The Birth of Goldie Vole
When I was seven, I had a "Gnome Notebook" (blank book, picture of gnome writing in a book on the faux-denim cover, GNOME NOTEBOOK printed above it) that I filled with stories modeled after the books I read. I wrote one called Squirrel Nutkin and a mystery, later fixating on stories about summer camp for some strange reason. From second grade on, I wrote for fun, even when I wasn't being given an assignment.
This year, I decided to get back in touch with my inner seven year-old and write a children's story. To jumpstart myself, I took a six week night class at PCC called Writing Children's Literature, taught by a published children's author. We set goals and shared manuscripts. Overall, all hopes of ever having our stories on the local library's shelves became dashed by the information we learned about the publishing business. No, your favorite publishing house (Candlewick Press!!!!!) isn't accepting manuscripts. Yes, your manuscript will end up on a sludge pile somewhere else.
Still, on our last class as we sat circled up, convivial and sharing homemade guacamole, we had the chance to compliment one another's "manuscripts," and I felt even more motivated to see my story through to the publishing house, even though it has a LONG WAY TO GO to get there, even though it's going to be really hard, even though it doesn't happen to most people.
In high school psychology class we had to go around the room and describe each class member with one-word. The word my teacher, Mr. Dummer, used to describe me was timid and though I wouldn't use that word to describe myself, that's the only word I remember being described as to this day-I couldn't tell you what anyone else said. Am I, as Julia's reading group found last week when they looked up the word timidly, "lacking confidence or courage?" Let's just say I've approached my ambition to write with timidity, despite the century old writing desk my grandmother gave to ME that sits and gathers dust, despite the positive praise I receive, despite the inner seven year-old that still wants to do it.
So. It's time to do something with my writing. Enough limiting it to the walls of the Gnome Notebooks of the world. I want to be courageous. I want to work really hard to write a real live children's book.
This summer we camped amongst the Redwoods at Jed Smith State Park. Each night we would settle ourselves in the ampitheatre under the stars and listen to the educational talks given by the park's rangers. We learned a lot from those presentations, more than you'd ever want to know about turkey vultures, for sure. One night they talked about tiny arboreal rodents called tree voles that lived high above the forest floor on the hulking branches of the redwoods. The idea that miniature mammals made their homes hidden above me in the trees really stuck with me. My character was born and I've gotten to know her better since then.
Stay tuned and get ready to meet a red tree vole named Goldie who is tired of timidity, too. Bored with a life compromised of eating needles and hiding from owls, Goldie will take a bigger, more satisfying bite out of life, if she isn't turned into an owl pellet first.