Cyclone

Cyclone is a story about twelve year old Nora, and her cousin, Riley, who fight different fears to ride the oldest, shakiest wooden roller coaster in the world.  Approximately one minute and fifty three seconds after the safety bar comes down, the girls’ lives and the language of their friendship  — and their families’ —  may be changed forever.

 

I’ve loved rollercoasters since I was a kid.   I loved the speed, the unexpected drops and the hairpin turns.  So I thought nothing of getting on a rollercoaster – the Cyclone, nonetheless —  for the first time in a decade with my visiting nieces and nephew a few years ago.  I was fine on the slow rise up the first hill and terrified a millisecond after our release downward.  What the hell was I doing on this thing?   I didn’t laugh or scream on that ride.  I no longer loved the lack of control or the unpredictability.  I was terrified – and not in the fun way.

 

So I wrote the beginning of the story when I got home (what else is there to do with fear?) As I began to write, my words pulled out some neatly filed chapters in my brain — re-opening the first five weeks my daughter’s life spent in the NICU, and then my  mother’s stroke about six years later ..   I struggled in both of those circumstances, and I am a  (mostly) high functioning adult.  What would it look like for a 12 year-old to have to navigate them?

 

So many of our crises – and our triumphs – involve a new set of words, a new language to learn.  Whether its 7th grade , American History, or a summer spent in the hospital family room, eventually, we find the words.    I read Sharon Creech to my four-pound daughter when she finally came home on a heart monitor.  Six years later with my mom, my kids and I moved in for a month and  we used our own spelling flashcards along with the immeasurable guidance of a speech pathologist who came to the house and a speech pathologist on speed dial (my sister!)  to communicate with her.

 

My wish is that readers think about words – which ones limit them and which ones are opportunities; which ones define them and which ones they might want to let go of.    I hope they discover the strength and complexities of silence.   I hope they marvel at their own fluency is unnamed languages– spoken and unspoken, private and public, school and home,  close friend and stranger; safety and fear.    And maybe, just maybe, what and who we lose when we rely on the bare bones of a screen blinking “R U there?” instead of showing up and standing by for the answer.

 

The Blank Page

Dear Readers and Writers,

What’s the hardest part about writing?  It’s the blank page staring at you and waiting for you to BE CREATIVE.  NOW.  GO.

Whether you are writing at home or at school, the pressure of getting something on the page can sometimes stop you from putting anything on the page.  So, here are my instructions:  Put anything on the page.  Just to get you started.  What did you eat for breakfast?  Oatmeal?  Write that down.

Oatmeal.

What shoes are you wearing today?  What do they look like?

Red sneakers.  Dirty laces. 

Good, see?  No more blank page.  Now what?  Write something else.

Oatmeal.

Red sneakers with  dirty laces.

That is how I start my day every day.

I don’t like oatmeal, but I love my red sneakers.

Where is this going?  I have no idea.  But keep going.  Who comes into the room?  Did you spill some of that oatmeal on your red sneakers?  Did the dog lick it off? 

If you are writing a poem, go there:

Oatmeal.

Red sneakers

Dirty laces.

Inside

Outside

Ready for today.

DO NOT LET YOUR NEGATIVE VOICE interrupt your beautiful brain as it works with oatmeal and red sneakers. Shut your negative voice down.  It might be saying:

That makes no sense.

Or

That is a terrible poem.

Or

Who cares about oatmeal and red sneakers? 

Don’t listen.  Keep writing.  Your brain is with you.  Your creativity is with you.  Your imagination is with you.  Everybody else can stay home.   You may end up writing a story that has nothing to do with oatmeal and red sneakers with dirty laces, but it won’t matter.  Then go back and gently cross those words out.  You might not need them anymore, but they got you where you needed to go.

Now eat a good breakfast, lace up and get writing. 

Yours in Rough Draft,

Doreen