December 17th, 2012 §
There was a rainbow, sprouting nearly out of the edge of the parking lot at school when I stepped out of the school office this morning. I had just completed the withdrawal paperwork pulling my eldest son out of public school at the end of the year – merely five days away. It occurred to me that I’d made the right decision to homeschool him because the only thing I wanted to do at that moment was go yank him out of class and admire the rainbow together. We would draw pictures and read about water droplets, weather patterns, light reflection, the color spectrum, and the earth’s atmosphere. We might even read poems about rainbows and pretend to be leprechauns in Ireland. We would make rainbow cupcakes and paint a Roygbiv painting. We might even create our own rainbow with a prism and a glass of water. Then we’d have a rainbow lunch and pack up the chalk to go draw rainbows on the pathways at the local park. We’d sing rainbow songs as he conquered the monkey bars and pretend we were gliding down a rainbow on the slides.
Instead, he was going to spend the next six hours inside getting lost in the crowd. And what a crowd it is – 30 high demand 5 and 6 year olds. One teacher. No aids or assistants. At least 10-15% of that class consists of children with serious mental and emotional problems, as well as very immature kids. The result is an environment where the loudest, neediest children demand, and receive, the complete attention of an over-worked, under-paid teacher who is doing her best with the limited resources available to her.
And then there’s my little guy, relegated to the “good kids table” in the very back of the room, where the teacher doesn’t have to keep as close an eye on the activity. My amazing guy, who comes home complaining that he keeps getting distracted and can’t finish his work. My guy, one of the kindest, sweetest, best mannered kids I know, who never gets recognized for being a good citizen in class because he’s not a hand waiver or a type-A kind of kid. He’s his own goofy, quiet, serious, focused, active, peripheral participating kind of absolutely normal, wonderful kid. A child who adores learning in every form.
There are lessons here that I think he has learned with grace and shown remarkable moral differentiation about in such a short time. He learned quickly at the beginning of the year how to ignore the bullies and how to avoid being shoved or body slammed off the top of the playset. It only took once…or twice…maybe. No one knows because there’s rarely enough adults to monitor the children on the playground. He’s learned how to keep his head down and skirt getting blamed for bad behavior, because when no one’s watching, it’s easy for the bullies to get away with nearly murder. He’s learned how to follow inconsistent or incomplete directions from a distracted teacher. He’s learned to turn a blind eye when something’s wrong. Keep his head down. Don’t make waves.
What parent wants that world for their children? Not many, if the parents of this class are any indication. In chatting with several other Moms, it became apparent to me that I wasn’t alone in my concerns this year. Does this make us all helicopter parents, that we wish the best for our children, to allow them to be joyous, creative, silly KIDS for as long as possible? It was a hard choice, because the little dude adores school. He craves structure and knowledge. He thrives on his own, and with other adults in a safe and open environment. But when we started talking about other options with him, his eyes brightened and he threw himself at us in an enormous hug. “Can we really, Mom? Can you and I do school together? With experiments, and crafts, and books?”
I have significant reservations about extended homeschooling, although I’m increasingly surrounded by like-minded parents who have chosen to keep their kids out of public school. Was it this bad when I was a child? I am a product of a top notch public education, but my catch phrase has always been that I learned in spite of school. I have a few great memories of transformative educational experiences, but the vast majority of my schooling involved teaching me how to hack the system. And here’s where it gets tricky. I’d like my sons to learn the hacker mentality – change your perspective, challenge all assumptions, dive in and experiment, subvert oppressive authority, teach yourself, make incredible things and never doubt who you are. How can you pass those values on? How does one create an environment that fosters that kind of independent, creative problem solving?
I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to give you an answer. But I plan on trusting my instincts and letting my incredible little man have a chance to shine on his own for a little while longer. With the cost of private schools nearing a monthly mortgage payment, who knows if we’ll be able to afford to send him somewhere with a compatible teaching theory. We’re going to revel in our freedom to follow our instincts and interests. Move it, move it Mondays, Tasty Tuesdays, Wandering Wednesdays, Thinking Thursdays, Fun Field Trip Fridays, Silly Saturdays, Sleepy Sundays, karate, piano, rock climbing, soccer, and more. We’re off to explore this wonderful world. Wish us luck.
