This year I am writing daily in a journal. My subject: water. I chose water because I love everything about it -- swimming in it, sailing and kayaking on it, drinking it with a lemon slice, hearing it dive against the windows in a storm. And I've loved many bodies of water, from Crystal Lake to Lake Champlain to Richardson Bay, where I live now. I figured I couldn't possibly run out of ideas, even if I'm aiming for 365 entries. I'm calling it my #dailywaterlog.
Why am I limiting myself to water when I could just as easily write about the book I'm working on or ideas for new ones or about the ups and downs of the author's journey?
The reason is simple. The act of writing daily is a discovery and a practice. One day I know exactly what I want to write and the next I'm stumbling around. But every time I say, OK, write for just five minutes, I'm surprised by where I go. I've written about the water I'm served at a restaurant ("My gratitude for fresh potable water I kept to myself") to the Guppy, our small sailboat that you have to sit on the bottom ("I can feel the cold sea and the slap of the hull on the waves") to my ferry commute ("white petal of gull/catches the eye/cormorant dives/by the ferry port").
Choosing to focus on one topic is good practice, too. Repeating a question is a technique Buddhists use to unearth thoughts and feelings. How will I answer the question of water by the end of this year? Each day I will be stretching to observe more, to be curious, to investigate my response to this one prompt.
Pen and paper
My daily water log is not here. Why? Like many of us, I spend too much time online. At work, I've got two screens, and on my way to work I scroll through my mobile screen, and then on the sofa I've got my screen on my lap. The daily act of running my pen across a paper page brings me back to my childhood, back to when I couldn't stop writing.
Another benefit: I'm free to write bad sentences. My daily water log is free of any pressure to produce publishable work. It is a place to get back to the root of why I write: to record the human experience on this beautiful planet.
Like many people watching the President and the first family on November 7, I was struck by how tall Malia and Sasha have become. Wait! When did they grow up so fast?
My next thought: Is it too late for them to read my middle-grade novel?
For Malia, 14 and a high school freshman at Sidwell Friends, the answer is yes. But if I could be so bold, I think Sasha, 11, would love My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer.
This brazen idea came to me last spring when President Obama came out in support of gay marriage on May 9, just two days before my book launched. I wanted to send him the book as a thank you but I knew it was impossible to just send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here's what I did:
If you've been keeping up with the news, Lake Champlain has risen higher than ever--three feet above flood level, all due to snow melt and unusually heavy spring rains. I've been worried about friends, and thinking about the lake I love.
It's not the lake but politics that gets things riled up in My Mixed Up Berry Blue Summer, and as I reviewed first pages, this month I thought about the seed that started me writing June's story. The emotional core of this story comes from a young teenager in San Francisco, who was bullied by grownups -- something that should never happen. I was outraged then, and it fueled my desire to write an answer to "What if..." (The scene that recalls that moment is on page 54.)
One step of first pages -- when your story is typeset, and you get a chance to fix bad line breaks and sentences you hate now -- is to think about the dedication. So I reached out to a friend, who gave me the name of that young teen who I witnessed encountering prejudice.
I'm emailing one of her two dads, but I'm a little nervous. What will she say? Will she want to erase the memory, have nothing to do with me? Or will she be excited that June's story may help some other kid like her?
Whatever happens, June is more real then ever, thanks to Julia Denos. I'm loving the cover.
Here's what I've been thinking and writing about. I love getting email, too!