Here is what I've decided I love about my new class of children: they love stories. And that means, in spite of some of their poor decision making Monday through Friday, I love them. Because I love stories! And I love people who love stories! And if only we could just all sit around and share stories all day long like Plato and Socrates and Aristotle used to do with their students, I really think we could get rid of stupid people who start or join organizations like ISIS and the KKK and the 700 Club. Get rid of crazed obsession with data and tests, and bam! World peace and agape love. Don't worry--I'm already working on my UN pitch.
So today, we talked about Characters, Setting, and Problem/Solution, 3 key components of understanding fiction for developing readers and writers. I read them a book by Loren Long called OTIS, which is a sweet story about an old tractor and his friend, a calf. They adored it. You know how I know? They clapped and cheered when it was finished. At some point this year, I expect a standing ovation and will become completely disillusioned with life if it doesn't happen. Reading to them is the one time I've noticed they're very quiet and attentive, so now I'm trying to figure out how much I can get away with reading to them. If I could read to them all day long, believe me: I would.
The other thing I love about them are their soft hearts. They love babies and soft kittens and roly-poly puppies and squidgy teddy bears and basically just all things ridiculously cute. And love. I got a bunch of kids who are in love with love. Yesterday at lunch, I had a conversation with a little girl that went like this:
Ms. S, do you have to be grown up to have a husband?
TOTALLY grown up?
Totally. Well over 29.
29?! I'm going to be a grown up when I'm 15. When I'm 15 I'm going to get a husband. So I can be happy.
What?! Who says you have to have a husband to be happy? Some grown up ladies don't get married and live by themselves and they're very happy.
GIRL (looking at me all crazy):
Nu uh. Everybody has to have a husband. My auntie has to have a husband right now. And I want to get a husband so I can be rich and get HAPPY! If my auntie gets a husband, I get to be the flower girl.
GIRL ON OTHER SIDE OF TABLE:
We can get some husbands together and marry them on June!
You guys are going to get married on the same day?
Yeah! To the same husband!
GIRL ON OTHER SIDE OF TABLE:
And we can have babies and take them for walks!
My baby's name is going to be Tinkerbell. Did you know she's my favorite fairy?
I'm still marinating in this lunch conversation, trying to sort my feelings out about it. First off, I think Girl 1's auntie needs to stop selling matrimony to young, impressionable girls. Girls ought to learn to go to sleep alone, wake up alone, and know when their eyes greet the sun (alone): I am at peace as is, no one else can complete me like I complete myself. On the other hand, I think it would make Girl 1's whole life to be a flower girl in her auntie's wedding and she'd be excellent at the role, so what the hell do I know?
Second, I'm pretty sure Georgia is the backward state when it comes to legalizing shared husband marriages. But I hate when people pee all over my parades, so I didn't want to break their hearts.
And last, stop naming kids after tv characters and rock bands, society! Children have terrible taste, and we're just creating adults with zero ability to discern crass vs class. I can only imagine how many Anas, Elsas, Olafs, Svens, and Kristoffs we're going to have running around this place 20 years from today. Also, this is going to be so absurd in 60 years. Aging, wrinkled people named things like One Direction and Frozen and Tinkerbell and Xbox 360 getting knee replacements and pacemakers are going to serve as sad commentary on the havoc humans can wreak upon their helpless young.
(Once, someone asked me: Why didn't your parents name you Delilah? [As an ode to my last name.] I said, "Because they weren't cruel people.")
(And another side note, I cannot tell you how many bizarre names I've been witness to over the years: YourMajesty, Sweet Precious, Heavenly Angel (who was anything but), Blessica, Almonds (pronounced: all-MONZ), Oleg Cassini, Rolex, and Mercedes Benz to name a few. Those are all real names. Of real people walking the planet, right now. Man, we're a strange species. And very materialistic.)
