The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Strange love

Many of my friends love to be home…but I have a strange, fluttery passion for not being home.  I like the energy fields of airports and the rituals of getting on a plane–most of the rituals, anyway.  One of the first pieces of literature I claimed to read (before I actually could decode words) was the emergency card from an airplane pocket.  I like waking up in new places and looking around for what interests me.  Most years, February would be a story of my odd love for on the road again.

Some people loathe revision…something else I have a deep and strange passion for.  Mind you, that doesn’t mean I don’t wallow in despair and frustration when I’m revising a novel for young readers, as I now am.  One of my friends shared an Ann Patchett quote that describes what this particular February of revision is like for me: 

The process of writing books is somewhat akin to a very long police  interrogation in which the detective leans over the table littered with  the butt ends of cigarettes and cold coffee in Styrofoam cups and says  for the 87th time, “Now let’s go over this again.” It is a study in  repetition, the ability to read the same page, paragraph, sentence until it could be recited backward and in French in hopes of figuring out  which detail is missing, which idea is false.

Yes.  Ack!  Which detail is missing?  Which idea is false…or not yet deeply true enough.  When bits of the answer bubble up from my undermind, I leap with thrilldom.  So this February, I’m not on the road but I’m loving a different challenge.

In the 1970s, my dad was in charge of closing things down for the Presbyterians in Ethiopia, making sure schools and clinics and other projects were turned over properly to government agencies, ushering all of the other Americans out the door, turning off the light as it were on the dreams they had come to Ethiopia with.  My parents and others left, mourning.  Would they ever get back?  If so, would any mark be left?

Yes…and yes.

I’ve now been exploring with bringing some book love to Ethiopia, myself, and after 15 years of volunteering, I often wonder if what we’ve done will stick.  If we had to pull out tomorrow, would any mark be left?  I know how easy it is to build furniture and ship books compared to what it takes to make sure those books are surrounded by fierce advocates, people who understand and are determined to share their power. 

But…like travel…like revision…I find that a stubborn piece of me loves being in the game.  Loves the hard questions.  Loves the discovery. 

I hope I’ll always find ways to indulge my passion for the odd and intriguing cracks where bits of light seeps in.


2 thoughts on “Strange love”

  1. I really enjoy how your stories move around the globe. The story about the month of February as a month of revision, I thought, was quite an eye opener, and Patchett’s quote is most descriptive. Glad i took the moment to click on your site again.


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