We just got back from a week in Iceland. I read a lot of blogs before we went, and packed accordingly. Here's the feedback I wish I could give my past self.
Great ideas of things to bring
This week, three books I had had on hold for weeks or even months all showed up at the library. What to do? Each must be returned within three weeks, and they are all so popular that I can't renew them.
I decided to start with Gin Phillips' Fierce Kingdom, which is about a mother and her four-year-old son who are trapped at the zoo when a shooting breaks out. Oh. My. GOD.
What a great book! It has been forever since I fell headlong into a book. Reading it was like a fever dream. I didn't edit in my head, didn't question word choices. I just loved it. It was like being a kid again, when books were pure magic and I didn't even know there were tricks tucked in sleeves.
And I did something I haven't done in years: I decided to stay up as late as it took to finish it.
It was totally worth the lack of sleep.
Here are some examples of her writing (some are screen shots, some I typed in):
Check out how repeition makes things more powerful.
"This girl's bones feel like china, like blown glass, like handles on teacups. The girl feels like all kinds of precious things."
"People say she's a nice girl. She makes mostly A's and B's. Hardly ever C's. She saves her money in the bank. But now she wishes that she were the kind of girl who set things on fire instead of the kind of girl who proofreads her work. She wishes she knew how to scare people. She wishes she had worked yesterday instead of today, and she wishes she carried pepper spray like her mother has told her she should, and she wishes she had an Almond Joy, cold, and she wishes she were home in bed and her pillows were fluffed, and she wishes she had grabbed that little boy Lincoln and run with him and saved him, and she wishes she were a woman in a video game with pistols on her hips and cleavage . She wishes her father could still pick her up and carry her, but she is too heavy."
And I love the rhythm of her sentences - long galloping ones followed by short declarative ones.
This was a five-star book for me!
The Girl I Used to Be has won The Oregon Spirit Book Award from the Oregon College of Teachers of English. That book is very special to me, because the character of Nora is 100% my mom. Writing her in the book was a way of keeping her alive.
I got my first OCTE award October 4, 2013. I had temporarily moved home to take care of my mom on hospice - and was also writing The Girl I Used To Be. I told my mom I was going to cancel going. It was the end of September and the hospice nurse insisted she weeks maybe months, to go. Mom told me not to cancel. She felt God was telling her that she would die before then - and she did, on October 1. I came for the award and just cried when I got it.
Then I was back in 2014 for another award. The writer Brian Doyle asked about her right before he got up to speak. He and my mom used to write each other - she was a fan of his writing. He got the wrong idea that she had just died, and before I could correct he he got called up to talk. The first thing he did was ask for a moment of silence, announcing that my mom had just died. I’m sure everyone who had been there the year before was very confused.
Brian himself died just a few months ago from a brain tumor. We had shared another weird moment. A year ago, we spoke at a joint library event. They used the photos below to advertise it. Even _I_ thought the woman next to Brian was me - but it was another writer named Constance, whom I have never met.
Circles within circles.
THE GIRL I USED TO BE has gone back for a third printing in paperback - less than two months after it came out. I love this book so much. One reason is that it has a character that's pretty much 100% my mom in it. Writing her into the book was a way to keep her alive.