September 11th, 2012 §
New York is a city where rain can wash away just about any stain. And to be certain, New York City is full of the stains of life, like sin, and shit, and guilt, and fear as much as it’s full of hope, and possibility, and luxury, and money. Rain in New York echoes down the avenues and soothes away the white noise of taxi horns blaring, cop sirens trilling, garbage trucks booming, delivery trucks slamming and the murmur of millions of people talking at every hour of every day. From high up atop the canyons of steel and granite and bomb-proof glass, rain clouds shield the whole festering city from view, revealing only glimpses of dotted grids of light and the tips of the iconic buildings lit in garish commercialized colors.
It wasn’t raining on 9/11. I’ve heard someone say that they now have a uncontrollable urge to flinch low to the ground on days as clear and blue as that day in September 2001. I want to tell them to take a healthy dose of California and call me in a week. Every day here feels like living within an elementary science experiment, where you shine a powerful beam of light through a crystal and watch the rainbow scatter across the table in a darkened room. I awake early these days, usually to the cheerful babbling of a five month old who finds ways to stick his tiny fingers up my nose at ungodly hours of the morning. I can look to the West and see biblical upthrusts of clouds rising over the Santa Cruz mountains and settling over the South Bay most mornings as we come to the end of the baking summer. Within minutes of the rising of the sun, the clouds disappear over the Eastern ranges and the sky and sun resume their escalating intensity through the day. Though there is no water, no moisture, no humidity in this long season, the heat is surprisingly mild. It’s a dichotomy that brings a measure of awe from those of us who have spent the majority of our lives sweltering in the misery of long, sultry, melting Mid-Atlantic summers. I gladly pay the devils fee here to teach my son to wear his hat every time we’re in the sun, and slather sunscreen on each recess at school, in exchange for the ability to tolerate being outside all day, any day, all year long. The sky is blue, the sun is high and there’s no possible way to look at it as anything but beautiful.
When it rains, which it has only done twice since we moved here in May, California does not accept the moisture with grace. Santa Clara takes on a near rancid perfume, as the accumulation reactivates the stenches of rotting fruit, patches of urine and the general smell of desiccation. Rain merely shows us how parched our world really is, and prevents us from continuing to live in ignorant, unsustainable bliss. It’s a desert here.
My world view upon arrival those first few weeks felt as though reality was two clicks out of focus. The greens were just as lush as Virginia, but instead of oak and dogwood and maple, there’s palm and hibiscus and olive, diligently and artificially irrigated every day. Roses grow just as pink, but they’re manicured into strange bulbous decorative shapes alongside walkways and driveways. Roofs are as red as the thick Virginia clay, but the soil is pale and dusty, covered in seed pods of prehistoric size. Houses feel smaller and lower, as though some giant has taken his thumb and smushed every structure a few feet into the ground. A facet of having no basements or storage attics in construction out here, for earthquake and fire safety. Dry as a bone. Kindling dressed in stucco.
We’ve worked hard over these past few months to move past the culture shock of West Coast living. The chronic sleep deprivation and the ever-present reminder that time waits for no tired parent regardless of the number of screaming children in your life has forced us to simply get on with it all, to enjoy it as it comes. Kindergarten has commenced for a very excited five year old who has leapt into the fray armed with pleases, thank yous, laughter, curiosity and the desperate need to assert his identity in a new world of order, rules and structure. He’s in heaven.
The schedule on the classroom board this week said “Patriot Day – 9/11.” I stayed after pickup today to have a brief chat with the teacher. And what did this event entail, I asked? Tempered by her brief mental placement of me as the parent who frequently forgets to wipe smears of yesterday’s peanut butter off the five year old’s face, or put clothes on the five month old, she informed me in the dulcet tones that only a Kindergarten teacher can muster that she would be wearing red, white and blue and that the class would be talking about what it means to be a hero. No discussion of New York, I insisted? Well, no, not really with the little kids, she replied. And as though the mental pathway had opened into her adult communication skills, she proceeded to inform me about exactly where she had been when the planes had hit. And I, with a squirming, teething, urping bundle of wiggling need in my arms, and a sugar-crashing, catatonic bundle of whining, barely standing on two feet…I didn’t know what to say.
