Back in the day I use to make a little extra money writing children’s books. The publishing company printed these books–cheaply printed–by the millions. That is not hyperbole. They could be found in stores like K-mart, Target, Walmart and the like. I would always go to the children’s book section, and, if my books were hidden behind other books, I would rearrange them so mine were displayed in front of the others. Good times.
And, no, I do not receive residuals for the millions of books that sold. I mean, seriously, have you seen my checking account? My only option was to sign a contract and get paid a flat fee which has long been spent. That’s fine with me.
Anyway, I’m proud of my children’s book collection. You can see them on my Goodread’s Author page. However, there is one book that bothered me: A Special Witches’ Brew. My editor gave me the plot: write a Halloween book about a little girl witch who creates “Happy Brew” juice and gives it to all the neighborhood kids to enjoy. So I did.
Now when I wrote A Special Witches’ Brew, I did not think about the implications of “Happy Brew” being a metaphor for some kind of narcotic drug or alcoholic substance.
Those of you who know me can testify that I grew up in a home where alcoholic beverages were nowhere to be found. Even today I rarely imbibe. Alcohol and drug use has never been a part of my everyday life. Also, those of you who have known me over the years know that I do stupid stuff like this all the time. I believe that is why I never made the connection that my children’s book glamorized drugs.
Several years later, when I revisited some of my children’s books for the first time in a long while, it popped into my head: “Holy macaroni. A Special Witches’ Brew sounds like a freaking drug trip! What have I done?” Now, I know I’m making light of the situation, but please know that I take the issue of drug and alcohol addiction seriously. However, I couldn’t help snickering because I named the little girl witch’s cat Boswell–the name of my close friend’s cat in real life. In the story, Boswell is the first to try the Happy Juice and he starts floating in air and purring uncontrollably as if in a trance. I mean, c’mon. I unintentionally wrote a kid’s story about my friend’s cat tripping out on drugs. That’s funny.
I will say I noticed all the copies of A Special Witches’ Brew mysteriously vanished from the shelves while all the other books I had published stayed around for years. I’m guessing that the publishing company pulled all the copies after they became aware of the drug-related figurative language. I don’t know. I think a few used copies are available on Amazon.com. I hoped no one noticed and the whole thing had been swept under the rug.
Well, as late as last year, I found a review of A Special Witches’ Brew on the blog of a young mother.
In her review, she says, “I’m even willing to give the author a sly nod and the benefit of the doubt because there is no way he wrote this book unaware of the allusion the phrase ‘Happy Brew’ draws in one’s mind.” Hey, I totally understand why she came to this conclusion. All I can say, however, is that I was naive and it got through my editor and whoever else worked at the publishing house. Oh, well.
You can read the entire review here. It’s hilarious and after you read her summary of my story, you’ll also probably wonder what I was thinking when I wrote my only children’s book laced with drug and alcohol metaphors.
I was literally laughing out loud as I read this post as well as the review, Andy. What makes it even funnier is that–and I mean no disrespect to my good friend–this is typical Andy! The little girl/dealer gets all the kids in the neighborhood ummm … “happy,” so happy they’re all flying around in the air laughing. I’m just imagining the shock on parents’ faces as they pull this book out for the first time some Halloween night and start reading it to their kids.
By the way, folks, this is the same Andy Rector who one day walked into the publishing offices where we both worked one Saturday morning, strolled over to the fuse box, and turned OFF the power supply to the computer where I was working. OK, my fault that I had not saved for three hours, but … I wonder what kind of brew Andy was drinking that day!
Man, I’m never going to live the fuse box incident down.