This morning, I accompanied my wife as she rode her bike to work. It’s a lovely, green, breezy, up and down ride along the river. Plus, my wife is quite a sight on her white bicycle with pink wheel covers. The bike sports a horn and a basket with flowers (blue, yellow, purple, pink), as well. And then there’s my wife herself to pay attention to. She’s a marvel to watch. She takes her time up and down the hills. She stops halfway up a hill for a long drink of water. She rides her breaks going down big hills. She’s a joy to ride with because she’s a character through and through.
Actually, I wrote my first published children’s novel about her. Or at least it was inspired by the girl I knew her to be through pictures and stories. The girl Debbie Fine in Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle
is creative and a daydreamer, she has parents who own and work hard at a small store, she has more moxie than she knows, and she becomes a superhero when she learns to fly on her bicycle. You can say the same about my wife (except for the superhero part, though I swear she’s close). I wrote about my wife, as I do all my characters and scenes, to get to know her better. From a lost-in-her-head girl my wife became the most organized, productive person in my life. And yet she has a lot of daydreamer in her still, and I’ve always loved to watch her ride a bike. (Though I admit the bike with the pink wheel covers came after the publication of Dizzy Fantastic
I put a lot of thought into this guest article. Shannon said her many of her readers are also writers, and they enjoy reading about writers’ paths to publication. Truthfully, though, I’m not sure my path is all that interesting. It still brings a smile to my face, but it’s much like the path many of us take. I queried agents, got a couple to look at my manuscripts (and then reject them faster than a kid does broccoli), and kept at it (though frustrated) until a wonderful publisher (Cedar Fort) saw promise in my work. Don’t get me wrong: I jumped for joy, praised the heavens, and did everything else every oh-so-fortunate, first-time author does upon hearing the happy news—but I don’t know that I have any insight to offer. I’m lucky. But I feel I understand a lot more clearly my path to writing than I do my path to publication. Though I guess I am
writing exclusively about my published
writing, so I suppose this article deals with both topics.
Cedar Fort will soon release my second children’s novel, Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth
. It’s a story that’s been with me for six years. The first draft took me four and a half years. Aside from marrying my wife, it’s my life’s greatest accomplishment—a book featuring the intersection of four stories, mystery, humor, and thrills (as I see it, anyway). It all began when I was a boy, vacationing in northern Minnesota. From the window of a restaurant, I watched a man—a southpaw—skip tones farther across Lake Superior than anyone I’d ever seen. He was so smooth it all seemed mysterious and even magical. The memory stuck with me. I wonder, now, however, despite being so very pleased with the outcome, how I ever finished writing the novel.
Why did I spend six years writing a story, most of them without any promise of publication? And the bigger question: Why, again, do I write? I have a terrific home life and a spectacular teaching job. Is writing really worth all the hard trying?
This is my article, so I get to answer my own questions (hah!): I write because I, like many of you, I’m sure, am an observer. I see interesting things all around me (people and places), and for some reason I feel the need to share them with others—to show others these marvelous occurrences.
The narrator of Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth
says this about the main character, Cal Cobble, and observers everywhere:
A true observer, after all, is always curious. As the observer observes, he asks: How does he do that? How and why does that happen? And, inevitably, Can I do that? Cal, against all odds, was an observer. He asked himself these very questions as he watched Mr. E pace Robert’s beach, so thoroughly engaged in his remarkable hobby of skipping stones across the biggest lake in the world. (68-9)
My first two novels come from moments that keep playing in my head: my wife riding her bike her
way. A man skipping stone after stone with enviable ease. I’m sure my next story will come from the same place.