This week I spent the afternoon with a group of fourth graders who had read–very carefully I might add–my book “What Happened on Fox Street”. It came out five years ago, and in preparation I decided I better read it again myself.
Re-visiting one’s own book is—at least for me—a nerve-wracking undertaking. There’s the fear that I’ll find dialogue clunky, or descriptions tedious, or the whole dang thing embarrassingly in need of revision. But I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and opened the b0ok.
Aah. I still liked it! In fact, I kind of fell in love with Mo all over again. She’s funny, she’s brave, she worries as much as I do. I’d actually forgotten how one of the plot twists plays out, so it was fun to be surprised.
One of the wonderful teachers guiding our discussion asked me, “What do you think Mo might be when she grows up?” That was such a great question I turned it over to the group. Some of their answers: a professor (because she loves to think), an investigator (because she’s good at noticing and putting 2 + 2 together), a forest ranger (because she loves nature, even fox poop).
All this got me thinking: Mo must be a teenager by now, or possibly even older (depending on whether characters age at the same rate as real people) and little Wild Child Dottie must be a fully sentient being. I felt like a proud (if always anxious) mama.
You work and work on a book, and it’s all yours, for better or for worse. You’re the one lying awake in the middle of the night, or standing in the grocery aisle frantically scribbling notes on a cereal box, or shouting out a YES when it somehow astonishingly, mysteriously comes together. It’s yours, the characters and their journey, the headaches and the swoons, until comes the day the book is published. Then it belongs to the readers, for better or for worse.
What could be better than sitting around with thoughtful kids, on a spring afternoon, eating cookies, talking about Mo and Mercedes and Dottie as if they’re real live breathing people? Why did they do this and did you like/hate when they did that? What did you think about her decision, his choice? And what about Dottie and those beer bottles?
Thank you, Grindstone Elementary! You gave my story back to me. I’m so happy we shared it!