Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This I Believe, Part II

NOTE: Hm. Most of my students are pretty good writers -- but they need to add details, details, deails, so that they convey the passion they express in their thesis statements. So I've gone back to re-write my own statement, hoping to provide an example.
I sat in the back of Mrs. Barrett’s third grade classroom, next to the bookshelf.

When I got my school work done – and sometimes even before it was finished – I’d pull a book off the shelf to read. There I found the magical worlds of Robert C. O’Brien, Beverly Cleary, Alexander Key, and so many others.

I wondered at a new world alongside Jon O’Connor after he fell through that forgotten door from his planet into the wilds of the Carolinas, befriended by the Bean family, hunted by the greedy Gilby Pitts. I tagged along in the background as Henry Huggins romped with Ribsy, that ragged, sharp-eyebrowed dog beneath the bold serif font declaring his name on the cover of the book. I sat beside Mrs. Frisby in the rats’ library, rapt at the story of the how the rats of NIMH gained their intelligence and how they hoped to use it to stop stealing from man, and later soared with her on the back of Jeremy the crow in the film inspired by the book.

Then I promptly did nothing about it.

Oh, I did little things. A poem here, a short story there. But through several fits and starts, I never did what I set out to do, there in the back corner of Mrs. Barrett’s classroom at Lincoln Elementary.

Until 2010.

By then, my wife and I had a third-grader of our own, plus two other children. I was working as a writer – but as a technical writer at a Department of Energy laboratory, after ten years as a journalist. It paid the bills, but hardly satisfied the soul.

During a lunch break in late January that year, however, I sat at my computer mulling the madelines of memory. I pecked out a few hundred words, centered on two boys, bored at living in their primitive village, longing instead to climb the cliffs that ringed them in and climb toward the stars, then over and out the green pass that led to the world beyond.

Maybe, I thought, I have something.

So the next day, at lunch, I wrote some more.

Each day, it became an obsession. Write a few more hundred words about these curious boys, now departed from the only home they’ve known into a mysterious school training them to become –

I didn’t know. I kept writing, on the bus rides home, late into the night on weekends. And at lunch. Many lunches. I posted snippets of this growing story on my blog. If anyone ever read them, I didn’t know it. I knew a third-grader who was reading them. And he kept insisting, staring at those words in the ethers, that the story continue.

It did.

By January 2011, those first few hundred words turned into 114,000 words.

I’d written a novel.

It’s unpublished. It’s unedited. It’s raw. But there, in that little folder on my desktop, in that binder at home, on the thumb drives were I’ve stored it, my first novel awaits the finishing touch that may some day lead it to sit on a bookshelf in the back corner of some dusty classroom where another kid will pull it off the shelf and fall into the world I created because that inner third-grader who still loves the rats of NIMH told me I had to do it.

I believe, with the proper tools and motivation, one person can indeed move a mountain. I’ve got other mountains to move yet, but at least I’ve finally written a story that’ll get me out of the foothills and back on that track I found in that desk next to the bookshelf in the back of Mrs. Barrett’s third-grade classroom.


Mom said...

So, what did your little guy think of the novel you wrote? Do you have a date you will submit it by?

reneemaconberry said...

Never, give up!