Write Naked

Write Naked

by Peter Gould

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Sixteen-year-old Victor, a thoughtful loner who tries to live his life "under the radar," wants to test out the saying "You have to be naked to write." When he sneaks off with an old Royal typewriter to his uncle's cabin deep in the Vermont woods and strips off his clothes, he expects Thoreau-like solitude. What he gets is something else—both funny and, as his high school English teacher likes to say, "transformative." For he discovers a face in the window watching him—Rose Anna, a homeschooled free spirit with an antique fountain pen and a passion to save the planet. Their unexpected encounter marks the beginning of an inspired writing partnership—and a relationship as timeless and eager as the Vermont woods in spring.

A strikingly original debut novel that introduces two storytellers with different kinds of tales: one—in Victor's unforgettable voice—a quirky, contemporary love story; the other—by Rose Anna—an ecological fantasy featuring a tiny heroic newt. Together, the teens explore the possibility of connections – to one another, the woods outside, and the world beyond.
Write Naked is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429997447
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 05/27/2008
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 325,254
File size: 253 KB
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

PETER GOULD is a youth theater director, a physical comedy performer, and a playwright whose works have been performed all over the world. He lives in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Read an Excerpt

Write Naked

By Peter Gould

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2008 Peter Gould
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9744-7


April 17

I was riding my mountain bike up Greenleaf Street toward where it ends at the woods. In Vermont a spring Saturday morning means yard sales. I must have passed five of them. I kept right on going. I had no money in my pocket, and I was on my way to the bike trails.

There were cars parked on both sides of the street, and people getting out to check out the stuff: old cameras, beater bikes, half-wrecked chairs. I wove through them. But just where the street levels off a bit and you can take a breath, I stopped.

There was this little brick house on the left with a yard sale sign in front, and that's where I saw it, kind of tilted on the ground beside some army clothes, and a pile of sweaters someone had already mussed up. An old typewriter. It didn't holler at me, but it almost felt like it did, or maybe it typed "victor" with six quick noisy strokes on its own keyboard.

It was a big antique manual, all shiny black and made of heavy steel; you could tell that without picking it up. There was gold printing (ROYAL) above the keys. Down on both sides there were two little plate-glass windows where you could look into the works.

I saw all this at a glance. I leaned my bike against a tree and squatted down and looked in one of the windows. There were all these levers, and hinges, and bars with little brass screws. It was a Writing Machine. No circuitry. No white plastic. Did they even have plastic back then? I bent down and heaved it up. It felt like it weighed more than my sister, Claire. She's ten.

This guy walked over to me. I had seen him once or twice before when I rode by, working around his house and yard. He had white hair and was wearing a checked flannel shirt. His eyes were kind of puddly and there were spots on his hands, but he had this nice smile, like your uncle holding two tickets to a Red Sox game behind his back.

"You like old typewriters?" he said, after I put it back down.

"Yeah, kind of. I mean, I like this one," I said. "They don't make them like this anymore." (Shoot, I thought, that really sounded stupid.)

"Do you want it?" he asked.

"No, I don't think so —" I started, meaning to explain that I didn't have any money.

He was way ahead of me. "You can have it, for free." Was it my imagination, or was he like some high priest up on a mountaintop with "I have been expecting you, My Son; here is Your Typewriter."

"I couldn't do that," I said. "It's for sale."

"Nobody wants it. Had it out last week, too. People don't use 'em anymore. My wife used to do typing at home, she learned on this one, then she got an electric. And then the computer. She's been dead five years."

"Oh," I said. I didn't know what else to say.

He went on. "I sold the electric a long time ago, but I kept this one around. Works perfect. Take a look; it's all cleaned up."

I put my face right down past the keys, there was this big opening like a half-pipe, where all the letters were lying side by side at the ends of their skinny metal arms and looking up at me upside down and backward. You could see it was all shiny where he'd scrubbed the letters — with a toothbrush, he told me — and there was an inky black ribbon, brand-new and hanging ready and straight where it went through a big silver clip. I pulled my head out and there were the keys, white enamel letters on round black buttons, each with a metal ring around it, and a long space bar with a low, worn spot where his dead wife's right thumb had hit it about five million times.

"Wow," I said. "It's beautiful."

I meant it.

He looked down, still smiling. He made a loose fist with his right hand and play-punched my shoulder. "Somebody else appreciates it. That's good. Go on; you take it home and go write a book. It's got a book in it."

"A book?"

"That's why I kept it around," he said. "Got a big story stuck in there, but I can't get it out. I'm too old."