“I was there. In New York,” I finally said. The parents around me got very quiet, and the teacher repeated what I had told her, word for word, slowly. And then I realized they were waiting. For me to continue. And I couldn’t. “And I’m not ready to have that conversation with my five year old, if you understand,” I stated, with the finality of ending a line of discussion that made me uncomfortable. I’m not sure she did truly understand, but she nodded and we all went on our way.
I posted on Facebook earlier today that I was going media dark for the next 48 hours or so. 9/11 has become a chance for everyone to remember how their lives were changed on that day. Reliving the shock, horror, numbness, and pain. Telling others exactly where they were when they heard the news. My grandfather once told me that this was the Pearl Harbor of our generation. That we have lived wartime lives, up close and personal. I understand the need for catharsis, the need to share with one another. But I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to really put into words the depth of impact, the way that it changed the entire course of my life. That’s not something that can be codified, because it changes every day, every year of my life.
Trying to navigate through new relationships is hard enough without having to describe our experiences in New York, though the topic inevitably arises. We have developed phrases and statements to share some of the story, and adjust them depending on the seriousness of the conversation, how long we’ve know people, what they’ve been willing to share with us. It was only within the past year or so that I was able to share with my father that I will never forget the arching trajectory of bodies willfully diving into the sky from 100 stories above Manhattan. That look on his face that night during our conversation was one that I never want to have with my children – the idea that as a parent there are horrible things in the world that we simply will not be able to spare our children from. That will brand them, shape them and scar them.
I have a picture of my Grandmother, who I never met, that I secreted away long ago during one of those compulsory family history projects from school. It’s a black and white photo, diligently colored in tans and oranges and musty browns to highlight the blonde in her hair and the drab coloration of her nurse’s uniform. She’s standing in the open embrace of a dark haired man with an officer’s overcoat wrapped around them both. The illumination from her lighter touching his cigarette shows her face turned up toward him, her hair perfectly coiled, his chin tilted. Intimate. And not my Grandfather. My memory fails me, but I retained the sadness of knowing that my Grandmother was engaged once, or perhaps twice, during WWII, and that her fiancé was killed before she met my Grandfather. Of course, as my Mother tells it, the small photograph of the Parisian can-can girl that fell out of my Grandfather’s wartime journal still had the power to make him blush. The power of memory, so far removed.
My husband and I used to joke that we were a wartime marriage. We bought our engagement rings only a month after 9/11, and we would have marched down to City Hall right after graduation if my Father hadn’t made it abundantly clear that good Southern girls let their Daddy’s walk them down the aisle. We soldiered on, through our last year of school, through our first years of marriage in New York City, poor as door mice and ready to conquer anything the world wanted to throw at us. Jobs on Wall Street, graduate school, teaching at our alma mater, a fabulous pad in Battery Park, clubs and raves, booze and haute cuisine, international travel, life lived at the fastest pace we could take it. We left when the fear became too much. It wasn’t that we couldn’t sustain that life indefinitely, as seductive as life on the top of the world can be. It was that every day, every bomb threat, every CBRE drill, every random mugging report on our block, every time we were trapped on the subway because of a suicide on the tracks, made us question whether we would actually survive NYC.
I cannot imagine how difficult it is for my Grandfather to deal with his memories. And I feel as though comparing my memories of 9/11 to the years of his bloody, traumatizing, heroic service cheapen and degrade him and everyone of his generation. I marched in the great protests post-9/11 in New York as a proud and adamant pacifist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t honor his service. Or the service of my friend who lost his life to a IED in Iraq 10 days after my first son was born in 2007. Scott joined the Army after 9/11, in a time where he and I had drifted apart from each other. He was a writer, a slam poet, a warrior who fought demons and words and wrested them into a beautiful life, marrying a wonderful woman, starting his life anew with meaning and promise. Before he died.
