Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Just writing and writing and writing.....

I've been (re,re,re)writing my children's book and am nearly done, so it can go on to the illustrator, and I've also been generating pages like a fury for my Young Adult novel. Thus, no writing for the sad, lonely blog. So, funny story: the children's book is about a little girl and a walrus and various adventures they have, while the YA novel is about a girl who runs away from home to Castro Street (aka gay sodom by the sea). I was talking to a friend today who thought that all the above characters were in the same book. She asked me a little uncertainly, "What exactly is the Walrus doing on Castro Street?" I got a good laugh out of that and now I think I'm stuck forever with the image of my merry walrus lumbering down Castro Street wearing assless chaps.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What the @#$%...? (Or, You Should be Dancin' yeah!)

Been writing the YA novel for the last fourteen hours. Should go to bed, but I just have to pose a few unanswerable questions before I can get to sleep.

So the teens went to a dance tonight. Before they went we were talking and the conversation went like this:

A shabby kitchen in the midst of a never-finished remodel.

Mom - middle class, middle-aged, bleeding-heart-liberal white woman
Twin2 - brown-skinned daughter of Mom. Twin1 and Twin2 attend public school, in part because their parents are broke, and in part because their parents wanted a racially diverse environment for them.

Mom: So, are you looking forward to the dance?
Twin2: (mumbling) I don't know.....
Mom: Oh. How come?
Twin2: I don't know
Mom: (In an aside to readers: It's amazing how little they do know lately....)
Mom: (to teen): So what do you do at the dances?
Twin2: We stand around and talk.
Mom: So you don't dance?
Twin2: (shakes head)
Mom: Does anyone dance?
Twin2: Yeah, the black kids, and it's nasty!
mom: You mean like dirty?
Twin2: yeah. I don't like it.
Mom digests this for a moment.
Mom: Does ????? (their biracial friend) dance?
Twin2: No.
Mom: Does she talk to the black kids?
Twin2: No. They're mean.
Mom: Just to her, or to everyone?
Twin2: To everyone. They're all just mean.
Twin2 exits (stage left) to get ready for (not)dancing.
Mom stands alone and bewildered in the always unfinished kitchen of her American dreams, pondering the strange fault lines of race and class in this country and the deeply @#$%ed-up nature of the nation's public schools. Curtain closes.

Backstory: When Twin1 and Twin2 were in Kindergarden they had regular play dates with, among others, a little african-American girl named Jaquoiya. In first grade, a little (African American) boy named Promise was in love with Twin2. One day, to show his love, he gave her a special present - a brand new perfectly pointed Crayola crayon whose color name was the same as Twin2's name. Awwww. In second grade, more of same (but not as adorable as the crayon gift) and in third grade more of same.

Now here it is, a mere five years later, and these same children have become stratified, calcified, into seemingly irreconcileable groups. What happened to Twin2 and the others like her? What happened to Promise and the other boys like him? What is it in this system we pour them all into, that makes these kids feel they have to draw battle lines and choose sides?

Also, a question about a much less serious, but seriously ridiculous subject. When did white (and white-identified) kids stop dancing at dances? (In my day, said Ancient Mariner Mom, black kids and white kids ALL danced. OK, maybe not with each other that much, because if a white girl danced with a black boy the black girls usually threatened to beat the shit out of her. But Hey, at least we were all in the same room engaged in the same activity.)

So, as the bard said, if any of you have any thoughts about any of these things, share.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Busy writin'

Not posting much these days because I'm desperately trying to complete the first draft of my young-adult novel before school ends and the children begin their summer swarming. The first sentence is, "When Dorrie ran away from home she thought it was mere flailing chance that brought her to Castro Street." it's about a fourteen year-old girl in 1979 who runs away from home. Supernatural (and geopolitical) adventures ensue. Leave it to me to come up with such an incredibly commercial idea! An adolescent girl finding safe harbor with gay men in pre-aids San Francisco. I'll send a review copy to Pat Robertson!

Anyway, wish me luck in finishing it before the bored hoards descend. And then wish me even more luck on finding a publisher willing to take a chance on it.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Breakfast with the zombies

Spending time over breakfast with my two teenagers (think: me keeping up a one-sided stream of chirpy, cheerful conversation; them chewing and looking off into the distance as if entirely alone) I found myself wondering what I could have done differently with them. Should I have been reading shakespeare to them instead of Harry Potter? Should I have instituted chore charts earlier? Should I have taken them to soup kitchens on christmas to help serve dinner to the needy? In other words, what could/should I have done to make them not like they are now? I know the answer is, probably nothing. They're teen zombies; walking, talking, shopping beings in total thrall to their hormones. But the interesting thing here is that I, who was once a terrifying teen zombie myself, still believe in my heart that, with my kids, I should have done something, anything, better.

I was talking to a friend the other day who was telling me what she wished she'd done differently, raising her now fully grown child. "I should have made her do more around the house," she said. "I should have taught her more about duty and responsibility. But I just wanted her to be happy and I thought she'd learn from our example." I told her not to worry, that being in the adult world would teach her all those things. In a job, if you don't show up when you say you're going to, if you don't clean up your own messes, you get fired.

So, this morning, I remind myself of this; anything I missed will bump up against them in the "real" world of adulthood. But when it's your own child - the child you have spent so much effort on just keeping safe (don't get in to stranger's cars), alive (look both ways when you cross the street), and out of harm's way (don't play near the stove, don't put that in your mouth, don't, don't, don't!!!!!) - it's hard to say, 'Ok, they'll just have to learn that the hard way.'

There are lots of things my mother should have done, or not done. But that list would reach deep into cyberspace and be, in the end, entirely pointless. My mother is a good, kind, imperfect person who raised a daughter that is also a good, kind, imperfect person. And that's all I really want for my kids. It's just that right now i'm not seeing much of the good, kind part and am seeing all of the imperfect part. It's hard to trust that they, without me there to hold their hands and guide their steps, will find their way safely and well.