"Okay," I said. "Thanks a lot." Now why did I say that? I was just passing by on my bike. I didn't need a typewriter. Another thing I didn't need was my mouth saying something before I've even thought about it. Usually I'm careful about what I say, and do. I like to think things out first.

The guy moved off to talk with another customer and left me sitting there beside that old writing machine. I was trying to catch up with what just happened. You know, you make what you think is a quick, harmless decision, and then the rest of your life gets immediately complicated in ways you can't even imagine. It was like some mysterious hand waved to me from a train, and I jumped on, without thinking, even though I didn't know where the train was going or who the hand belonged to.

And now I had a problem. Getting the typewriter home. Not only was it big and heavy but it was embarrassing, too. Who even bothers anymore with stuff that old and clunky? And I didn't want to call my mom or dad and say hey, could you come pick us up? Yeah, us. Me and my typewriter. I already wanted this old ROYAL to be hidden, as if keeping it secret was the first step to, I don't know, getting the story out. Yeah, I knew the guy meant it as a joke, but still —

I looked up at the blue sky. I needed to think.

I like logic problems, like the one with the guy and the river and the little rowboat and the dog and the chicken and the bucket of grain. You know, where you have to figure out how to ferry everyone across two at a time without them eating each other? I also like it when real problems — the kind you have to solve step by step — drop out of nowhere — well, somewhere — into my lap.

I'm sixteen. Just. I don't drive. In Vermont you can get your permit when you're fifteen, but I don't have mine yet. And even if I had it, you can't drive alone with a permit. My brother Will teases me about this, but I'm not in a hurry. I remember the scene in the kitchen after Will cracked up Mom's car, and I'm not anxious to replay that anytime soon. Anyway I like the anonymity of a bike. I'll do almost anything not to be noticed.

It's funny, cause I'm named for somebody who really wanted to be noticed. The Victor my folks had in mind when they named me was this singer-songwriter in South America who always fought for the poor and downtrodden. People who didn't have voices. His picture's hanging on our living room wall.

He was a national hero in Chile. He was so famous that when the army bombed their own White House, shot their president, and took over, Victor was the next person they went looking for. He could have run away and saved himself, but he stayed. They herded him and about two thousand other people into a soccer stadium, then brought him out in front of all those people and pounded his hands to a bloody pulp with their rifle butts. He was on his knees. They screamed, Sing, you son of a whore, so he did. But he didn't do it alone. As soon as he started, everyone in the whole stadium stood up and sang with him. They were all crying. Then the soldiers tortured him and dumped his dead body out on the street. His music has been playing in my house since before I was born.

I live with my mom and dad, and Claire. My brother Will goes to college. He picked a school really far away — I think on purpose — and we can't afford to have him come home often. He hasn't quite moved out of his room yet, but I'm next in line for it. I snoop around in there when I'm home alone. I guess I know just about every secret thing he's got hidden there.

Sometimes I sit in his big easy chair — another yard sale special — and read his college books. Textbooks in college cost a lot of money, way more than they're worth. It's some kind of scam, I think. So Will sells most of his to other students when he's done, but he holds on to all the books about how native people live or used to live. He's led me to Ishi and Lame Deer and Black Elk Speaks and Tristes Tropiques. That last one? It has a French title, but it's in English. It's worth it just to read the last chapter. I mean, if you want to read about inertia, entropy, and the end of the human mind, it's all there in one paragraph.

When I sit in Will's chair and read, it's like I've joined this special club. He said once, "Victor, if you read this stuff, you can save people in the past from drowning. It's like time is a river, and it's nighttime, and you can hear people calling, Help, we're disappearing! So you stop and listen. That's how you save them."

He tells me stuff like that, but he doesn't like to explain. I have to figure out what he means for myself. Maybe that's why I got off my bike. Maybe that old ROYAL did call me. Maybe you can save things, too.


So there I was, lying on the old man's lawn trying to figure out how to get the ROYAL home, watching cars and people coming and going. Carrying things. I was wondering if he was giving all his stuff away. All the people who got something smiling like now their lives were going to change.

I was thinking about Mr. Halliday's social studies class.

We studied the Vietnam War. We even took a bus trip down to D.C. to see the Vietnam Memorial. We got there early in the morning, stood parallel to the big open V, and Mr. Halliday talked about how it symbolized a wound we had, one that hadn't healed yet.

Some of the guys on the trip were snickering, even acting macho like if they'd been in the war they wouldn't have been so stupid, they wouldn't have died. But the memorial really got to me. It was black and shiny and heavy — just like the ROYAL.

