My mom homeschooled me for my first three-four years of school–and I loved school. She used to laugh and tell the story of this exchange. She asked–when she started classes with my older sister–“Do you want to join Caroline in school?”
I asked, “Do I have to?”
“Only if you want to.”
But that wasn’t what I wanted to hear at all. “No, Mom,” I said. “Say I have to.”
I wanted to be a real student. And when I did go off to boarding school in Addis Ababa as a nine-year-old, I learned the feeling of homesickness–but I loved having a library and I loved being on a team. At recess, we would pour out of the classrooms and tear onto the softball field trying to get to pitcher or catcher or first base or batter…please not right field! My school was small. Everyone who wanted to be on the team could be on the team. And I always wanted to be on the team. (I’m the one on the left above.)
One fateful day after I’d started publishing children’s books, I made a decision to go to the huge American Library Association conference when it was in New Year City. That’s when I met my team of wild women children’s book writers. We’ve stayed together in cities all over the country. We’ve written and read and felt the wounds and fires of this artistic life together.
Vermont College MFA program has become my writing team in a different way.
Boot Camp for Children’s and YA writers.
And flat out HARD
But writing is hard. What would I do without other authors to scoop me up and wrap me in a virtual quilt and give me cocoa and plop me in a rocking chair when I can’t even move?
Last weekend and this weekend I was in Seattle doing the annual events to raise money for Ethiopia Reads (www.ethiopiareads.org). WHAT is it about Seattle?
Courage for start ups.
Ethiopian Americans and book lovers and adoptive families came last weekend and this weekend and celebrated the idea that great young minds should have a way to gather and explore and celebrate and share ideas.
In reading in writing in discussion in art.
This team flew in from Iowa and NYC and New Hampshire. I took the train up from Portland.
We filled sugar bowls.
And cream pitchers.
We lugged books and baskets.
We tipped chairs.
We made up speeches and read descriptions of auction items.
Not the most glamorous stuff in the world.
But joyful anyway. Because we’re supporting people like Sallamnesh, who works alongside Temesgin as an onsite assistant manager where the new kindergarten-library is being built. When some of the young women of the community asked about her role in construction, Cien writes in his blog, she kept the words short and grabbed a hammer and started swinging.
http://ciensinthemiddleofsomewhere.blogspot.com/ And the result of that?
School! Reading. Books. In the place where I learned to read.