Day 2 of my hiatus, here is the 2nd post I wrote for this blog about learning to read and writing memoir and, above all, the ways of memory.
Tag Archives: Nancy Drew
This is where I’m supposed to admit how insecure I am as a writer. I am. But I used to be much worse. Elizabeth told a great story illustrating the importance of just showing up. Why did it take me over a half century to figure that out? Because I really did finally figure it out, although it took me so long.
When I was little I wanted to be a writer like Louisa May Alcott or Carolyn Keene. That was before I found out that there was no Carolyn Keene truly, and that Nancy Drew had been written only in part by a woman named Mildred Wirt Benson and wholly by a company with the nefarious name The Stratemeyer Syndicate. But I am going off on a tangent, and that is poor writing. By the way, I also wanted to be an actress and an archeologist. Just saying that I’m not a Johnny One Note.
In high school I showed my poems to my best friend who turned up her nose and then to my boyfriend who looked confused.
In college, I stopped writing, and instead I studied, partied, got married, worked, studied, partied.
After my husband and I adopted our son, I turned back to writing with a poem about picking him up at the airport. I wrote other poems and applied to a college writing program.
While I was in the program, I wrote poems and stories. Then a famous poet who had selected one of my poems in a competition sat me down and gave me some advice. She told me to go on and get some more education. I’m a good girl and do what I’m told, so I listened to her.
With two little children and teaching and studying, I didn’t have time for my writing, so I stopped writing again.
Looking where I had come from, the pattern was now apparent: I would write for a while, but then stop showing up at my desk. And why? Because my kids needed schlepping to school and activities, and I was carrying around tote bags full of papers to grade. I had meals to prepare, a house to clean, and there was always another holiday or birthday looming ahead which I needed to prepare for. All of those things were rewarding (well, except maybe the paper grading, which did get tedious, I’ll admit). I didn’t want to give them up, but could I have squeezed in some writing? I’ll never know. I didn’t try. I suspect I had a decades-long case of insecure writer blues.
A few years ago, I had foot surgery and a long recovery and I had to retire from teaching. After I had fully recovered and had moved from California to Arizona, I told myself I was going to PBIC (put butt in chair). And because I have ADHD and can’t just sit around doing nothing (I’m the one reading the book and doing a Sudoku puzzle at the same time in the doctor’s waiting room), just by PBIC I automatically started writing.
Now I’m working on a memoir, creating a play with my daughter, writing 3 blogs, and occasionally drafting a poem or two. No, there is NOT enough time. But at least I’m showing up to write now–even on days like today when I am wondering if I should even hit the “publish” button.
Since I’m the new kid in town, I was thrilled to get an invitation from LouAnn at her blog, On the Homefront , to attend her Virtual Christmas Party on December 15. Ok, I admit it: it’s true that she’s invited virtually everyone (or everyone virtual). But I choose to think of it as a personal invitation since I enjoy her blog so much. We’re simpatico (says me) since we share the name Luanne (which technically is the correct spelling, but please don’t mention that to LouAnn).
Party-goers are to come as their favorite author or character from a book. We’re to bring a 1970s appetizer and a song request selected from specific artists. As if I were planning a costume for a costume party, I’ve been obsessing over my masquerade identity for days.
It didn’t take me long to realize I want to attend as Little Red Riding Hood. She’s my writing alter ego. I figured this out after reading Tristine Rainer’s Your Life as Story. In this fabulous book on writing memoir, Rainer describes how each writer (read: person) inherits a myth which forms a pattern for her own life. It’s our duty as writers to understand this and not to get trapped in old patterns to the extent that we follow them to an unhappy conclusion.
I could see right away, that though I was the princess who felt the pea under 4,000 mattresses and feather beds when I was a kid and Cinderella when I married a rescuing prince, my main storyline has been that of Little Red. In my journeys as Red, I have travelled from the family home back to my grandmother’s home to save grandmother from her own sad story. I’ve dodged the wolf many times. There are hundreds of Little Red versions around the world, and they all have different endings. I like that Little Red–whether she gets eaten, kills the wolf, or saves her siblings—remains tough and spunky.
Little Red is the pattern for my memoir Scrap. In this first draft of my book the narrator describes this connection: “This past year, a girl in my kindergarten class had brought her doll for Show and Tell. The little cloth Red Riding Hood was three dolls in one. When you turned Little Red upside down, you pulled her skirt over her head, and on the other end you got Granny. When you took off Granny’s cap and turned her around, it was the Wolf’s face on the reverse of Granny’s. The difference between Granny and the Wolf was like the difference between Dad’s two sides. I, of course, was Little Red Riding Hood.”
For years I collected Little Red dolls, without understanding why. When I taught college-level children’s literature, we read and compared many versions of the fairy tale. I’m not sure if Red’s story became mine because reading the Little Golden Book version was one of my earliest memories, although it’s certainly possible.
What I do know is that I won’t be attending LouAnn’s party as Nancy Drew or Judy Bolton, as Catherine Earnshaw or Lucy Snowe, as Emily Dickinson or Muriel Rukeyser. I’m going as Little Red Riding Hood and if my cape and hood look particularly Christmassy, that will just be the frosting on the Christmas cookie.