In Alaska: the moral of the story is don't smoke cigars (listening to what our readers want)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On a trip to Alaska: the brighter blues and ceding purples of dawn, the calving of ice (like a dynamite blast), the candy twist of fog between the breaks in hills, the lugubrious faces of seals, the fins and tails of whales, the naturalists and crew we won't soon forget, the Great Young Elly P and her brother Owen (oh, my!), the loving Abi and Ziqin, the people it was easy to adore (grandparents, a pair of brothers, a pair of sisters like sisters to me), and a song that traveled through the green rain of a spruce and hemlock forest, carried forward by blonde cousins.

Gillian and Sarah. Sarah and Gillian. On our boat, on our trails, in our hearts.

"We want to be in one of your novels," they said to me, at the very end, their two faces glowing beneath glow-golden hair.

"What sort of novel would that be?" I wanted to know, and they laughed (for they were capable of such laughter) and explained:  A story in which big things happened. Unexpected things. Wow-worthy things. Secret powers lost and found. Adventures spinning forward. Not (most definitely not) one of those dreary novels in which description stands in for plot, character, and everything else.

Something has to happen, they said, they repeated.

They were emphatic. They were two smart girls with big, expressive eyes, and they were hopeful, insistent, ready for the next great book, a Sarah and Gillian book, a story about two girls caught in a fabulous whirl, or, perhaps, in one of their sweet-soprano songs (He sat by her window and smoked his cigar... He told her he loved her, but my how he lied... They were to get married but somehow she died... The tombstone fell over and squish-squash he died... The moral of this story is don't smoke cigars, don't smoke cigar ar ar ars.)

"You can even make me evil," Sarah offered, intuiting, perhaps, that my imagination might not be big enough, my skills not sufficiently wide ranging, my details too soggy for their high-adventure taste.

"Make you evil?" I said. "Impossible."

She laughed her Sarah laugh. Gilly laughed her cousin laugh. These two girls with adventure tastes offering everything they felt a writer might need—inspiration, encouragement, latitude.

Make something happen, they said.

Write the story, they said.

Put us in the heart of it.

They are out there now, and they are waiting. But if, someday, you see a story of mine with a Sarah and Gillian twist, you'll know this: I will have captured only a fraction of the gold that each of these cousins is. 


kelly said...

this is my favorite blog post that you have ever written, ever ever ever. I would say more but that would just be description and embroidery and nothing would happen in it. OH I LOVE THIS!!

Mandy King said...

What great photos, and those two girls - I can see them in one of your novels. :)

Elly Pickette said...

Really awesome
I feel like u should write a book with a magic camera though:)

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