Pinky Pie

An 8 year old’s creativity & Me

Posted on: August 24, 2011

In a very unlucky category of life – losing a child – we feel very lucky.

Twenty-five years after our son, Matt, died we have a way to remember him not with sadness but with joy and the ability to do some good for others.

We have published the 199-page novel that 8-year-old Matt wrote in the last months before he died in 1986 of leukemia. It is a celebration of his life and creativity, not a commemoration of his death.

In his novel, Matt wrote about Israel, Libyan terrorists, Muammar Gaddafi (spelled Khadafy then) and about a battle between Libya and the United States Central Intelligence Agency. It was long before the Internet, but Matt knew about Libya and Gaddafi because of events in 1986 that included the United States and Libya clashing both rhetorically and occasionally militarily.

Matt was a writer from the time he was a little guy, creating short stories far beyond his age. They often were a mixture of Hardy Boys and Star Wars, not to mention one, “Hospital Mania,” inspired by Chevy Chase in “Family Vacation.”

A collection of his short stories, The Great Planet Swap and Other Stories, was published while he was on bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota.

A few months before that, Matt decided he didn’t just want to write short stories, he wanted to be a novelist. He always figured he’d be like author Robert Louis Stevenson, who was sick as a kid. He began work on X-Man, even completing it while he was on transplant.

After he died, news of this 8-year-old boy who had written a book went on the national AP wire after stories were written about him in the La Crosse Tribune and theMilwaukee Sentinel. We heard from people all over the country who wanted a copy ofThe Great Planet Swap so we gave it to the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, where we lived for three and a half months, to print as a fundraiser for it.

We also sponsor a writing contest for elementary school students in Matt’s name. The prizes were small, but those who received them – along with their classmates – have been thrilled. I’m a kind of Publisher’s Prize Patrol here in La Crosse.

We would have gone on pretty much like that forever more had it not been for the Arab spring in 2011. When demonstrations for democracy broke out in Libya (and other Arab nations), I remembered X-Man, which he wrote in 1986.

Matt was very aware of the terrorism connected with the Libyan government, particularly after Libya bombed a West Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. troops.

His novel, obviously was written before September 11, 2001, and the Internet. As we say these days, the story was ripped from the headlines. Of course, who knew featuring Khadafy then would be applicable a quarter century later in this season of Middle East revolutions.

It is an 8-year-old’s view of the world and Libya that included car chases between X-Man, CIA Director William Casey, and Khadafy (or any way you want to spell it). Also, X-Man, known as Jack, played poker with Khadafy and won big bucks.

Every cent of X-Man will go to the La Crosse Public Education Foundation to encourage reading and writing in children. My kids had wonderful educations in the School District of La Crosse and want to say thank you for that.

So how do you get this book? If you are interested, you to It will be printed on demand; or you can go to Amazon and ask for the book that way. (Buying through createspace directly means more money for the Public Education than if it is purchased through Amazon.)

When we were interviewed about Matt’s book after his death, I was quoted as saying, “The good guys won in all his stories. Unfortunately, the good guy didn’t win in this story.”

It’s still true, but the victory comes in celebrating his life. And doing some good for others.

(I also posted this in my Lessons From Life blog.)

4 Responses to "An 8 year old’s creativity & Me"

MANY, many thanks for posting this. I’ve just ordered a copy of the book from CreateSpace and can’t wait to read it. (Or re-read it, in the case of the CIA story — although I’ve long since lost track of the original copy that I purchased 25 years ago.)

Thanks. I think you had The Great Planet Swap. This one has not been published before.

hi! glad to have found your blog. i called harry spence this morning to request a copy of my story you published 23 years ago when i was in 2nd grade.
i would like to ask you a few questions. if you’d be so kind to get in touch w/ me it would be greatly appreciated!

Feel free to ask questions.

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