Last night while working at the library I helped an almost-third-grader look for a new book to read. I love doing this, drifting up and down the stacks, pulling out my favorites, describing each a little bit. Some kids will have read pretty much everything I offer, and we’ll fall into our own mini-book-club, discussing favorite parts or characters, exchanging opinions on whether the ending worked or let us down. Last night’s patron will be one of those kids in a year or two. Her eyes had that light. So far, she hasn’t read all that much, but when I asked her what she’d enjoyed lately, she said, “I just finished a book called Two Plus One Makes Trouble.” GAAAA!
(like sands through the hourglass…)
“Wait,” said I. “Were the characters named Betsy and Ida?’
“Yup,” said she. “Betsy, Ida and Missy.”
“I wrote that book, ” I told her.
Her shoulders hitched, her brows arched, her mouth made the shape of an egg. I was probably her mirror image, only three times bigger.
I said I’d written it a long time ago–i.e., before she was born. Who knows how kids less than a decade old conceive of time? But we both knew it was an amazing, lucky lightning strike coincidence. When I showed her “Fox Street” and “Mo Wren”, both on the shelf, she grabbed ’em.
Next time I get crazy impatient over how loooong it takes me to make a book and whether it’s worth it, I’ll remind myself about her wide eyes. And how we both stood there in the stacks going, Really? Yup. Yup, really!
A little coda: I just sold a story (for grown-ups) to the literary parenting magazine Brain, Child. I’m not sure exactly when I first wrote it, but it had a reference to the coming new century (meaning the 21st). I pulled it out while taking a break from my WIP, liked much of it, and went to work revising. Though it’s about mothering, and though I first wrote it when my girls were so much younger, an awful lot of it still holds true. Namely, wishing I was a better mother than I am. When it pubs, I’ll let you know!
Writing quote of the week, from Paula McLain, author of “The Paris Wife”: “I like to get in over my head. For me, the sweet spot is trying something I don’t know how to do.”