This morning a note from an editor gave me the news that she can’t accept my picture book of Mary Colter as it is. She recognized that I have done extensive research and closed with the hope that I will consider revising it.
I will definitely consider revision. Now comes the hard part. How to put another person’s life in a form that is interesting and helps you know that person. Colter wrote almost nothing about herself. Her correspondence dealt with her work as an architect. Some quotes about her from other people give us an insight into her personality. Her interests and personality also come through in her buildings. OK. Now I have those insights and personality traits into words –words that children will understand.
I’m thinking along the lines of buildings that tell stories. It will be a while before I try to commit this idea to paper, but I am making notes as I think of them.
When I am in a project , writing is an all-consuming task whether or not anything is put on paper.
This morning I asked my daughter, “What if I hadn’t said you couldn’t be a nurse when you were ten, because you fainted when having your finger pricked? Would you have become a nurse sooner?”
Her answer, “I don’t know.”
Her question, “What if you hadn’t told me I was adopted all my life, how would I have reacted when I was older and you told me? I might have been angry, but knowing, it was just part of life, I didn’t think about it.”
There have been so many times I could ask myself, “What if…?”
No one can answer the question. To spend time lamenting my choice is to deny my life as it is. My choices have given me life now. The question I need to answer is not what if, but what am I going to do with my life now?
I could mourn all the choices I didn’t make. What would that get me? A sad life.
I can look for opportunities to help someone have a better life, to learn something new, to understand another part of the world I live in, to write stories to share with children and adults.
The world is full of possibilities. I have no time for “what if.” I’m busy with “now.”
A Long, Long Summer is set in 1943. Jeanne is sent against her will to her uncle’s farm for the summer because her dad is a Navy doctor and her mother is working the swing shift. Jeanne worries about her father overseas. She struggles with her fears of animals and trying new things as she knows her father wants her to do. It is her father’s words from before joining the Navy that return to help her gain confidence in herself. It is Dad and Daughter bond.
The first week our adopted daughter (22 months) was part of our family, all was well. Her father, a pastor, was in and out of the house often during the day. Then came the day he had a day-long meeting an hour or more away. He had been gone for an hour or two, when our daughter said, “I go home now.” She’d decided her visit was over. For the next eight or nine hours she insisted, “I go home now,” pleading and crying. I, too, wanted to cry. Just before dinner, her daddy walked in the front door. All was well!
One night around the campfire he held her. When it was time for bed, she appeared to be sound to sleep, but as he stood to carry her to bed, she opened her eyes. “Fooled you, didn’t I?”
This special bond stayed intact the rest of her father’s life. They shared the same sense of humor and bad jokes, the joy of the preposterous, and understanding of one another.
This dad and daughter bond is one I experienced as a child, too. Where Dad went, I went. He never told me I couldn’t do something. Instead, he said, “I don’t think you can, but you can try.” He was usually right that I was not big or strong enough. One day I asked to back the tractor from the barn and nearly went over a high stone ramp. The first thing he said was, “Don’t tell your mother.” The second thing was, “Keep your foot off the clutch.” Third, “Get on the tractor.” Dad got on with me. I have never left my foot on the clutch again.
In my writing I want children to feel that bond between Jeanne and her father, even when they are separated by time and distance.