In October of 1988, when I was in 8th grade at Shawnee Intermediate School in Easton, Pa., I got caught passing a stack of papers to Christy Miller after French class. It was our French teacher, Mrs. Shelosky -- she of the freaky rutabaga obsession and the "vim, vigor, vitality, Geritol" cathchphrase -- who snagged us. We were on our way out of the room, on our way to wherever we were going next, when she stopped us.
Christy had the papers in her hand. We were asked what it was and we both stammered. I don't remember what we said we were doing, but I know we had a French vocab test coming up, and I'm sure that Shelosky thought we were trying to cheat somehow. We weren't, of course -- I didn't become Queen of the Nerds under false pretenses or through subterfuge. But we couldn't exactly own up to anything, either, because ...
... well, what I had given Christy was about 20 handwritten pages for a "book" that we were working on. And by "working on," I mean that I was writing it, and she was the editor, or whatever you call the person who makes you do all the heavy lifting and then stands back and admires your handiwork. At any rate, we were both terrified, because this "book" that we were "working on," what Mrs. Shelosky had intercepted, was: SMUT.
There's no other way to put it, really. Long ago and far away, back before I ever had a boyfriend unless Bill Sauerhauffer counts -- and I don't think he does because our entire "relationship" was limited to passing notes during 7th grade study hall and once (!!) sitting next to each other in the auditorium during play practice when neither of us was on stage -- before I ever kissed a boy or held his hand or anything else, I was attempting to become the next Catherine Coulter.
For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong with bodice-rippers. I mean, they're not real or anything, but they're certainly a better way to pass the time than, say, trying to have a séance in the rec room and almost setting the entire house on fire, or cooking meth in the basement, or anything like that. And they're definitely amusing, because where else are you going to learn clever euphemisms like "quivering turgid manhood"?
Back then, in 8th grade, when I was bored senseless all the time and so I was reading everything in the house including the backs of cereal boxes and of course every single book my mother brought into the house -- well, Jackie Collins novels were not exactly on the list of recommended reading for school, but that didn't stop me. I had made my way through practically the entire "historical romance" section of the Palmer Library, since even then I did not have a life of which to speak.
But of course having my parents' permission to read that stuff did not mean that they ever expected me to write it. Certainly not because I was a good Catholic girl. And most certainly not at that age. Not that they would have had anything to worry about at that point, because even though I was writing amateur soft-core porn, it was terrible amateur soft-core porn, and anyway, my character wasn't the slutty one. (Yes, even in fiction, I was still a virgin.)
I actually stopped writing for a little while after getting caught, because I spent 24 hours worrying about what kind of trouble Christy and I were going to be in, and while I figured I could reconcile what I did with my parents -- "Look, it's only a book, it's not real" -- I had no idea how I was going to explain myself to the 8th grade principal, Mr. Kish. I didn't have to worry about that, though, because instead of reporting us to anybody, Mrs. Shelosky just asked when she was going to get the next chapter.