“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I–could I– would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to–do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as it it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!,” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.~The Silver Chair~
I see you in the distance
Like a fire burning bright
I want you but I can’t have you
‘Cause you are hers tonight
Though you belong to someone else
I still can hold you tight
Little do you know
What I’m dreamin’ about tonight
Once upon a dream
I love you
Once upon a dream
You love me too
Once upon a dream
We have it all
Our love was so magical
Once upon a dream
My mother sent me a King Cake!!! Oh the joys of yummy goodness! I think my friends have concluded that I’ve lost my mind, since I went ga ga over a ring of bread with a baby inside. It’s so strange to be out of New Orleans sometimes. Living there, I never perceived how other people saw the city. There are things in New Orleans that are just understood. There are things that the locals just know, and we think they’re common sense. There are traditions and rules that one doesn’t really think about because we take them for granted. Being removed from that now, I find myself explaining things I always thought everybody knew. Like a little plastic baby being hidden inside a cake. I guess it does sound odd to someone who didn’t grow up with it.
There are other things too. I’ve repeatedly have to explain how I went to Mardi Gras but didn’t see boobs everywhere because Metairie parades are different from French Quarter parades. Locals don’t usually go to the French Quarter parades, especially not on Mardi Gras Day and certainly not with children. The tourists go to downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter. Yes, Mardi Gras is a season in New Orleans. There are Mardi Gras parades for close to a month before the actual day of Mardi Gras. No I didn’t ever show anyone my breasts for beads. Beads are cheap plastic trinkets that I’ll throw away when I get home, and once you actually go to a parade, you’ll realize how little meaning they have. In one parade, you’ll catch enough beads to fill a backpack or two, without showing your private parts. It’s unnecessary. Of course there are drunk people. It’s New Orleans. You’ll see drunk people on any Tuesday of the year. Getting drunk in New Orleans on Mardi Gras hardly makes you special. Yes, you will get arrested if you pee in public. You can be hammered drunk, but by all the gods don’t start a fight or urinate in the street.
I found myself really missing home this year around Mardi Gras. I’d love to have taken Diana to the Metairie parades, down W. Esplanade. Sometimes I dream about the oak trees, with the grey moss dripping off of them. And I can feel the wind pick up, the bread in my hand, as I feed the ducks while sitting on a huge oak root. I see the cracked and crooked sidewalks, the ageless way the city can grow and yet somehow St. Charles avenue always stays the same. I could go on for hours describing the things I think of when I think of home. Lately my thoughts of home come more and more frequently. And they’re accompanied by a nagging pain in my gut that tells me I’ve been away too long. Never once in my life did I feel homesick. I always just wanted to get away, far away. And for a while I did not really even miss it. I missed some of the little things, but I never seriously wanted to go back. And now I do. It’s hard to have a child and not think of yourself when you were one. I yearn to show Diana all the things I discovered as a child.
I want my children to climb the trees in City Park. I want them to go on field trips to the Cabildo, to the St. Louis Cathedral, to the French Quarter and Jackson Square. I want them to understand what it really means to have a history. True, beautiful history full of joy and sadness. I want them to know what nouveau riche means. I want them to ride the streetcar and see the houses of the Garden District. I want them to sing, “Well I went on down to the Audubon Zoo, and they all axed for you…”
These are things that they can have, for the most part, without living there. The history and tradition is up to me to pass on. I will do my best. For now, the King Cake is just an excuse to eat cake in their eyes.
It begins with the dream. The writer thinks to himself, “I think I would like to write a novel.” The idea of the novel, much like the idea of children, is very different than the thing itself. So many parents go into parenting with idealistic thoughts. Their children will be wonderful. Their children will never throw fits and will eat vegetables without complaint. The novelist is similarly naïve. Our characters will be vibrant, and the complexities of plot will make our book a real page-turner. Words will flow from my fingers like water from a well. I will sit down every day, eager to paint for my readers with stunning prose.
“Yes, that’s exactly what it was like to write a novel,” said no one ever.
We dream of our novel-child. We brainstorm and we freewrite. We search for ideas that are big enough to fill a book. We wait and we search. Sometimes, we wait for nine months. Eventually, an idea begins to form. At first it is just a speck, a tiny What-If? The speck grows. We realize it could be something amazing. The writer and the parent are filled with joy. Here is my tiny miracle!
The tiny miracle grows. At first it is just a clump of stuff. The ideas are chaotic and tumbling. But the idea grows. It gets bigger. It develops arms and legs and tiny little body parts. The thing is starting to look more and more like a story each day. The writer has brainstormed some characters, and a basic plot, and perhaps even a villain. When the idea seems ready, it is born. Little does the writer know, writing a novel is much like childbirth too. There will be lots of screaming and pain, and the poor mother will have to talk herself out of giving up many times. The writer may very well beg for drugs by the end.
The baby is born. At first, it is covered with gunk. The writer gives the idea baby a warm bath to make it clean. Toes and fingers are counted, the writer marvels at her shiny and pink idea baby. Babies are cute and adorable. Every parent sees their baby as the most beautiful of all babies. In the beginning, the writer is filled with joy at having to take care of the helpless child. Brand new novels must be nurtured and held. They must be fed. On occasion, they need to be changed. After a few weeks, the writer is exhausted. She hasn’t slept in weeks. She is lonely and slightly delirious. Onward she plods, for surely this novel must sleep through the night sometime?
