Archive for September 2011

Prized Possession

September 10th, 2011 — 12:44pm

September 10th, 2011

7:24 a.m.

Today’s Special:  No idea.  Not open yet.

I’m sitting in the diner, but right now it’s just quiet, the only sounds a dripping faucet and the hum of compressors.  People often ask where I write.  This question surprised me at first, confused me even, maybe because I don’t have a set place.  I write where I can, when I can.  All over.   In my office above the garage, in my loft at home, at the kitchen table, on the couch, in the chair by the woodstove, at booth one in the diner, at table three, or four, or five, and maybe most of all at table six, the wooden table in the back by the bakery.  That’s where I am now.

The sun came up big and red.  I slept well but couldn’t sleep any longer.  It’s after Labor Day, it’s still very busy, I’m still working gigantic hours at a dead run a lot of the time (my brother came to visit but pretty much all I could do was wave at him in passing), but I miss writing.  I want to be writing a book.  I want to get back to Leonard and Marilyn and Lucy and Vince and Mona, and maybe most of all to Aunt Ida.  I miss her.  I think about her a lot.  She’s one of those people you can tell anything to and she won’t judge you.  I suppose that’s her role as a character, but to me she’s not an idea, she’s a very real person.   As a character, as a tool in a story, she makes me think about honesty and acceptance, about shame and secrets.  She is so down-to-earth. I think Lucy needs her, because Lucy is hiding some very big things, even from herself.  And if someone like Aunt Ida were there, someone safe, someone she could tell–how amazing would that be?  Well, we’ll see.

For me, writing a book for adults is a big, complex project.  The characters are all with me, real and vital, but the story is less clear.  It’s as if I’ve got them all sitting around in a cafe, eating pie, waiting for me to do somthing with them.  I think they’re starting to whisper amongst themselves and cast me doubtful glances.  Is she ever going to get this script written, or are we going to sit here drinking coffee forever?

Idea number two is another middle grade novel.  The narrator is twelve.  I’m not entirely sure of her name yet, but it might be Jane.  And that’s all I can say about that for now, except that one thing I see maybe-Jane doing is swimming on a summer afternoon in a pond in the middle of a field.  She’s with her grandma, who is wearing a very old old-lady swimsuit and a rubber swimming cap.  Grandma is doing the butterfly, and this amazes maybe-Jane some, because she herself can only flounder around splashily, and she wonders where Grandma learned something so polished and professional.  I’m not sure of their conversation–the novel will dictate that when the time comes–but I can see them swimming very clearly.

People often ask if SOUTH OF SUPERIOR is autobiographical, and the answer is no.  It will be no for PRAIRIE EVERS and for these next two books also, but of course moments in the books do come from my own life. I did swim in a pond with my grandmother one summer day when I was a kid, and I was amazed at watching her do the butterfly, because I didn’t even know she could swim.  What we talked about, I have no idea.  I wasn’t in a novel, wasn’t living out a plot like maybe-Jane will be.

In other news, my new most prized possession is my bridge walk sweatshirt.  On Labor Day we closed and took the crew on our annual field trip.  We walked the Mackinac Bridge.  It was awesome.  Laura and I bought matching navy blue hoodies at Gifts Galore in St. Ignace afterward.  There’s an emblem of the bridge, the Mighty Mac, and it says “Mackinac Bridge Walk, 2011, Rain or Shine.”  Yeah.

It was chilly and windy and sunny and cloudy and beautiful.  It was something I never, not a million years, imagined myself doing.  I am not always very creative.  On Labor Day, we work.  End of subject.  But this Labor Day, we walked.

It is impossible in the few words I feel I have left in me right now to say how magical this day was. Hats off to Rick and Laura–to Rick for having this crazy idea (“Closed on Labor Day?!” said Ellen-the-bookeeper.  “What, are you insane??  We can’t close on Labor day, we have to labor.  Plus I’ll be  too tired, and it’s too complicated to plan, and blah, blah, blah.”), and to Laura for believing in it, for wanting to do it, for making it happen.  Hats off to all of us for getting up before 4 a.m. to leave on this journey and for having a wonderful time.  To Starlet and Elladiss for being such awesome kids, and to Emily and Becky, their equally awesome moms.  To Dakota, for walking at Rick’s wrecked-knees pace all day long.  Also to Lenny and Olga and the crew at the Bridgeview Diner in Mackinac City where we had breakfast.  They were crazy busy.  I was so grateful to be sitting at their counter, warm after getting cold on top of the bridge, tired after walking the five mile span plus some, and hungry, and just glad to be there.  Rock on, guys.

The walk begins:

The Might Mac  (when you say, “The Bridge” in Michigan, it can only mean one thing):


Near the middle:

Charlie driving our dairy truck passes by!

The finish line:

At the Bridgeview:

Prized Possession:

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