I was in third or fourth grade when I wrote a story about a group of kids forming a club with a friendly alien. With a treehouse. Treehouses where very important to me at the time. Other than that, the story was a straight rip-off of “The Story of the Four Little Children Who Went Around the World” in my “Young Folks Shelf of Books”. (I can’t believe I found the whole thing online.) It’s about a group of children sailing around the world with a creature who was never identified as anything but “The Quangle-Wangle” which I assumed was an alien. (It was mostly depicted as scary stick-arms and fingers poking out from behind other things.)
I remember deciding to make up a totally new word for MY alien. (The completely awesome word “quangle-wangle” being taken.) I knew it had to have an X or a Z in it, because those are the most alien letters after Q.
I wrote a few random combinations down, but nothing was working. I decided to start with an English word I liked and mix it up some. I chose “banana”. There’s always been something a little alien about “banana”.
I added a Z, changed an a to an o, and viola! I had a totally new word no one had ever seen before:
I was so proud of my new word that I named the story “The Bonanza Gang” and I drew an elaborate title card for it.
Chloe was traced from an ad in the newspaper. She was “the pretty one”. She had a twin sister traced from the same ad but colored in differently named Zoe. Lisa was the main character, my default image of a perfect kid. Smart, athletic, popular and blonde. There may also have been a boy. And Bonanza, of course, who had a rainbow nose and lots of tentacles. The story opened in the treehouse with everyone declaring that they were bored and Bonanza suggesting a trip around the world because he’s never seen it.
He then asks them questions like, “What is bored?”
I spent days tracing Zoe and Chloe and filling in Lisa and Bonanza – who, as a shapeshifter, was really easy to draw.
That weekend we went to K-mart to pick up some random supplies. As I ran down the art supplies aisle (my favorite) I found a big, rainbow-colored package of “Bonanza Markers” for sale.
Bonanza. They’d even used my block lettering.
Those bastards had stolen my word!
I screamed my fury at anyone who would listen – which was no one. Finally a friendly neighbor told me, “Kid, that word has been around forever. There was a TV show called ‘Bonanza’!”
“It was about cowboys. Check a TV Guide.”
Cowboys?? Talk about insult to injury! It turned out the show was still on in re-runs on Sunday afternoons, opposite Star Trek. I watched the opening credits with blank disbelief.
The moral of the story: google your made-up words.
Okay, past-me had no Google, but you get the idea. Any handy adult or the dictionary could have saved me from betrayal and fury.by