Writers write… I once had a friend who always said to me that little two word phrase over and over. It echoes in my mind, and how I wish I could hear him say that to me now. He is gone, on to another dimension. That little phrase echoes in my mind, heard it many times before, and then I think it, because I got away from the writing, not that I wanted to get away from it… it just happened. I realized I had become so distracted by many other outside influences, mainly people who were crashing into my life, taking up my time… Perhaps I let them in to take up the time.
Writing has structure and words that create the home of the story. Writing is the same as fixing up a house into a home to have the ultimate charm of a comfortable living space. Writing for story has structure, the arch, the story, the problem, the solution and in writing children’s stories, the pictures carry the charm forward. These pictures are page turners, so that the book stands up and the story can hold water. A good story is the home of a story. It lives in our minds and it can live on paper too, as long as one has carved out the place for the story to exist. Pictures enhance the story through imagination and if the pictures are wonderful, the story leans on less words.
I miss those little moments when I could easily spin out a yard of words. Those moments are snaps of time and they bring me back to the moment I created them. I had to decide a few things this year, with much cajoling from my daughter, who so wished that I would get back into the trek story and finish it. She told me she liked it best without all the flashbacks, because that was what confused her. She liked the straight story of what she knew from growing up in my family, listening to the stories from 1844. She loved her memory of going to our museum to be a part of the curating of our family things that were from an era that has to do with the settlement of early California. She begged me to just spin out the story as she had heard it as a young child of seven and eight years old.
I AM writing the novel now. It is the first time that I have attempted such a thing outside of short stories and children’s stories. It has gripped me for a very long time. I wrote it seventeen years ago while my parents were living, because they also knew the oral history of the story. It was a time when I could share that writing experience with them, as they eagerly awaited the next installment of the story. At this same time, I wrote a column for the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum, sharing the family history written for publication every month. They were excited that I was capturing those moments in time and that there was quite a following who read my stories each month. Then in graduate school those folks wanted me to change the novel all up with flashbacks and it lost its dignity. I didn’t know how to bring it back to life. I felt that it needed to be shelved for it was developed into a different story that was stilted and confusing. So I shelved it until January of this year, 17.5 years had passed. In January when my daughter came out to visit me, she begged and begged me to find it and dust it off. She and I found it in an old computer that I had lugged with me every time I bought a place, fixed it up, and turned that place into a home for me or a home for someone else. That was my life for the past twelve years in California and in New York. I thought I wanted to be a house renovator and I was doing all of that. It was stressful and satisfying to do, but it really wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.
They say people innately know what the gift is that comes naturally to them, like a singer song writer, a mechanic, a builder, an excavator, and an artist. Some people develop their gift early on and stick with it. I often read or heard about how folks have developed their craft through the years, suffered setbacks and, how they kept going with their craft, through grit and grim, just because they believed in themselves. That is a very strong conviction to believe in your craft and have the courage to carry it forward. I wish I had believed in myself all those years ago and kept trying to get Elephoot published early on. I always knew that I wanted to write, but I never actually had the confidence to do much beyond the work day correspondence for someone else. Ten years ago after revisiting some of my early favorite authors, I realized that Beatrix Potter had self-published her stories and illustrations. It was after that when I began my adventure in learning to write for children and I carved out a niche for my drawings as they went hand in hand with my stories. One story I had written and illustrated in 1973 while living in England, when I was 21, spoke to me to unleash her and let other children in the world get to know her too. I had read and shared Elephoot’s story with children that I knew for forty years, including my own daughter. The pages had turned yellow with age and so I ended up reworking Elephoot’s story and re-illustrating her story in watercolors, using the same pigments as before. I learned how to self-publish it and it has been a great journey and a nice revival for me. Elephoot seeded me with hope to carry on with the stories. I have loved seeing the smiles on children’s faces as well on the parents who read or turn the pages of this book and the sequel, Elephoot Returns, and Penelope The Tea Mouse, another book in the series. Now it is my fervent hope that the Trek story will be finished soon.