Thursday, May 30, 2024

I will

Dear Mom, 

No one reads this blog anymore, which I consider a true gift because it means that cancer is no longer at the center of my being. While I may "publish" this blog, I consider this a private communication. The only people who read it will be those who still think of me (or people who once followed and wonder, "Is that girl still alive?" Ha!) Well, I am still alive. Still very, very alive. So I wanted to write you to you here because this blog was where writing really started for me.

Three years ago around this time, you gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. You told me that you believed in my idea for a book enough that you'd support my dream to take a year off of teaching and write it. I will never ever have the words to express my gratitude for that but I'm going to give it a little try right now. 

One of the reasons I love being a teacher so much is that I honestly believe a teacher has the power to help their students build their dreams. On a day to day basis, the work doesn't look like it involves dream-building at all (like not even in the slightest) but I still know it's true. A teacher can help a student believe in themself, help them think (even if it's deep in their subconscious) I can do that. I can learn that. I can be that. I can. Then the really great teachers can help students learn and execute the how. 

When students believe they can, it's because they have found one of life's most precious gifts: hope. Hope makes us believe that we can take the infinite pieces of being human that the universe hands us -- in whatever shape, color, and size and in whichever degree of pain, pleasure, and practicality -- and build our one life. If we get lucky, we have time to do it. 

Today I figured out something: the beauty of I can is surpassed by just one other belief. It's not I did (didn't Gatsby teach us anything?), but rather I will. 

Mom, you and Dad have always been my greatest teachers. You both have always made me believe I can. There is nothing more in the world I hope to give my kids than that belief.

Today I realized what's next, and it's on me. It's the I will. 

I wrote that draft -- that embarrassingly-bad-piece-of-total-crap 430-page draft. And it's sat there for over a year. I've been too afraid to look at it again. Too scared of how much work it's going to take to make it real. To make final decisions about what a character does and says. To add, delete, punctuate. I'm terrified to put my name on it and show it to the world and somehow try to believe that it's worth someone's time to read it. Don't get me wrong -- I have not overcome those fears, not even close. And I'm not really inspired nor excited about the prospect of finishing this thing. It's just that it's time. 

Maybe that's part of the process of writing a novel or achieving any dream -- just deciding, it's time. And then getting lucky enough to have the time. 

On Monday you'll come with me for my chest scan. That's always scary, no matter how routine it may be. Thank you for being there from the first scan almost twelve years ago to this one. Thank you for convincing me I can. And thank you even more for making it possible for me to actually do it -- showing me the how. Being part of it, in all it's lazy, imperfect, very-unfun reality. 

And now, it's time for me to check this damn dream off the dream list and get it done. So, mark my words. I will. By the summer of 2025 I will send this damn draft out to 10 agents. Even if it's so bad that they don't even read past page one. 

I will. 

Thank you for that. 

Love you always, 


Monday, November 20, 2023

One Reason Writing Fiction Is So Damn Hard

Because every single moment you do it, you face your own thoughts. And somehow, you have to make sense of those thoughts.

I continue to wake up every morning to write and I continue to think it is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Maybe that's how you know you're supposed to do something--it feels like torture and yet, every single day, something calls you back to do it. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Silence and Nuance

I've been observing something interesting in American culture: the tendency to create two sides to every issue. Often I am asked to choose one side or another on issues that I don't see as so easily bifurcated that way. I have to hate something or love it, support it 100% or vilify it completely. Or, I need to ignore it altogether. 

It's such an American thing, in a way: to commit to something with great passion and unequivocal dedication. It's a great strength, but, ironically, it's also a great weakness. 

I wish that things weren't so blue or red, black or white, good or bad. Almost always the issues are so much more nuanced than that. While I want to talk through nuance, I often feel like there is neither time nor place to do so. Plus, I often lack the skills, patience, and emotional toughness for it. I had to leave social media altogether; it's no place for constructive debate. 

I wish that I could express that I am an advocate for systems that I simultaneously question. In fact, it's in my questioning of those systems that I manifest my support for them. In other words, because I care, I ask questions and in asking those questions, I hope to strengthen those systems, not destroy them. I do not hate a leader because I want him to do better, just as I do not hate myself when I need to improve. Likewise, I do not hate the police because I want to ensure their accountability, just as I do not think my principal hates me because she wants to ensure mine. 

We start to crack as a democratic society not when we ask questions of our leaders, but rather, when we don't. And we begin to fall as a democracy when we know something isn't right but we assume someone else will fix it. Who is that someone? What if they don't show up? 

This world is hard, for so many, in countless different ways. I am not saying we will agree on issues because we haven't, don't, and never will. But we can, at the very least, stop creating two sides to nuanced issues. We can ask questions and answer them without the assumption of malice or hate or the intent to destroy. We can change our minds. We can talk, and make mistakes, and learn from them. We can be civil even when we stand apart. Because it's not the talking that gets us all in trouble. It's the silence. 

Friday, October 27, 2023


Random Messy Thought for the Day: 

How many books are you reading right now? 

Are you someone who doesn't have time to read anything, so the answer would be, None

Are you someone who has lots of books started for different moods? A pile by your bed? 

Or do you have one book that you focus on until you finish it cover-to-cover? 

Maybe you're an audiobook person? 

Maybe something else I haven't even thought of?

Whatever the answer, I feel like there is a personality test somewhere in here...

My answer: I have about 15 books started, maybe more. I've spent my life feeling guilty that I'm not a one-book-at-a-time-cover-to-cover person. But I don't feel guilty about it anymore. I like the kind of reader I am. Whatever your reading style, I hope you like yours, too.