Mr. Halliday told us about how he'd visited Vietnam and seen all different kinds of wounds — bomb craters, rips in the ground where someone heaved a bunker-buster down a tunnel. Villages where all you could see was a few stone walls, nothing else left.

Why was I thinking about all that?

You know how sometimes you have to circle back to figure out where a thought came from? I did that and arrived at the mountain bike. See, the U.S. Air Force pounded the country with B-52 bombers, and then by night the North Vietnamese resupplied. They moved all their war materiel south by bicycle, on what they called the "Ho Chi Minh Trail."

Ho was the leader of the Vietnamese, our enemy. He had a long skinny white beard, wrote poetry, and chain-smoked. He'd already beaten the Chinese and the French.

Ho's supporters would tie stuff onto their bicycles and start walking. Around the craters and land mines and through the defoliated jungle. In the dark. A whole parade of people wearing black, with mortar shells strapped to their bikes.

If the Vietcong could do it, I could, too. I picked up the word machine and heaved it onto the fork between the handlebars. Strapped it on with a couple of bungees. It wasn't going to be easy, but the ride was mostly downhill. I could balance it okay with my right hand on the ROYAL and my left on the nearest handlebar. So I started off, kind of wobbling. Figured I'd get used to it soon.

The yard sale guy peeled himself away from the people he was talking to and came over to stop me. He moved quicker than I thought he could.

"Hey, kid —" he said.

I stopped by the curb. "Yes?"

"I fought in Vietnam," he said. "Did you know that's how the Communists moved their supplies?"

"I know. That's where I got the idea."

He leaned his head real close to me. "I got this in the Central Highlands," he said, pointing to an old purple scar on his neck. "A half inch either way and I woulda bought it. Kicked a grenade away. Shoulda kicked it farther."


"We lost that war."

"I know." Some people don't think so, but I know we did. We're losing another one now.

He put one big hand on my shoulder. "We lost it because we had the B-52's and they had the bicycles. Don't you ever forget that."

"No, sir," I said. And then I thought to myself, Why did I say that? Sir, I mean. I never called anyone "sir."

"Vietnam's about the most friendly country in the world now," he said. "Almost ninety million people. Did you know that?"

"No, I didn't."

"Used to be a rat hole but not anymore."

I wasn't sure what he meant, but I nodded.

"What's your name?" he asked.


"Victor. Well, enjoy the writing machine. Go get that story out."

"Yeah, right."

"No, it's in there for sure. Hey, come back and show it to me when you got some of it written, okay?"


He reached out to shake my hand. I balanced everything for a second and stuck my hand out to his. A deal.

"Take it away," he said. "To the Victor go the spoils. You ever hear that?"

"Yes, sir." Just like I'd heard tons of stupid plays on my name. Like, Victor, the loser. Or, Hey, Victim, come over here.

"Good luck gettin' it home."


It helped to pretend I was sneaking through the jungle. I moved down the hill from tree to tree. Just like the Vietcong. Even crossing Western Avenue, which usually has a lot of traffic, I don't think anyone noticed. I wheeled the bike and cargo into our garage. I undid the bungees, lifted the ROYAL off the bike, and pushed it onto a shelf. It joined a whole wall of stuff we have that's waiting for our yard sale.

It sat there looking sad, like it was the last one of its kind, and it was hoping I'd tell it that the rumor it had heard about the extinction of its species wasn't true. Sorry, I thought. The rest of your people are all dead. Then I covered it with a black plastic garbage bag.

You can see by now that I'm not totally normal. Like, I do what Miss Roth, my English teacher, calls "personification." Giving human voices and thoughts to things. I hear voices, too. Okay, not really voices. Call them messages.

We did the brain in biology class last fall, so I know that there's whole parts of our minds that we hardly ever use. I have a theory: I think these messages are signals from one of these unused parts. I hear them because I'm open to them. Sometimes they're like secret instructions, or random stuff I didn't know I knew.

Of course, listening for chance messages from my brain gets me into trouble sometimes. People think I can't pay attention to what's right in front of my nose. They don't understand that if I'm not paying attention to what they want me to pay attention to, it's cause I'm paying attention to something else. And it could be really important.

Okay. I'd figured out how to get the ROYAL home. Now, logic problem number two. This teenager's got a mountain bike and a big old typewriter wrapped in a plastic garbage bag. He wants to keep it a secret from his mother, dad, and sister. He wants to get it out to his uncle's log cabin without anyone noticing. Yeah, that's what I decided I had to do.

