Daniel Handler, who also writes as the elusive Lemony Snicket, has published books for adults and children alike. His most recent book, "Who Could That Be At This Hour?" is a New York Times bestseller. This spring, he'll be publishing a new picture book with Caldecott Medal winner Jon Klassen called "The Dark." Here, Handler reveals to Bookish the time his writing got him into trouble, as excerpted from an interview with his editor, Susan Rich.
I’m always kind of loath to make me seem like I’ve been a controversial author, because there’s real controversy and then there are just silly people objecting to things. But the closest I got to real controversy was in high school, Lowell High School in San Francisco, Calif.
There was an experiment going on where [students] took a long career test where we had to say what we wanted to be when we grew up. Then, we took a test of our abilities and interests and the computer spat out a list of things we were suited for. Then we took the first part of the test again to see if the test changed what we wanted to be when we grew up. The first part of the test listed every possible occupation you could imagine, and you had to fill in, with a number 2 pencil, the little bubble.
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My friend David and I, in our homeroom where we were taking the test, got everyone to fill in the bubble marked "other" … and then we all wrote in "pirate," because we thought that was funny--and it was funny. The principal looked at these oddball results of the test because it looked like [students] wanted to be different things, and then [students] took a career test and suddenly everyone wanted to be a pirate in a particular homeroom. The principal knew immediately that it was me, just from looking.
He called me in [to his office] and he said, "I know it’s you. Don’t deny it. You made everybody be a pirate." And I said, "I want to be a pirate. I can’t help it if everyone else in my homeroom wants to be a pirate. That’s life."
As it turned out, the school was spearheading some kind of study, so that our meager results for the 3,000 kids in the school were actually going to represent something statewide. I’d managed to throw off some huge study because some sizeable portion of America’s youth now were saying they wanted to be pirates, and he was furious with me.
I was proud of myself for sticking to my guns, for saying that, "I want to be a pirate. It’s not a prank. I’m very interested in piracy. I didn’t realize that everyone else in my homeroom also wants to be a pirate. But that’s life. You should report that, whatever, 8 percent of American youth are interested in piracy."
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