Tuesday, March 29, 2022

IF I WEREN’T WRITING...

 

Or—

What Would I Do Instead?

Our neighborhood trusted gas station/car repair shop has had the same sole owner for fifty years. I wasn’t here to verify this, but so I’ve been told. For at least twenty, we’ve brought all our cars to him and he has always been scrupulously honest. His loyal assistant has been there for as long as I remember. Bridgeway Service is venerated and loved by all who had experienced the decent way they conduct their business.

 

A few years ago, I got into a conversation with the owner, who told me he would love to retire. What he really wanted to do was experiment making homemade barbecue sauce and invite his neighbors to sample his ever-evolving creations on that front.

 

This stayed with me, and every time I drive in to get gas or inflate my tires, I think of a dream delayed when I see Steve, the owner, still at it.




At this stage of my life, I have the privilege to be able to dedicate myself to doing what I most want to. I write fictional stories for young readers almost every weekday. I try to imagine what I would do if writing fiction became impossible. A few notions float by on wispy clouds~~~~~

Run a cat rescue

      Write movie reviews

                  Make biscotti from a family recipe I improved

 

Those misty billows evaporate as quickly as they appear. I could do any of the above, but not every day or every week. This cements my feeling of gratitude. I’m lucky to be where I am.

 

It also seems unfair, as Steve from Bridgeway has worked harder all his life, and has earned his right to make barbecue sauce full time. Life, really, isn’t fair.

 

Do you have any dreams delayed you would be open to sharing? I wish you the vision to see clearly the way to fulfilling those.


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

SEASONS and SEASONINGS

 

Where I live, in California’s bay area, there is basically only one season.

Lucky us, the season is SPRING.


It goes something like this:

Bay area summer = Spring with morning fog

Bay area fall = Spring without the morning fog

Bay area winter = Spring with some rain

Bay area spring = well, just spring


I have dealt with this boring blessing by creating seasonality in artificial ways.

Example—

I change the bed’s quilt, and thus my bed reflects seasonality.

SUMMER^


FALL^


WINTER^


SPRING^


The cats are perennial.

 

It occurred to me that the stories I write are similar. My life is a steady road with mini-bumps for variety. The stories are life accentuated, outlined, marked with eye-popping swatches of drama.

The bed frame is akin to the daily discipline of writing, and the cats (i.e., the stand-ins for the narrator who is me) are the constant sentient beings. The quilts serve to delineate the titles from each other. 

Thus, stories are life with spicy seasoning.

­čî╗Happy Spring­čî╗


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

PANDEMIC STORIES

 

Or—

THIS STORIED PANDEMIC

At the two-year mark of the first Covid-19 global pandemic lockdowns, it occurred to me that this life altering event has barely registered in books, movies, TV-series or any of the many ways we tell the stories of our lives.

Where it’s missing most is in children’s books.

The global pandemic brought not only lockdowns with their school closures, but also face masks, vaccinations, and protests against both. It made older relatives spend their last days without family, and some families that lived and worked entirely from home. It ushered shifting directions from authorities, travel restrictions, fluctuating supply chain shortages, and daily experts' updates that often added to confusion.

But most of all, there was prevailing fear.

This not-brave new world we found ourselves in should have been a feast for storytellers. (“So, what else is new?” “PLENTY.”)

Instead, it’s as if we can’t digest any of it, and thus we keep producing reflections that bypass the elephant in the room

At the very beginning of this game-changing reality, I wrote a picture book that told of it; a pet chinchilla found that it couldn’t go outside. Using animal protagonists is a way of distancing hard realities while also giving them full emotional agency.

My then-agent felt it would all be over soon, and so it was never shopped to editors. I understood agent’s point. But I also thought that regardless of whether it be a brief episode— barely a snippet in time, or one that lasts a while, it has a place in stories.

Especially for the youngest readers, who barely remember how it was before.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

NEVER RUN OUT OF STORIES

 

Our lives are filled with possibilities that haven’t materialized. Stories are conjured of things that do.

 

      When the story-well feels empty, I think of it this way:

1.      Here are the blessings I have. (I count them). Blessings do not make for story-hooks, but I need to do this in order to take the next step.

2.      Here are the frustrations and lackings I experience. (I list them)

      Every one of the items on the lacking list begs for a “what if...”

{As in what if instead of having an editor pass on my manuscript, it got multiple offers. Or what if instead of having my old clunker of a car stolen, I won a brand new one in a raffle and got to donate the old one to someone who needed it.}

 

Most of the what-ifs are stories. My mind lets the possibilities in. Starting from the point of lack, and moving through challenges, to a point of either triumph or acceptance of the lack, which is an inner triumph.

 

I didn’t develop this exercise in order to think up story ideas; it’s something I always did naturally. But it also assures I will never run out of ideas.

Unless, of course, I find myself counting my blessings and having not a single lack.

Well, that’s not going to happen. Nevermore.



Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Welcome March

     

& Keep Marching

The month we’re ushering in, March, gets its name from Mars, the Roman god of war. The Roman calendar actually began with the month of March. Leave it to the Romans, those talented empire builders, to start off with war.

 

It is the pronunciation in English that gives it an added feel. MARCH, as in to march, evokes movement. Not just any movement, but the rhythmic kind that propels forward.

 

And this we must do. Walking backwards is something we do when we reminisce, delve into history and read fiction set in past eras. It’s a mental glide backwards, something that deepens understanding and cements ownership of acquired emotions.

 

On the level of action, the single most important thing to do is to bravely march forward, open to the unknown. Storytellers attempt to unveil the future with utopic and dystopic stories, but those are just attempts to quell the fear of what the next steps hold.

 

As it turns out, these stories are mostly unsuccessful as future times bear out. Sure, some futuristic stories turned out to have prescience. So have some religious prophecies. But most did not. We just forgot about the majority that didn’t, and kept marching.

 

Which is my order to self today, as the first of March happens to also be my birthday: get up and march.