Of my four children (stay with me), two are at school. One is eating Froot Loops. The other …
Category: writing (Page 2 of 2)
My kryptonite: anything to do with the last days of school. The pictures in front of the school. The teachers getting teary; kids doing the silent cry in the parking lot, their used-up workbooks clutched to their chests. Teachers and kids doing a spirit tunnel-clap-out thing for the classes to the song “Celebrate (Good Times),” which I hate 364 3/4 days of the year. Graduation parties for kindergartners, a group of 25 children at an age generally best left to the professionals.
The looming reality of spending weeks upon weeks with siblings who scream at each other that “I’m ignoring you until YOU DIE.” At 7:30 a.m.
Gets me every time.
How the kids have grown and what they’ve learned is evident. Evidence of my own change is only obvious in that vaguely older countenance and all the miles put on the car shuttling them to their out-of-district school.
Dave set up a video camera last Friday in Mrs. H’s class. The sixth-graders nervously milled around, found their seats. One girl’s hand went up as a volunteer to go first. “I just want to get it over with,” she said to the floor, a smile on her face.
She stood in front of the camera, waited for the three-two-one signal from Dave. “My story is,” she said, putting her hands inside her sleeves and swaying back and forth. When she was finished, we clapped and the others looked around to see who would volunteer next. She collapsed into her seat, smiling, and began twisting her hair into a bun.
Twenty kids went after her, each looking at their classmates or out the windows behind us, each retelling tales they’d spent weeks on as part of a Friday afternoons storytelling project I led in their classroom over a semester or so.
Their hard work was my reward. The story-collector in me heard so many that afternoon: so many folk tales, so many yarns woven with laughter and personal style. For really, a story doesn’t live on a page any more than people do. Sharing stories is what brings them to life.
Once upon a time, a mermaid, caught in a net, begged a poor fisherman to take her home with him to live. No, he said, I can’t. I am a lousy fisher; I have too many mouths to feed already! But she pleaded over and over: Don’t throw me back!, and finally he relented and carried her home, tucked under his arm (for do you know? Mermaids are quite small in real life).
His wife initially protested, but the mermaid’s charm warmed the woman. The family widened the circle for her; she became the daughter and sister they’d wanted. Most days, the mermaid sat outside, watching silently from a cart (she can’t walk with the fin). She loved to watch people talking, working, playing, singing there in that Italian seaside town.
I ran the river trail this morning at dawn (which is not as early as it sounds, please hold your applause). A mallard honked at me, a squirrel scolded. I was otherwise alone, dodging icy patches and thinking about how each day now, until June, will be longer than the day before it, a miracle of earth’s tilt I only try to understand.
(Two days ago: “It’s because the sun starts to move back north, really slowly,” I told the kindergartner. “But the sun doesn’t move. The earth moves,” she said. And my index finger moved in front of my mouth like a harmonica while I thought. “Yes. Snack? Is it snack time?”)
Anyway, I’m grateful, is what I’m trying to say. Extra sunlight, little snow, and a book deadline all landing sweetly in January.
A week or so ago, this was not the case: Dave was in Dallas for an ill-advised week-long work thing; Louisa was puking. I was trying to write a sermon for Jan. 3 and 4; somehow I racked up $2.60 in library fines, completely out of character. “My life is falling apart,” I whined (with self-awareness).
“I think library fines mean you’re doing all right, relatively speaking,” a friend said. I have kind friends.
Anyhow. As I finish the last edits on The Year of Small Things and perfect the yearlong elevator pitch for the book that I’ll have to give between now and its release (early 2017), I wanted to share some truths about writing a book you may not have considered:
- The number of singy-song movies you can tolerate your children watching increases the closer you get to deadline.
- You will incur massive amounts of library-fine debt over said sing-songy movies.
- You will become so tired of defending your theses that by the end of the book, your left eye will twitch when you hear key phrases or words such as “the,” “is,” and “and.”
- You will rob Peter (the savings account) to pay Paul (child care). Then you’ll spend 10 minutes on the Goog’ looking for the origin of that saying.
- You will do the math and realize that you worked the last 18 months on a book for less than ha’penny an hour.
- Because you hate math anyway, you’re OK with this.
- You’ll start to doubt all your prior convictions, such as “I hate listy blogs,” “Berry Kix are for kids,” and “Brownies are a ‘sometimes’ food.”
- Your fears vacillate between this being the last book you’ll ever write and this being simply the first book you’ll ever write.
- When a financial planner asks if you plan to “go back to work” when the youngest is in school, you choke on your gum.
- You’ll overhear your oldest telling her friend that “My mom writes books,” and you’ll wonder how on earth you pulled this off.
Coming later in January: No more list posts, thoughts on writing a book that new monastics will read, and more. But first ……. I go back to my writerly cave.