Adorable babies become screaming toddlers. Their schedule is more regular, and thank god that Mommy and Daddy can finally sleep all night. But toddlers demand constant attention throughout the day. They decide they want to wear pink polka dots with purple zebra stripes. We try to tell the toddler-novel that no she cannot wear that because it doesn’t match. In response, she throws a fit. The novel does not like rules. The characters want to run free and be wild. The parent must decide which battles to fight. Do we just let it go and tolerate the ugly outfit or demand that she change and deal with a pissed off toddler the rest of the day? The author wants to listen to the voice of her characters. But if we let these characters run rampant, they’ll go nuts. Next thing you know our romance novel will involve a jewelry heist and terrorists with backpacks. How the hell did that happen? Toddlers.
Fast forward to the middle grades. The novel has been exposed to the rules of the writer for some time now. The characters and plot have established a more permanent voice and personality. They become more independent, and less impulsive. The parent and child settle into a pattern of sorts. Each knows what to expect of the other, and what is expected of him or her. The novel goes more smoothly, for the most part. Trouble sometimes happens, but the parent knows how to steer the child back to the right path. These years can sometimes be boring, and many writers abandon projects at this stage for the emotional roller coaster of a new idea baby. The smart parents know that these years are just the eye of the storm, for the teenager is blooming deep in the heart of that easygoing child.
The teen years are where it all falls apart. The child is hormonal and impulsive, and has a lot of attitude. The child finds new ways to get into trouble that the poor parent never saw coming. That climax we avoided figuring out comes back to haunt us. We have no ending for our book. Or we have an ending but we have no idea how to get the characters there. We have all these characters doing all these things in all these crazy situations, but no way to corral them into an ending worthy of the rest of the book. We find out our main character has been smoking weed. Or she doesn’t really like the love interest you’ve given her the entire novel. We want to quit. Just throw up our hands and walk out. Let them figure it out for themselves. They might end up in jail. Or worse, living in our basement forever. The abandoned manuscript section of our hard drives and file cabinets hold the ghosts of these basement dwellers. The parent-writer is close to the end, but it seems like forever. The unruly teenage novel appears to be an insurmountable obstacle. Good parents slog through it. They take the good with the bad, and they do the best they can with what they have. Trusting that the child will remember the lessons taught to them and make right choices. The successful novelist blocks out the mocking voice of the novel. “You’re not the boss of me!” the novel cries petulantly. The writer keeps typing. With every keystroke, she thanks the writing gods that she hasn’t chucked the novel-child into the fire today.
And one day, the child graduates. Thank god, the writer parent says. It is done. For most parents, this is when children leave home and go out into the world to make their own fortune. The novel does this as well. Granted, there’s a lot of revision first. But eventually, the novel will be sent out into the world to sink or swim on its own. We cannot save it. It’s got its big girl panties on, and the words have all been written. We can call and try to give it advice. The writer can fine tune through edits and taking the suggestions on rejection slips. The novel goes out into the world to pursue the novelist’s dream, but it will forever remain the writer’s baby.
Been writing a lot more lately, in more ways than one. Sometimes I forget. It can take something catastrophic or even just a tiny thing to get me on the right track again.
Feeling exhausted. I got to relax too much during break or something. Now, back in classes and at work seems so… daunting. It’s like I have to drag myself to do everything. Taking my books out of the car this morning was almost not worth it. Plus it’s ass-cold out there which doesn’t really help. I just want to curl up into a ball and hibernate. But no, I have work in like 7 minutes… forcing down lunch…
On the good side, I got some great motivation last night. I’ve already been keeping up with my writing much better than before, but this guy… wow. He made me remember what my world is about. What my eyes can see, what they used to see. Dulled by life experiences I am no longer. But anyway… as much as I’d prefer to stay here and bounce around phrases and dialogue in my head all day, the pre-schoolers await a good lesson on the letter Mm. Sigh.
Originally posted January 9, 2004
How long has it been since I wrote that piece? Years. Years since the days of the old Writalla. Years since the crappy business cards, and nameless sneaky faces in the halls. God, that was so mean. But was it really? I wanted it to be real just as much as I wanted them, her, to believe it was real. And she did. So, for a while, it was real.
I read back in this journal through March of last year. And I found something, posted sometime 3/03:
“Why is it that we are so concerned with imagining ourselves in positions that would never happen? Why do we spend so much time simply fantasizing? Living vicariously through… nothing. It’s stupid, is it not? When one spends so much time imagining life to be a much more beautiful place, it only makes the real world seem drab in comparison. So, while it may feel good at the time to live in those wonderful dreams, do they really help you to be happy? Or do they make you more unhappy with life because it will never compare to what you can conjure in your head?
People like me can get into trouble with such conjurations. For as long as I can remember, I have spent large amounts of time daydreaming. Especially when I am writing. I can get lost in my own labyrinth of characters and events, until it no longer feels like a dream, but a memory. I remember it as though it actually happened. It can be very frightening, you know. One day you can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. The next, you’re wondering if that yellow elephant who slept on your floor last night will still be there when you get home from work.”
Wow. It’s amazing how things in my life will always be the same. Perhaps that was why magic always came so easily to me. Things go from being impossible (or even unlikely) to beyond possible, but existing.
It’s time for work.
Words are falling all around me
But yet I cannot pick out the right ones
To tell you how I feel
It’s all a blur
I can’t see through
To find out what I feel
One thanks me, for caring so much
The other curses me, for caring so little
I’m lost in what I feel
And words are still swirling by
Twirling and dancing
Calling, “Pick me! Pick me!”
Yet nothing sounds right
So many words and yet again
None of them can tell you
How I feel
One day I will find those words
The perfect way to convey
But by that time you’ll be long gone
As they always are, when the right words
Swirl by and come together