Tuesday, July 29, 2014


We had a thunderstorm last night. A big one. The kind where you anticipate the huge boom seconds after the room shines from a bolt of lightning, the kind where the windows rattle when that boom comes and you wonder how homes can withstand the vibration. And while I enjoy those kinds of storms and can sleep through them like the dead, I know that’s not true for everyone.

At some point during the night, the noise woke my daughter and she came into my room, which she almost never does. She asked me if she could hang out for a while (or so she told me this morning, since I have no recollection of our conversation). I guess I mumbled yes through my semi-comatose state. What I do remember is glancing at her through one open eye a little while later to see if she was still there.
She was. She couldn’t fall back asleep, had taken out her tiny book light and was reading. The sight made me way too happy.
Lately, with camp, the beach and just summertime life in general, my kids haven’t been reading as much as I would like. They watch me writing a lot, and as a result, their interest in writing stories has increased, so much that I find random pages scattered throughout the house, followed by the question, “Mom, can you staple these?” And though I love that, I don’t want it to come at the expense of their reading.
Whenever we get a chance, we try to have a family reading time, where we sit together and read our own books. But to me, reading shouldn’t be a scheduled activity. It should be, and for me has always been, something you can’t wait to do when you have downtime. I very badly want it to be that for them, instead of automatically turning on the TV or an ipad when they’re looking for an activity.
So when I saw that her reaction to not sleeping was to pick up the book she was reading earlier in the day, even though she could have easily gotten away with playing a handheld video game on mute, my heart fluttered. I didn’t let her know I saw her, but I watched in silence for a few minutes before drifting back to my dreams.
The storm must have ended or her fear must have passed because when I woke up it was sunny and she was gone. This morning, when she casually brought up her book, discussing a part she found exciting, I nodded and shared her enthusiasm for the story.
And while she was telling me she couldn’t wait to see what happened next, I was secretly contemplating all the ways I could simulate another thunderstorm after she goes to bed tonight.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fear of Commitment

I’ve always been sort of a commitment-phobe. Not with relationships, really, but with decisions. I tend to hem and haw between things, worrying that I’ll choose one, when the other one was actually the better option. My husband jokes that even when we go out to a restaurant I’ve been to a million times, I take 20 minutes figuring out what to order from a menu I know by heart. Plus, I’ve got to hear what everyone else is ordering before I place mine…what if my friend gets her dinner and I realize her dish is really what I wanted?

Even when I was deciding on a color for the entryway of my house, I had this problem. I put fourteen (not exaggerating) different paint swatches on the wall before I could pick one, and we’re not talking about a huge space here. But the real kicker…they were all beige.
I wish I were more decisive. I wish I were the kind of person who makes a choice without hesitation, sticks with it and doesn’t look back. Unfortunately, second-guessing is in my nature. I always wonder about the path not taken.
Surprisingly, I had no trouble committing when I started writing At This Stage. I knew the basic premise from the start and never strayed from it. But, inevitably, I came to a roadblock where I just couldn’t bring myself to make a decision. I was working on a scene between Kaitlyn and her current boyfriend, and I didn’t know which way I wanted this piece of the story to go. I wrote it two ways in the draft, leaving both versions in there until I was entirely finished. I knew if I went with choice B, I’d have to rework a number of other things, too. I only took choice B out right before I gave the draft to a couple of people to read. Even then, I was uncomfortable committing to it and asked them to read it both ways. They unanimously picked the same version I did, so I was able to breathe a little bit easier.
I know doubt is normal, and there were many times I reworked scenes over and over. However, that was more for overall improvement than to determine which direction I wanted to take. And there were times when the story took me places I didn’t expect, but I knew they felt right. This particular time, though, I just couldn’t pull the plug one way or the other until the very last second. I almost wished it was a Choose Your Own Adventure story and I could leave both options in there for readers to make their own selections.
But that’s not how life works. I had to choose a scene, just like I had to choose one of many beiges and last night’s dinner. And even though I may always wonder how almond bisque might have looked on my walls instead of sandalwood, it doesn’t mean I love sandalwood any less.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Things That Stick

It’s funny - the things that stick with you. The other day I was reminiscing with some friends about games we used to play when we were kids. We started talking about it because of some Facebook post about manhunt and freeze tag. We’d all played the same games, even though we grew up in different places. The general consensus was that we look back on those as great times.

It got me to thinking a lot about childhood friends, one in particular. I’ll call her Penny. I hadn’t thought about her in a long time, as our paths haven’t crossed in years. But, because I was nostalgic, and because of where I’m at in life right now, a memory surfaced that I didn’t even know was there.
I guess we had to be in junior high school (aka middle school to most people outside of the 5 NYC boroughs). I was making my first attempt at a full length “book”. I remember the actual book I was writing in so clearly. It was a black and white composition notebook with doodles all over the cover. The writing inside was bubbly tween-girl handwriting, nothing like the chicken scratch, script-print combo I have now.
The story was about twin sisters – one good, one bad, of course. I can’t say I remember any details about what I’m sure was a very deep plot ;). Except for the fact that, since they were twins, there was naturally some kind of swapping-places thing going on. But what I do remember is this. At first I didn’t show it to anyone, because I was too nervous. But Penny knew what I was doing and asked to see it. Since she was my best friend, and what 12 year old girl can refuse her best friend, I reluctantly let her look at what I’d written so far.
She devoured it. Not only that, she told me she couldn’t wait for the next chapter, and asked if I would sit down and write it at that moment, instead of continuing the game we were playing. This went on for weeks that summer. I’d write a few pages, Penny would read them as soon as the words were on the page and enthusiastically ask for more.
To this day, I have no idea if Penny really enjoyed what I’d written as much as she said she did, or if it was terrible and she was just being a great, supportive friend. Either way, I can still remember how much she inspired me. I started writing because I loved it, but I kept writing because of her.
The topic of inspiration comes up a lot. And normally, I’m guess I’m short-sighted. I think about the things that inspire me now. Maybe, in fact, I should be thinking about the things that inspired me way back when.
I don’t think I ever ended up finishing that story. Summer ended and I probably moved on to the next thing, whatever that was. But I’ve kept most of the notebooks I used to write in and I bet if I dig around in my basement, I can find it. Maybe one day I’ll look for it. And maybe one day I’ll have an ending to Penny’s story.