I don’t know when I’ll be able to have a conversation with my son about being in New York on that day. I worry that he will see only the lessons of what horrible things people are capable of doing, rather than the beautiful way that we all came together in that incredible city in the months after the towers fell. The tangible experience that he will have will be through pictures of common elements of his life, sky scrapers and planes and New York City, forced together in a way utterly inconceivable to nearly the entire population of the world. That singular act, repeated, where plane meets tower changed the way that we look at our world in a fundamentally fearful way. I don’t want my child to see fear. I don’t want to introduce that threshold within his developing moral sense of the world around him, to see the point at which he crosses into understanding of the evil within people. Bad guys are only vague antitheses to super heros in this too precious world of childhood innocence right now. Please let it stay that way just a little longer.
The freeway was on fire several weeks ago on the hottest day of the summer. Smoke blanketed the roadway, and flames licked up against the metal of the guard rail and consumed the scrub brush and tumbleweeds along the concrete overpass as we drove by. And just like that, with my boys chatting about the inner workings of siphon pumps, and how to construct the internal organs of dinosaurs out of Legos, while the baby took one of his rare naps – just like that, I tasted the burn at the back of my throat of asbestos, steel, concrete and flesh. And then it was gone, and we emerged into the clarity of the California sun. And we moved on.
April 14th, 2012 §
The signature’s been sent. The paperwork is done. We’re moving west.
It was bright in the living room this morning when I woke from dreams of standing on the Marin headlands, gazing over the Golden Gate as the woolen fog coating the Pacific peeled back and revealed the sun, golden and perfuse, as only it can be in California.
I suppose the eastern dawn had come gradually, but I wasn’t aware enough to appreciate its approach. I slipped in and out of California dreams during those hours of the morning between the instant awareness and narcolepsy that comes from having a sleeping newborn stir and soothe while cuddled to your chest. The sunlight through the blinds seemed green and pale, as though the impermeable cloud of spring pollen had made its way into our home and coated even my eyelids with fertile particulate matter. It occurred to me that in a few short weeks, we’d be free of pollen and humidity. But we’d also be leaving behind the distinct lushness of the approaching Spring. Arid climates cannot replicate the feeling of anticipation just before the whole world erupts into moist, honey-scented bloom.
When I was young, I used to imagine the world turned black and white when the sun went down. That the colors of the world leeched down into the soil and out the other side of the earth to where the sun was rising. Then we moved when I was 7, and the street lamps across from my window in our new home showed the world in sickly neon shades of buzzing orange and purple.
“San Francisco. Dawn like tarnished silver.” – Virtual Light, William Gibson.
I wonder what will shift in my son’s world, what his new life will be colored with, all the way across the continent in California.
Four days after our second son was born, my husband got a call from Apple. THE call. They wanted him and they wanted to make it happen fast. And, we supposed, in our few lucid moments in between bouts of hysterical laughter and morose tears, it really wasn’t a bad time to take a chance on a company that sounds like a perfect fit for everything that my husband wants in a job. I’m feeling gloriously improved just from the mere fact of NOT being pregnant anymore. I have powerful hormones running amok through my body that make the sleep deprivation and fatigue seem like inconsequential trivialities. The little bundle of urping, burping, squelching, screaming need is healthy, hale and utterly beautiful. Our eldest is adjusting to being a big brother with grace, patience and love. After a year of recovery from the karmic kicks in the ass that afflicted us in 2010, we find ourselves balanced enough to actually consider the job offer on its merits, rather than succumb to the overwhelming panic of moving barely a month post-partum.
We have two weeks now to say our goodbyes to the loveliest place we’ve lived so far. Two weeks to help our sensitive, shy, structure-craving, consistency-needing 4-year old understand how this will affect his life. Two weeks to pack up the chaotic mess of a post-partum home. Two weeks to help my family, my parents to understand that we will visit, we do love them, we’re not being irresponsible, this is the right move for our family. Two weeks to say so long to best friends and neighbors who have made our lives so much richer and happier over these past three years.
