Will Work for Tarantulas

Your life experiences all add up to make you a writer.

Oh, I’ve had weird jobs, good jobs, bad jobs. My worst was probably when I was paid to participate (they make it sound like so much fun, you’re “participating”) in a study dealing with fear.

So they had me wired up like for a lie detector test, and I sat in a chair that faced the narrow end of a long table that was angled down. The edge of the table closest to me was probably two feet away. At the far end of the table was a little curtain. What was behind that curtain?

They raised the little curtain and there was a toy train with a tarantula tied to the top of the locomotive. Only his feet were tied so he could move and wiggle.

And he did.

There were markings beside the track relating to the distance the hairy creature was from me. Ten feet, nine feet, etc. I don’t recall at what point I pressed the button that made the train stop and quickly run in reverse, pulling the beast away from me and behind the little curtain.

Don’t ask me what they were testing, but this event probably will show up in my writing at some point. Because it was so visceral, it was accompanied by a lot of emotion, and I remember it quite clearly.

So if you want to be a writer, the lesson is to go for the really weird jobs.

Event note: Dear League readers, I will be speaking at the LA Times Bookfair this Sunday at 3:30 at the YA stage, on a panel called “Future Tense.” Also with me will be the wonderful authors Marie Lu and Cecil Castellucci. No tickets required, signing immediately after. Happy to meet you, if you’re coming to USC.

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