Waiting in the optometrist’s office with my son, I picked up a Reader’s Digest.
Drama In Real Life: Buried Alive by a Blizzard!
As a kid, I read whatever I could get my hands on. That included trashy romances, dragon adventures from the school library, my grandfather’s Time-Life series about aliens, my other grandfather’s James Herriot Yorkshire vet collection, my parent’s school leftovers, boxes of randomness that my dad brought home from auctions, and the entire rack of kids-with-rare-illnesses books at the public library.
But sitting in the optometrist’s office and holding this Reader’s Digest in my hands, I realized these were what I read most. They came home from the grocery store with the milk and eggs and were just as much a staple in our house.
There’s probably a direct connection between Drama in Real Life stories and this:
It seems I’m all about the drama, even decades later.
Do you think if you lived with a scene like this for long enough, you’d forget it was there? You’d stumble to your coffee maker in the morning and ignore the windows?
I spent a few days on the Sunshine Coast last week, recharging and sneaking some writing time. After six days, I was definitely not done with the view. Not even my tepid photography skills could ruin it.
I hope you all had an equally relaxing Easter. I’ve been reading Startle and Illuminate and, as the juggling of real life begins again, I’ve resolved to take some advice from Carol Shields:
Time is not cruel. Given the good luck of a long healthy life, as most of us have, we have plenty. Plenty of time. We have time to try our new selves. Time to experiment. Time to dream and drift. Time even to waste. Fallow time. Shallow time.
We’ll have good years and bad years. And we can afford both. Every hour will not be filled with meaning and accomplishment as the world measures such things but there will be compensating hours so rich, so full, so humanly satisfying that we will become partners with time and not victims of it.
As it happens, Carol Shields didn’t have a particularly long life, but she did raise five children and win the Pulitzer Prize and a Governor General’s Award. I think she did alright with the time she had.
My daughter’s been home sick for the last two days, so she’s been reading up a storm. She’s come out with some pithy comments along the way, including:
About John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: “Why would you write a romantic novel, and give your character a completely romantic name like Augustus, and then have people call him Gus? Gus is NOT romantic at all.”
About parents: “Writers have to be really creative to get rid of parents. Either they kill them, or they make the main characters sixteen or seventeen and super independent. In this book I’m reading [Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson], the parents are screenwriters and they get really into new projects and then only leave the living room every forty-eight hours to see if their kids are alive.”
About embossed covers: “I love textured books. I wish they were a person, so I could marry them.”
And that’s the word from the sickbed. You’re welcome.
Ah, Family Day. When you bond with your offspring and discover what they really think of you. And your career choices.
I was sitting at one end of a restaurant table last weekend, happily sipping my drink, while my daughter and her auntie chatted at the other end of the table. This is what I overheard:
Silence: Auntie Moe, there’s a Take Your Child to Work Day when I’m in grade nine. Can I come to work with you?
Auntie Moe: Sure.
Silence: Oh, good! Because Daddy’s work has confidentiality issues, and I don’t want to stay home and watch Grey’s Anatomy all day with Mommy.
That’s when my drink went up my nose.
For her business class, Silence had to prepare an elevator pitch.
“Practice on me,” I suggested.
She launched into her product description. And she went on. And on.
“I think an elevator pitch is supposed to be short,” I said. “You imagine you’ve met a potential investor in an elevator, and you have only a few minutes to describe your idea.”
“Oh, I know,” she said. “But my elevator’s going to the 22nd floor.”
Sometimes when I’m walking or grocery shopping or waiting in line, I’m struck by a string of book ideas. So either I jot these on scraps of paper which I immediately lose, or I write them in my phone then forget ever to look at them again.
Here’s a sample note from 2016, which I’ve just rediscovered. If you’ve read Prince of Pot, you’ll recognize some names.
Failure of imagination
Paint the bus
Half woods, half city, bear, bear rug. No, couldn’t paint bear rug, hazel lives forever. Drive to Vancouver, see what comes.
Isaac needs to find his own path, make his own decisions, follow his own art.
Doesn’t send portfolio?
Walt has a brother who’s an artist?
Walt left family behind. Had to follow what he believed.