That's what the message was saying.


April 23

Friday. I figured that would be the best day. To not be noticed, I mean.

Friday afternoons in spring, people stay around school for baseball, softball, track, ultimate Frisbee, or just lying around on the front lawn. Plus, there are these sidewalk bargain sales downtown. A lot of people go down there. I went home — nobody there. I put on my old running shoes, loaded the ROYAL into my hockey bag and back onto the handlebars, and wheeled it up to the town bus route. Locked the bike to a tree and waited — nobody I know ever rides that bus. Well, they call it a bus, but it's maybe half the size of a real city bus. It's got bumblebees painted all over the side — never could figure out why.

It came eventually, and I got on and scrunched down low in the seat, hoping nobody would see me ride by. A lady whose name I don't know, but I see her walk around town a lot with two shopping bags, she was the only other rider.

"That's a heavy load you've got there," she said.

"Yeah, it is," I answered, hoping that would be enough explanation.

It was. She got off before me. I rode another mile, out to the last stop by the fire station annex. That's where the bus turns around. Then I had to lug it on foot. After a while I couldn't believe how heavy it was.

I turned left on Bonnyvale Road, and then walked a few hundred yards up to old man Franklin's barn. The old man's in a nursing home, and he's not coming out. Not many people come through this neighborhood. It's mostly woods.

My plan was to stash the ROYAL in the barn, then ride out someday with my bike, and ferry it across Franklin's back field and up to my uncle's place, way up in the forest.

A long time ago, when my uncle Mo got back from Vietnam, he came to Vermont to visit my mother on the hippie commune where she lived. She told him there was this ten-acre "woodlot" for sale. In Vermont that's what we call a patch of forest that you can't get to and nobody wants. He wanted it, though. He hiked in, found a spring, and a zigzaggy stream coursing down from it, and almost every kind of tree he could think of.

He bought it and built a cabin on a ledgy spot right by the stream, so he could have fresh water.

If you don't know where this cabin is, it's almost impossible to find. That suited his purpose, and mine I guess — not that I had any idea what my purpose was. Well, I had some idea. It came with the typewriter. I didn't really understand it, but I knew there was one in there somewhere.

The cabin's up at the end of an old one-lane logging road that comes off Franklin's pasture. There's no tire tracks anymore. Just a foot trail. By the time he'd cleared the road and the house lot and trucked materials in and built the place, Mom says Uncle Mo was pretty much cured of the war.

He moved out to Utah with a woman he met downtown. They come back every once in a while, but the while keeps getting longer. Now I guess I use the cabin more than anybody.

Mo's cabin would be a good place for me and my ROYAL, but first I hid it in Franklin's old milking room under the barn. I walked back to the main road, started toward town, and then, instead of walking on the sidewalk, I climbed down a stream bank and walked the rest of the way home splashing my feet in the water and jumping from rock to rock.


Excerpted from Write Naked by Peter Gould. Copyright © 2008 Peter Gould. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
1 - April 17,
3 - April 23,
4 - April 24,
5 - April 29,
8 - April 30,
9 - May 1,
11 - May 4,
13 - May 7,
14 - May 13,
15 - May 14,
16 - May 15,
17 - May 18,
19 - May 20,
20 - May 26,
24 - May 29,
25 - June 2,
27 - June 4,
28 - June 11,
June 11,
Copyright Page,

Customer Reviews

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Write Naked 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
GreekCowgirl More than 1 year ago
This book is for writers and readers. It is an amazing story of a boy with a story to get out of a typewriter and a girl with a fiction story to write with her fountain pen. The en dis probably not what you think will happen... It is so much better!! This is an awesome compelling book i encourage everyone to read!!
Oscar Carrillo More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
In a world full of technology, Victor is elated when he finds an old Royal typewriter at a garage sale. Doesn't matter that he isn't a writer.

Not one to hang out much with friends, Victor comes across an old book while going through items from his mom's hippie community living days. It recommends one write naked in order to find the "story within."

He figures he has nothing to lose...until he looks out the window to find he's being spied on. By a girl.

Full of voice and innocence, WRITE NAKED takes the reader on Victor's journey of self-discovery of a world he didn't realize existed, until he allows himself to stop and pay a bit more attention.

While I found myself annoyingly patronized by the theme of global warming and the "world-coming-to-an-end" lecture, I did enjoy the voices and the bonding of the two main characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was amazing. i would defineitly recommend it!!