STORY OF YOU giveaway. And: When these two cousins asked to be put inside one of my novels, I said yes, of course
Sunday, January 10, 2016
January 10, 2016:
It seems a very long time ago—this trip to Alaska, taken with my father. The whales and the blue ice, the New York Times journalist and the famous screenwriter, the naturalists and songs.
We made friends.
We've kept them.
Among our friends are two dear cousins, Sarah and Gillian. As I mentioned in this post below, originally published in July 2014, they asked, all that time ago, for a place inside one of my novels. This new novel that I would surely write had to have an adventure at its heart, they warned me (guessing, perhaps, that I was literary and dull). Something had to happen. It took me a while, but that story became the story that now is This Is the Story of You—a fact I mentioned in a recent email to the cousins' lovely literary grandmother.
A sea is involved. A storm. An adventure. An eradication of home. (Note here, in today's Chicago Tribune essay, my obsession with home.) A discovery. In these pages, you will find a Gillian and a Sarah. Because I had promised I would.
Yesterday I heard from dear Sarah. She's living across an ocean, still singing her songs, still wearing, she says, those matching PJs. She wondered about that book I'd been writing, wondered if she might read an early copy—put it to good use for a book report.
She now has a copy in hand.
I have one more copy. And that copy is for one of you.
Tell me a short story, in the comments box below, about a sea you once visited or loved or read about. I'll have my husband make a name-blind choice.
You have until January 20. For residents of the U.S. —
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.