Reference letter from Mr. Pires (who also left his family behind?)
About two of these things happened in the final book. Don’t worry, the bear rug wasn’t one of them.
I’ve been reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and it’s fascinating. I now know all sorts of wacky things about sleep, such as: your muscles are paralyzed during R.E.M. sleep so you don’t act out your dreams; early sleep researchers spent months deep in a cave trying to learn how circadian rhythms work; and if doctors zap your head in the exact same rhythm as your brain’s natural electrical impulses, you’ll achieve deeper sleep.
This would be an excellent book to have read when I was sixteen. Back then, my dad liked to book me for a 6 a.m. waitressing shifts (his way of trying to get me home before midnight). I could have explained to him that adolescents don’t produce melatonin until later in the evening, and yet need more sleep than adults, and therefore sleeping in on Saturday mornings was basically required.
That would have been good.
What’s not so good: reading the book as a semi-wrinkly person. Now, instead of lying in bed at 4 a.m. wishing I could go back to sleep, I lie there knowing I’m increasing my chances of cancer and Alzheimer’s, reducing my next day resistance to viruses, increasing my chances of emotional meltdowns, making myself less attractive by the minute…
Sometimes it’s possible to know too much.
There must be an upcoming chapter on how to actually sleep better. Otherwise, I’m going to sign up for zapping.
My kids and I look nothing alike, which causes some interesting situations. A few weeks ago, I told a sales clerk at Ivivva that I was waiting for my daughter, who was in the change room. The clerk shook her head (because Silence was one of two Asian girls trying on clothes) until I said, “Really, she’s in there. She just doesn’t look like me.”
Silence finds these events funny and/or annoying, depending on her mood. But she’s certainly aware of our genetic differences.
Last weekend, our whole family gathered at a rental house in Palm Desert to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday. Or at least, my mom and dad gathered with my sister’s family to celebrate. The Kyi clan kept getting locked out of the gated community because our security code didn’t work.
At one point, my husband decided to boost Violence over the fence so he could run and ring the doorbell at the rental house. Silence and I remained in the car.
“What are we going to do if they get in trouble?” she asked me.
“Pretend we don’t know them.”
“Easy for you to say. You look nothing like them.”
So true, and something that may be useful if I start a life of crime. In the meantime, Silence will have to focus on the positives.
I’ve just finished Wildman, by j.c. geiger, and it’s excellent.
It’s about a teenage boy named Lance, who’s about to graduate as class valedictorian and head off to business school. Then his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and he finds himself wrapped up in a society of small-town teens, most of them lost in their own unique ways.
As the days pass, Lance gets increasingly urgent calls from his mom and his girlfriend, but finds himself unable to leave this new place, where he can be and do almost anything… pull a knife on someone, jump a train, sleep with an artist…
And while you can predict from the very first pages that Lance isn’t going back, the story takes all sorts of unexpected turns.
There are plenty of themes in Wildman — choosing your own path for the future, navigating family expectations, balancing art dreams with practical life demands — that overlap with the ideas in Prince of Pot. Which is all particularly convenient because J.C. Geiger and I are speaking on a panel together this month in St. Louis, as part of the ALAN Workshop for the NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English).
Hopefully my plane doesn’t break down along the way, leaving me stranded in the backwoods. If it does, I’m totally jumping a train.
I’ve discovered the ideal way to reconnect. You write a young adult novel set in your hometown, and then you include situations that your high-school friends recognize.
The Creston Valley Advance published an article a few weeks ago about Prince of Pot. Since then, I’ve received messages from someone who remembers particular hot tub incidents, a man who — twenty-five years ago — served as the Tic Tac repository in a Twin Bays truth-or-dare game, and a friend who may have once “borrowed” a car from the local dealership. The keys had been left inside, and that was all the excuse she needed.
(The funniest part of all this? My beta readers had so many questions about the truck-theft scene. Mainly, they thought it unrealistic that a dealership would leave keys in a vehicle overnight. Which just goes to show that those beta readers didn’t grow up in small towns. And that fact is stranger than fiction, always.)
I’m so glad I had wonderful, wild, daring, loving friends to get me through high school… and friends who will still read my books, all these years later!