Okay. Now I'm going to segue from creative names to talking about creative industries:
I'm attending The Red Clay Writer's Conference in Savannah, Georgia this October. I'm stupendously excited about it. Not just because my sweet writer friend Becky and some of my all-time favorite, non-writerly people are coming with me, and not just because I get to spend several hours one afternoon totally geeking out about wordsmithing. But also because: we're going to Savannah, y'all! Savannah. Have you been there? If not, you should go. I love that place a lot. It's simply one of my favorite places in America, and not just because it's the most haunted (ghosts are REAL, y'all! Real. Don't let the skeptics fool you). The people are quirky, there's a lot of melancholy Spanish moss hanging around, and the ghosts are like Whack-a-Mole; seriously, they're everywhere. If you go to Savannah, I promise: you'll see dead people--I did. (Okay, no I didn't. But I HEARD one--she talked to me.)
I can't wait for the conference day, to see what kind of interesting writer-y types we run into and what type of Who Knew?! information about the writing business we glean. I was thinking about writer-y types yesterday (since I am one), and how pushed some people are to express themselves via words or story. Or how pushed some people are to paint or photograph or write songs or play a musical instrument or sculpt or act or make movies. I don't know about them, but I do it because often feel like I have chaos in my brain, and really I'm just sitting in front of a computer trying to sort it out so it makes sense to ME...and maybe, in the process, someone else will connect to it and their chaos will be sorted. Just a bit? Maybe?
At any rate, this is my theory on why some people create art in any form: a vast need to corral a writhing stampede of pandemonium gone wild and turn it into something beautiful. That, and they can't afford a good psychiatrist.
The problem with any creative industry isn't that you have to have a ton of talent, necessarily, but that you have to really be willing to work at whatever amount of talent you do have. I recently read an article about people who become successful in Hollywood, which is a land chockablock full of talented people. There's so much talent in Los Angeles, the cockroaches have agents (you can't use that--I'm copyrighting it: Cockroach Talent Agents). The difference comes in who actually gets to actually work vs who just thinks their talent will magically get them where they want to be. And also: there's no such thing as an overnight success. Hollywood likes to sell that story to the public, and that's because Hollywood is a pro at creating blockbuster films that could never happen in real life. Every successful person is someone who's been working at it (hard) for years, and finally, one day, somebody noticed them.
This is daunting for me. Because listen: I'm a person who'll sit and watch 6 hours straight of DVR'd television shows (while consuming one whole pint of Talenti Salted Caramel gelato, all by myself). And now I'm back to real world work, which I actually do work very hard at (so I know I can do it. I can work hard. When I decide to...and the mortgage is due), and real world work/mortgage payments is eating into my working at writing time and I've been forgetting to write every day.
The other day, someone who follows me on Twitter and I follow back Direct Messaged me and asked if I had anything I'd like for him to read--he writes short stories and just really enjoys beta reading (I think? from looking at his Twitter page). So first, I was all: HOORAY!!!!!!! HUMAN INTERACTION ON TWITTER!!!!!! and then I was all: oh. uuuuh...do I have anything for this person I don't know in real life to read? ....i don't know? (I actually do have something, but I'm still cleaning it up. Meaning, it's sitting in my Google Docs waiting to be worked on. For going on 6 weeks now.) So I thanked him for his sweet offer, said yes and asked if I could send him the link when it's ready. Then I smacked my forehead and told myself to pull it together! pull it together and just do the damn work, Amy.
Why do I not have this issue in my non-writer job? Because they give me a paycheck, that's why. And there's a schedule, and I'm a person who really really needs a schedule (even though I hate them). And most important, I have to leave my house to do that job. When I'm at my house, there's Internet, satellite TV, books, and easy access to gelato to distract me.
That's it. You're at the end. I'm pretty much done here. I thought I had a point when I went down this write-talk about creative work and chaos and working at your talent and whatnot. Did I make any points that were helpful to you? If not, I'm sorry that you got this far, all for a sudden wrap up of: I feel like I'm forgetting something. I do think I had something very important to say, and the salted caramel gelato just totally off-tracked me, as salted caramel gelato is wont to do. Think I'm just going to label that my creative process and call it a day.