miscarriage last year, and a big part of that is trying to figure out what kinds of stories I want my kids to consume. There’s a part of me that wants to expose them to movies like The Secret of Nimh and Jan Svankmajer’s Alice fairly early on. And of course I want them to read The Strange Thing that Happened to Allen Brewster.

What about you guys? What book made the biggest impression on you as a child, and would you want your kids to read it too? Drop a line or two in the comments section and let me know what you think.

On the Imprisonment of Ideas

I knew what I was going to write this blog about. I swear I did. It was in my head clear as a bell yesterday afternoon. It was a good blog post too. Seriously, you have no idea what you’re missing.

But instead you’re reading this. Why? Because I woke up this morning and I couldn’t remember it. I sat around for a while waiting for it to come back. I read some other blogs thinking I might find some trigger for my messed up memory. But I ended up with nuthin’. Nada. Blog idea to the zeroth power.

I’m not the only one either. Some of you have commented here in the past and said, “So Albert, I’m trying to do this blog thing, and I have all these great ideas, only when I get back to my computer I can’t seem to remember any of them.” I think I had some advice for you at the time. Maybe it could help me out too. What was it again? Oh, yeah.


Ideas are everywhere. In the store, at your house, sometimes you’ll even hit one when you’re driving down the road. They make an awful splatter don’t they?

But ideas are visitors. They don’t tend to hang around forever. You need to capture them, drag them flapping and screaming out of your head and cage them up in a place where you can come back to them later.

For a long time I used a small notebook for this. It was something small that I could keep in my back pocket with a stub of a pencil and whenever I had an idea for a story or a blog post or whatever I could take a minute to jot it down.

Lately though I’ve been tinkering with a tool called Evernote. Evernote is a program that works just like a notebook, and the cool part about it is, it syncs to the internet from both my phone and my computer so I can access it wherever I’m at.

Of course it doesn’t work if I don’t use it.

Ideas are the most valuable things we have. Why? Because they’re unique and special to us. If we leave them lying around in our brains they’re liable to get lost.

So that story idea you had about the space alien who goes into business as a landscape artist? Write it down. That totally awesome title for a story you haven’t written yet? Write it down. That plan for vanquishing disease and solving world hunger? WRITE IT DOWN.

Otherwise one day you’ll end up like me, writing a blog post to remind yourself to write your blog post ideas down. And that’s just meta.