How I wrote 'How I Wrecked My Summer Vacation'

Kenton Robinson, Day enterprise editor and author of 'How I Wrecked My Summer Vacation,' visits with Rocky, a male Pacific harbor seal, at Mystic Aquarium.
Kenton Robinson, Day enterprise editor and author of "How I Wrecked My Summer Vacation," visits with Rocky, a male Pacific harbor seal, at Mystic Aquarium.

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.

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