From Seditionist to Blogger

In high school I authored and distributed an underground newspaper.  I believe this was a step towards becoming a blogger.

My friend Darren and I had the idea of starting a literary magazine, but we needed funding for printing and the pizza parties that were required for every school club.  We asked the administration for help, but the entire arts budget had been spent on glitter.  So we took our operations underground.

The first thing we did was pick pseudonyms.  Darren chose “A. Hamilton” because he wanted to express his belief in liberty and the nobility of the fourth estate.  I chose “Zack Morris.”

Then we had to name our paper.  Our high school mascot was the eagle, and so we decided on The Eagle’s Nest.  Had I known that Adolf Hitler’s World War II bunker complex was also called the Eagle’s Nest, we might have chosen something else.  But these are the quirks of history.

We gave The Eagle’s Nest a serious tone to appeal to a higher class of reader.  We wrote articles about the quality of the school lunch, the demeanor of the custodians, and the girth of the cafeteria monitors.  We wrote editorials protesting the archaic practice of running during gym class.  We wrote fake interviews with teachers and students.  We crafted syllabi for classes that did not exist.  And at top of the issue, in a little box, was our journalistic creed:

If it’s not in here, we don’t give a s#!%.

We wrote the first issue on Darren’s computer one Saturday afternoon.  I had the more trusting of parents, and thus the copying job fell to me.  On Sunday night I asked my mother to drive me to Kinko’s.

“Of course, my pumpkin pie,” she said.  “What do you need?”

“Oh, uh, nothing,” I said, curling a manila folder.

I made her sit in the car while I made the copies.  It took only ten minutes.  I came back home with a box under my arm, went upstairs to my room, closed the door, and thought about the meaning of freedom.

And then we received a call from Darren’s mother. “Do you know what they’re doing?” I could hear from the receiver that my mother held a few inches away from her head.  “They are going to be handing something out to the kids at school!  Something with bad words in it!  They are going to get expelled and won’t get into college!  We have to stop them!”

I tried to imagine how Darren’s mother found out.  I pictured a deposit of laundry, a neglected computer screen, and a long interrogation.

Although my mother did not confiscate the copies and put them on top of her armoire next to my slingshot and BB gun, she persuaded me to seek administrative approval for my subversion.  Darren and I agreed, through intermediaries, to postpone distribution, and the next day my father took me to the local law library to read and copy First Amendment cases.  It was not my idea of radicalism.  At least we went for ice cream afterwards

After a flurry of letters with the school’s lawyers, citing cases that involved Vietnam-era black armbands, Vietnam-era anti-draft t-shirts, and students who wanted to wear tissue boxes on their feet, a deal was struck with the principal.  We would show him the paper we wished to distribute, and he would make “suggestions.”  A memo went out to all teachers advising that Darren and I would be distributing an underground newspaper in between classes.  The arrangement was not what we’d had in mind.  We were not really fighting the establishment, and we were not really hiding our identities.

But when that first issue of The Eagle’s Nest was out there at last, and I saw my peers reading my “Elegy for Tater Tots” and laughing out loud, I thought to myself, “I like this.”

How about you?  Was there an earlier moment in your life that led to blogging?

13 thoughts on “From Seditionist to Blogger

  1. I love that your pseudonym was Zach Morris. Even better since your partner was A. Hamilton (who happens to be just about my favorite American). I never did any subversive writing. Didn’t really do much writing at all except for some creative assignments and random teenage angst poetry. Wish I would’ve got started early like you!

    1. After high school I took a long break from writing. When I started to write again, it was like starting an engine that hadn’t been run in years. Blogging has probably been the biggest factor in getting my muse fired up again.

  2. Look at subversive you. Love how you skirted the underground/semi-underground controversy.

    I have stories from Grade 7 on, but they were all classroom assignments. I wrote hundreds of letters, however, to cousins in different provinces and to pen pals in Australia and the Philippines. It seems that I’ve always liked connecting with people, something I didn’t put together until I wrote this comment.

    1. I can’t say I’ve written too many letters, but I would bet that writing letters is much better writing experience than email. Pen pals from around the globe? That’s pretty cool. How did those start?

  3. I wrote a work newsletter in the early 90’s in an office where there was only 37 of us. 2 years ago I sent an Email every few days called Sino Photo of the Day whilst I was living in Beijing.
    That inspired http://www.Backoftheferry.wordpress.com which has been going strong for 18 months. It wasn’t a moment that led to blogging, it just evolved.

    1. Your work newsletter was like a proto-blog. On the timeline of planet Earth, it’s sandwiched in between hominid skull fragments and WordPress. Sounds like it was a lot of fun.

  4. I wrote tons of letters over the years. It’s very different from email, and I miss crafting a letter to someone who lives far away. Actually, writing a blog is inspiring me to start writing letters again!

    As for what may have influenced me getting into blogging…First there was the writing contest in 2nd grade that I won. 25 essays, first one to finish wins. I think that really got me hooked. Then, we produced a class ‘literary’ journal each month in 8th grade, and I had something in every issue. In college, I didn’t write any articles for an underground newspaper my friends put out, but I did help edit it. I still have copies of it. It was called Moon and the article I edited that I remember most was about body piercing. Anything you want to know about a Prince Phillip? Ask me, because the information is burned into my brain! 🙂

      1. Oh shnikes – I guess it’s not so burned as I thought it was! It’s the Prince Albert, not the Prince Phillip. I knew it sort of looked wrong, but I figured maybe the horror of the image was trying to appear and I was rushing to avoid that! 🙂

  5. I wrote skillions of short stories, reviewed them a la The New York Times (Be sure to read the riveting “Girl Who Hiccupped Under Water”), and even affixed ribbons out of blue construction paper to their dust jackets. Yes, dust jackets. Because nothing says “I’m a serious writer” than a book with a dust cover.

    The next time I am at my parents house, I will have to dig out some of those suckers. And by suckers I mean, they suck. 😉

  6. I was always very careful with dust jackets. When I bought a book with a dust jacket, I would stand there for several minutes, scrutinizing each dust cover for the fewest dents, creases, and tears. Sometimes the books would be shelved so carelessly. When I read the book, I would remove the dust cover so that it wouldn’t get a crinkle or too many fingerprints on it.

    “Girl Who Hiccuped Under Water” sounds like magical realism. I’m going to check it out.

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