I know it’s not fair to remind everyone that we’ve always been a flight risk. Because even my husband and I, self-professed technomads, played around with the idea of making this home, this neighborhood a permanent stopping point in our lives. The place where you grow up together, letting your kids hop fences after school and play until dinner. Where you joke about whose child is going to be the trouble maker or heart breaker, and you share a beer together on the back deck with parents just as caring and down to earth as you aspire to be.
But California’s always been there in the back of our minds. Like London, Sydney and Paris are, figments of possible realities, the what-if’s tempered with the could-be’s. Maybe. Until recently, I wasn’t ready. I kept falling back on the old standard retort that I had too much black in my wardrobe to be happy in California. A pointless defense. My wardrobe is covered in spit up, grass stains, snot, breastmilk and drool. Parenting has granolaed us gradually to a point where we can’t imagine not composting, being part of an organic co-op, or biking to work. If there’s any place for us to find like-minded spirits, I expect we won’t have to look far around SF.
And so we find ourselves dreaming about Yosemite, Napa, Monterey, redwoods, sushi, surfing, cable cars, and twisty hills in between diaper changes and late afternoon naps. And in those moments when we start to worry, when the details seem impossibly complex and the logistics near impossible, there’s nothing quite as calming for the blood pressure as a peaceful sleeping baby in one’s arms or a cuddling four year old as he whispers “I love you.”
Wish us luck.
April 4th, 2011 §
It’s been nearly a year since the bottom fell out of our karmic balance. In the midst of the chaos and crises that battered us like waves preceding a storm surge, writing was hardly at the forefront of my mind. Sitting down and escaping to a fantasy world of my own creation would have taken more mental energy than I could have salvaged. As it was over the past year, focusing on health, happiness and simply surviving the turbulence depleted everything I had to give. It’s taken some time to move beyond bare subsistence mode, beyond recovery, and to stop mentally flinching in anticipation of the next hit.
Today feels like an important day in both its significance and its complete and glorious normality.
Today, my husband started a new job – a real job that will actually pay him what they’re contracted to pay him, a job that won’t hold a sword to his neck each day with the impending threat of lost funding or unemployment.
Today, I started a new pattern of homeschooling with my son. Almost 4 years old, he’ll be ready for kindergarden in another year and a half. But with constant “playschool-itis” exacerbating some recently diagnosed health issues, I’m happy to keep him home with me for this precious and unrepeatable time in his life where we simply get to play together. Today’s docket included getting dirty, getting grass stains on our butts, playing in the mud, planting some flowers, and climbing the Caboose. It’s been a good day.
Today, I opened up StoryMill and started writing again. I may not have written very much, and what came out and onto the screen certainly won’t be classified as anything but junk. But it was progress. Dusting out the cobwebs and opening up the shutters. Okay – it felt more like prying them open with a crowbar, but I know the words will come if I just keep at it.
I started writing fiction nearly three years ago as an exercise to sharpen my wits and dust off my right brain functionality. I’ve missed having story lines and characters to meditate on while sitting at the playground. I’ve missed jotting down little tidbits of conversations and observations as I’ve been out and about. And I know I should have come back to it sooner.
Giving myself the freedom to daydream, even in dribs and drabs, is that last step forward I needed to shake the vestiges of the past year away. Today I’m digging my toes in the grass, and listening to my little guy giggle at the worms, and knowing that it’s all going to work out just fine.
October 1st, 2010 §
The new Q4-2010 edition of Abyss and Apex is online, and “Sunlight” is making its debut!
September 27th, 2010 §
I had the great luck to foist the toddler off on unsuspecting (albeit delighted) grandparents for a brief time this past Sunday to see William Gibson on his Zero History tour at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. He tolerated the rambling and excessively self-absorbed questioners with a dismissive wit that comes from many years of doing this sort of meet and greet. He answered the questions he wanted to hear, and admirably ignored the ones that made no sense. In fact, I collected some gems of interesting wisdom to mull over in his talk. Just a few tidbits that spoke to where I am now, just at the beginning of developing my writing process.
