There’s a scene in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women where Dr. Bhaer gives Jo feedback on one of her stories. He says, “Jo, there is more to you than this, if you have the courage to write it…You must write from life, from the depths of your soul!”
Every now and then when my hands begin to twitch and my jaw clenches from trying to force something into writing I think of this scene. And then I ask myself, am I writing from life? Am I writing from what I know to be true and good and real?
If the answer is no, I scrap it.
There’s too much in the depths of my soul to be wasting time writing what I don’t know. There’s too much beauty in the bay forest and the creek beyond my back door and the redwood outside my window. There’s too much wonder behind the stars that light my path at night. These are the things that I know. These are the things that are good. And these are the things I will write.
It’s been about a year since my blog went silent—a year, two new teaching jobs, two cross-country moves, and a trans-Atlantic relationship, since my last post. I can blame the crickets on circumstance, or I can just fess up. Maintaining a blog is a lot of work. Sometimes when life gets hectic something’s gotta go and for me it was the blog.
Despite my cyber silence, my plight for publishing has far from ceased. Queries continue to fly from my ever-hopeful fingertips but to no avail. Something about my first book just wasn’t cutting it. So I took it to the cleaners, ransacked the ending, a few major plot points, and started rebuilding. The direction it’s taking feels good and new and fresh and promising. But I got stuck. I’m frozen somewhere between my old manuscript and my vision for the future. So instead of prying reluctant words from my brain, I recently set it aside. My neurons simply refuse to fire in the order it will take to finish that book right now. So screw ’em. They’ll come around eventually.
In the meantime, besides short stories, other YA novel ideas, and journaling, I’ve turned my attention towards another writing outlet: picture books. They’re short, and snappy, and to the point. And the best part is, they make little kids think. Tiny little ones all over the country read, and are read picture books every day. And their tiny little brains use the information in those books to help them make sense of the crazy world that they so recently arrived in. What a cool opportunity to be a part of. So I wrote the first draft of a picture book a few weeks ago. And just a few days later got an email from my local SCBWI chapter with the subject, “Is Your Picture Book Ready to Send? A Checklist for All Writers.” The universe works in weird ways sometimes. Well, all the time actually.
The email turned out to be an advertisement for a local meeting with a guest speaker named Dev Petty, author of I Don’t Want to Be a Frog and I Don’t Want to be Big. During her talk she provided the list of questions she always asks herself before sending manuscripts to agents. I fully intend to break down the important points of her talk in my next blog post, but the real point here is that this meeting really inspired me to get back on the blogging train. It’s time to sweep the crickets out and get back to business. I have returned to the cyber world. And here I shall stay.
Stay tuned and keep writing.