from My Maiden Effort
Ellis Parker Butler
by Ellis Parker Butler
I believe the first piece I ever had published was a set of verses on some local topic, printed in the Muscatine Journal.
I sent them anonymously and I think the name I signed was "Ayah," which was what my kid sister used to call me, not being able to say "Ellis." I was then only a small boy.
I remember more clearly my second effort, which was an imitation of "The splendor falls on castle walls," and described a local cyclone. There were four or five verses of this. This was sent to the same paper anonymously; and one reason I recall it so vividly is because I discovered, after I had mailed it, that I had used an envelope in which I kept all my supply of unused postage stamps. To lose the stamps was a calamity, and the Journal did not use the poem.
The first piece for which I was paid was, I remember, written when I was a small boy still. It was called "Shorty and Frank's Adventure," and I sent it to one of the numerous cheap juveniles then extent, and received fifty cents for it, all in one cent postcards! After that I wrote and wrote. The Waverly, which sent a dozen copies of itself in payment, and revised my stories with a free hand, used a lot of my stuff. Life, Truth, Puck, The New England Magazine, and The Midland Monthly, of Des Moines, began sending small checks for short verse, and The National Magazine paid a few dollars for short prose, but the first real check I received was from The Century Magazine. I think this was for eighty dollars, and for a short humorous piece called "My Cyclone-Proof House."
In those days I used to have a memorandum book with thirty-one lines to the page and until a manuscript had been to thirty-one publications I did not think it was hopeless. Now I use a card system and don't never think no manuscript is never hopeless, not never at all.
I have never been an "intellegencia" or an "intellectual" or a "genius." I've been a hard-working hack. I've earned what I got.