- He emphasized the importance of using “genre” as a narrative strategy, nothing more – that genres should be mixed up, blended together, challenging the reader and using the techniques of each genre to further the narrative as necessary.
- He talked about how point of view is always written through the diffracting lens of his characters, all of whom are unreliable narrators, in a way.
- And the last point that resonated with me was his personal reflection on the intensity of the physical cataloging of the world in his novels, and that it’s often the most intense when his characters are lost. This is one of those elements of his writing that I feel has bled a bit into mine, the almost obsessive inclusion of off-kilter detailing of the world and environment. I appreciated the reflection that the environmental absorption of the characters is deeply tied to their moods.
At the signing table, I passed on a brief thank you for being part of my inspiration to start writing, and mentioned that my first short story was being published in a week. It was a surreal moment to hear William Gibson himself congratulate me, wish me good luck and tell me to keep at it. With a genuine smile and a handshake, I might add. I might just be suffering from a few heart palpitations…
August 23rd, 2010 §
Among the things that will be banished from memory upon the falling temperatures and impending arrival of fall will be:
- Tree falling on roof and smashing large hole in said roof
- Rain entering attic through hole from tree and soaking into insulation
- Bedroom ceiling collapsing and spreading sopping wet insulation and fiberglass over bed, bedding, closet, etc.
- Tree impaling car with massive body damage
- Car taking 4 weeks to be fixed
- LARGE insurance deductibles
- 18 year old uninsured, unlicensed driver going through a red light and sideswiping my son and I in our rental car
- Virginia heat and humidity
- Stray cats who think my front garden is a litter box
- Missing Uncle Orson’s Boot Camp
And now, let us never speak of this summer again. Onwards to Fall! To school, to writing time, to chilly noses, to the aroma of cinnamon and apple, to pumpkin pies and scarves.
July 8th, 2010 §
Sadly, my three weeks of buckle-down-and-write time came to an abrupt and unfortunate end at the hands (or infectious claws) of a rather nasty stomach virus contracted from my son’s preschool summer camp. Two weeks later and four pounds lighter, I found myself still playing catch up with all of the day-to-day things that got tossed to the side, like the contents of my stomach during that sad 3 day period, which we will never speak of again. Blech. I did make progress during that first week, but I have so much more work to do that the task of finishing this manuscript seems, yet again, to be monumental and wholly unattainable.
On the upside, I keep getting incredibly polite and personalized rejections for my short stories. And yes, I actually feel quite buoyed by personal notes from venerable editors at top 10 sci-fi magazines. It’s quite a complement. I’ve also been noticing a significant trend towards the same types of criticism. All of my rejections have said something along the lines of “great world building and atmosphere” but “not enough story to keep my attention.” Which really is understandable. I enjoy writing conceptual environments. How people interact with the world around them. What it feels like, sounds like, how it encompasses them.
So, I’ve decided to take a little time to myself and head on down to Uncle Orson’s Writing Class. I was too late to register for the Boot Camp this year, and frankly, I don’t have the luxury of dedicating a whole childless week to the workshop. But the writing class is only two days, hosted by Orson Scott Card, and dealing with a wealth of topics that I’m hoping will help me to expand my writing style and technique and learn a little more about the business. Should be a nice break to the endless summer without childcare or school for the little monkey. I can only set my sights on September and the start of playschool, which will bring a welcome return to a much needed and much longed-for writing routine.
May 13th, 2010 §
In the painfully white but surprisingly dark glare of the tiny LED plug-in night light in the bathroom at 4:00 am this morning, the counter appeared straight out of some turn of the century chemist’s lab. Balancing the kiddo’s sleepy dead weight on one hip, I stirred dollops of honey into warm water with a long handled tea spoon, trying to get the cough drop stuck to the bottom of the glass to dissolve. The steam from the shower was causing his hair to stick to his forehead and the vapor rub to ooze off of his neck and onto my arm in long trails of sticky menthol. Various medicine droppers, liquid measures and industrial sized bottles of neon pink antihistamine were barely discernible underneath the littered collection of snotty tissues, amassed in less than 5 minutes.
