So I woke this morning and read Marion Dane Bauer‘s Runt start to finish before the sun came up. My daughter was home with a fever so there was no urgency about the day (except the call of my VFCA Critical Thesis).
Later, after I walked the dogs, I settled in at my desk. My daughter picked up Runt and said, “Is this good?”
I said, “Yes, it is a very good story.”
I think the eyes of the wolf pup on the cover caught her attention. That and my definitive but not expansive statement caused her to open the book and begin reading. (Oh how we must be careful with these preteens not to get too excited about something.) An hour and a half later, she closed the book and said, “That was good.”
I smiled. She went on. “But I think Runt should have killed the moose for his family.”
“Hmmm,” I said. “Maybe, but I think calling his family and becoming a part of family was important.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, “And also he learned from Porcupine and Bider that not rushing in was the smarter thing to do.”
“Yes,” I said, trying to hide that smile I have for my daughter when she is particularly wise. “He grew up.”
When I finished reading Cynthia Leitich Smith’s TANTALIZE two years ago, I remember being so startled with how she created the world of that book. She plunged me into it. There was no lay character explaining the rules of this gothic fantasy world where vampires, werepeople and shapeshifters exist. We were in it. Full on.
ETERNAL is even better.
Briefly the novel’s two main characters are Zachary, a Guardian Angel and Miranda, the girl he watches over. The novel moves between the two points of view seamlessly as Leitich Smith paints in the rules of a world where Zachary watches over Miranda but never shows himself to her. When he does, well, that’s when the book rockets forward. By page 30, Miranda’s been claimed by a vampire and Zachary’s lost his wings.
And did I mention it was funny?
Here is a short sequence midway through the book. Fallen angel Zachary is working for vampire Miranda as her PA, production assistant–a human protege to navigate the day to day details of life. Something every high powered vampire needs. A fire has started in Miranda’s room. It is from Zachary’s point of view.
I wave the smoke from my face. Fire can kill vampires. It can kill anything. “Don’t you have a sprinkler system?”
“No,” Miranda replies. “Too dangerous. Someone could bless the water. We lost a whole sorority of neophytes that way at the University of Kansas in the 1980’s”
Hee Hee…You see how she twists the ordinary and paints in little details about this world. Fascinating. Leitich Smith is in full command of the world she has created in this book.
And if you think think it is all fun and blood, you are mistaken. The relationship between Miranda and Zachary is multifaceted and kept my attention to its brilliant conclusion.
I am opposed to war. I actually think it’s wrong. Wrong as in it comes under the category of child abuse. Wrong as in might does not make right. It makes fear.
As a writer, a crafter of words, a communicator, I believe that humans are capable of greater destinies than war and violence. I believe that because we can speak, we are able to understand differences, appreciate them, even learn from them. I believe that. Deeply.
Yesterday, I was watching Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talk on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. He looked so ordinary this Mike Mullen. I could imagine standing next to him in the checkout line in HEB. I could imagine putting that divider thing between our groceries and smiling at him. Really. Here was a man who was grappling with two wars and issues far beyond my ten thousand square feet of land in Austin, Texas and I wondered what it would be like to be him. I wondered what it would be like to be the named leader of tens of thousands men and woman in uniform serving in those wars.
That’s when I began to think about the soldiers he led. I wondered what called them to serve in the military. Was it a college education? Escape from poverty? A family tradition?
Indeed, what calls any of us to our pathways? What keeps us there?
And that’s when I began to see those soldiers differently. Whatever called them to serve, it isn’t terribly different than what calls me to write. We are both dedicated to something greater than ourselves, to the possibility of making a difference in someone’s life, somewhere.
I still don’t believe in war. But soldiers are not the authors of war. They are trying to be dedicated to something greater than themselves.
She has a tumor.
It is malignant.
We got most of it.
Radiation should get the rest.
These are sentences that smack us in the face.
We clench up.
We ready for the fight.
Either by being in someone’s corner after each round
Or by taking the blows ourselves.
This is the beginning of the fight and we don’t know how many rounds it will go.
Hospice has been called in.
No more doctors will be called.
She won’t be going to the hospital anymore.
Put the DNR on the fridge; that’s where we look for it.
These are sentences that punch us in the gut.
They abandon us
Cut us adrift
Make us tremble
Leave us each to our own mortal fate.
This is the end of the fight and we don’t know how many rounds it go.
Over the weekend, a gaggle of 12-year-old girls flocked to our home. As I sat in my office, I alternately eavesdropped and tried not to hear what this tittering troupe of preteens were talking about as they changed clothes about five times each. My ears pricked up when I heard this phrase: “I so want to look hot.” and “Do I look hot?” No, I did not spring from my chair and rush in there, telling them they can’t be Hot. They’re all 12. They can’t be hot. Instead, I made a note in my brain: Ask beloved daughter later.
The next day, I broached the subject. No, I did not set my alarm and wake her up with my query.
So, hon, what does it mean when you and your friends say you want to look hot?
Oh. It doesn’t mean anything else?
This is preteen daughter speak for: I am going to blow a gasket if you keep talking about this right now.”
Over the course of the weekend, I brought up the subject a couple of times. I’ve learned that my need for tucking into a subject must be interspersed over several days.
What I learned was this:
Hot is, in fact, their word for pretty, attractive, good looking. It does have some sexual connotation but not as much as my version.
While I said silent silent hosannas about this semantic difference, I remembered many an early morning before school worrying about every skirt, every bracelet, every hair clip, all in the quest of being popular–my version of “hot.”
L2-Writing Right Now
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A Tree grows in Sedona
Because we work by ourselves, writers and illustrators often feel alone. We aren’t but sometimes we need to be reminded of all the great resources around us. Here are a few that I rely on for classes, news and general good thinking: