Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why I Write What I Write

One of my earliest memories was long ago, when I was around five years old. We were in the old family station wagon, on a rainy Thanksgiving night, leaving Disneyland to head back home to Bakersfield. It had been a good day, no, a great day, filled with rides and parades and lots of treats to eat. And I was content, looking out of the window, watching the rain patter down the glass, until I looked across into the window of a diner and saw a man, alone, drinking a cup of coffee. He was shabby, and even in my child's eye I thought he might be homeless. He looked so sad, so alone, and it haunted me, thinking how could a person possibly be spending Thanksgiving alone? That image stayed with me ever since.

Fast forward many years. I became a social worker, got my Master's even, and it was very fulfilling, in my various jobs, trying to help people, especially children. But still, the stories I saw haunted me. Took hold of me. Rattled me. I have seen things that most people only think happen in movies. Kids in cages. Kids burned. Ritualistic abuse. Death. All sorts of horrific physical abuse. And sexual abuse, lots and lots of sexual abuse. When I left CPS to go and start my family, I thought I would never return, because it was too much, being a mother, and loving my own children so much and thinking about all the poor children I worked with, not being able to make sense of the incongruities. But years later, I found I could not shake the stories, and as my own children grew, found myself wondering about the kids I worked with, hoping and praying that their horizons were better than when I last left them.

But the stories...

After all, that is what we have, don't we? Our life is our story.

There are four types of abuse that child protective workers identify when removing a child from a home: physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and neglect. Guess which one has the most negative impact on a child's psyche? Neglect. The absence of any attention. And that is why, I suppose, that I decided to write about Jesse, a boy with a meth-head for a mom and a little four-year-old sister to take care of. He is a fictional character, to be sure, but he is based on little scraps of reality, children I have met and situations they have found themselves in.

He has been bugging me for years to tell his story, and finally, I said yes. Because I wanted him to know that I have listened. And I have been rooting for him this whole time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where do you like to write?

I guess we are all creatures of habit.

When I first started writing seriously, I had vague notions of setting up a cozy little space in my home just for writing--complete with cute plants, memorable quotes, and soothing, stimulating music playing in the background. Ha.

Enter reality. For much of the past three years, I have written at our kitchen table, laptop and papers, sticky notes and pens strewn about me. Oh, and kids' homework, school lunches, and the phone ringing in the background, constantly. And dogs, and neighbor kids.

But for some reason, it worked (maybe you shouldn't ask my husband this for verification, though). I enjoyed writing where I did, I could see what was going on, help the kids if they needed helping, and could see the birds at their feeder outside, making me feel more peaceful, I guess.

For this last month of revisions for my agent, I have taken to bringing the laptop with me, adn writing in the car, in between dance lessons, baseball, and preschool. Yes, the car. But it worked! And that was what was important. I came across an article featuring Lauren Oliver where she said that much of BEFORE I FALL and DELIRIUM was written on her phone while writing the subway. Her phone, people. (Amazing author by the way--DELIRIUM has been one of my favorite picks of 2011 so far. Can't wait for more...)

That, to me, is a testimony to creativity. You can train your brain to bring forth whatever is in your head and use the time that is given, however precious.

So, where do you like to write best? Is there anyone out there that has a super-fancy, cool writing room? Space? Car? Just wondering.