It had been a long night.
As the common cold wreaked havoc on our nightly routine and the lil’ man’s ability to get any real sleep, I desperately searched for ways to get him to stop fidgeting and stay still for those critical 20 minutes of breathing hot, moisturizing steam to ease his chest and nasal congestion. Or stay still, laying upright on my chest against a heaping pile of pillows to drain his sinuses without kneeing me in the chest or flipping upside down every few seconds, in that unavoidable, incredibly kinesthetic way that little boys interact with the world.
All it took was a simple thing. A story.
Starting a few days ago, with the snuffling, oozing, squirming mass of perpetual motion cuddled to my chest, I’ve started telling “Diamond Age”-style Primer fairytales. Those messy, strange and all-together uncomfortable tales of quests and wishes, of encounters and battles. I usually let the kiddo fill in the first few blanks and take it from there (it seems to keep his attention longer and calm his twitching feet and tickling fingers if he’s invested in the topic from the start). All of yesterday’s stories were about a little fish. The day before, it was a little dinosaur.
From a writer’s perspective, I’m rather proud of myself for being able to weave a simple story into such a powerful tool of sedation and engagement. They all use the same tropes of repetition to ensure he’s following along the complicated parts, and the same structural elements to reinforce the messages and interactions. But from a mom’s perspective, I’m finding myself shying away from the big bad guys, the evil doers, the less than tidy endings. I can’t seem to bring myself to write things where something bad happens to the hero (because it’s always a little boy of some kind, of course) that isn’t resolved into a positive thing. I tell stories where a character has a problem to solve, or a journey to take, or something to do. And whatever he actions he takes will have consequences. And if his actions are positive, the consequences will be positive.
Maybe it’s the Mom in me looking at the toddler who is locked in the epic age-appropriate struggle to understand the idea of cause and effect. Or maybe it’s the fact that most of these stories are told in the dark of night, with a sad, tired boy who just needs that escape from feeling sick, an escape from the discipline and battles that pepper his day, an escape from just how tiring it is to be almost three. I know children need those strange and messy stories, the Grims, the fables. But for now, I just want to preserve for him the idea that the world is uncomplicated, beautiful and fulfilling. That friends are there to help you, problems are there to be solved, and Mothers are there to love you unconditionally. No matter how many times you kick me in the nose.
Today’s stories are all about a little bear, who has red hair and likes to eat cupcakes.
May 9th, 2010 §
I’ve spent most of this relaxing (and thankfully) quiet Mother’s Day preparing for what I’ve dubbed “Novel Boot Camp.” I will have three mostly uninterrupted weeks of writing time coming up in the middle of June while the kiddo is in daycamp from 10:00 until 2:00 each day, and then a few extra hours while he’s asleep for nap time if I’m lucky.
I started writing this novel in 2007 and got a significant way into it (about 65,000 words) before putting it aside to write short fiction. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy working on the book – it was just that with the very short amount of time that I get to write each day or week, I wasn’t making much progress with the broader structural/plot issues that needed to be resolved before I could proceed. Those short little blips during naps or just after bedtime when I could sit down for just a few minutes and write were far more conducive to writing short stories or flash fiction. And far more satisfying at that point as well. Up until then, I hadn’t ever really seen my work through to an end point – polished, edited, submitted, rejected, submitted again…etc. The novel was too big, too overwhelming, and not at all close to completion, In other words, rather depressing.
But I’ve cycled back to it, out of sheer determination to make it WORK. I’ll be taking those entire three weeks to whip it into shape. Tackle the major issues, timeline, plot outline, flesh out characters and structure the entire end of the novel. My goal for the end of the Boot Camp is to have divided out scenes that I can easily sit down and write in one of those short sittings that I get during my average day of chasing around an almost-three-year-old. I’ve taken down the pictures in the dining room in preparation for the post-it tape timeline, colorful sticky notes, photos and sketches that I plan on adhering to every available surface. I shall dub it my War Room.
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;