Evan said What's that? and I said That's my notebook.
I want to see, he said. I want to know what happened today.
He tossed Flat Stanley and climbed up on the big bed. Tell me. Ben climbed up too, less invested but it's the big bed. One boy here and one boy there and me in the middle, and one small lamp.
Well, sweetness, there was a man from Tibet, and he had to run away through the mountains, and he had a son, and his son has interesting things to say, and he was wearing bright orange and bright yellow and everybody got very quiet and bowed. And he sat up high and he talked and he talked and I was so tired by then, because I'd been sitting there like one sardine, just sitting for two and a half days, and I could hardly listen but I heard, I think.
He thought about that. Why?
Well let's see.
I speak to him as I'd speak to anyone. It's important. I tell him all of it, what the man in orange and yellow said, in the same words, letting it be big unless he needed otherwise.
2500 years ago, they discovered The Most Boring Thing Ever. They meditated to contextualize their existence. And it was boring. And they said 'Hey. This is great.' I told him how everybody laughed and the room got warm.
You cannot nullify fear.
Soft elements are essential.
Put human nature in a state of photosynthesis and goodness will arise.
Sit with small confidences. To sit is to be regal.
He looked over my shoulder, scanning the pages. The Mind Is A Horse, he read. And he thought for a bit. And he asked me what it meant and I put the same question to him. He thought a bit more. Like, maybe... he turned the notebook over a few times in his hands, running his hand over brittle bits. A horse is really strong but it needs somebody to make sure it doesn't knock everything over.
After, in the dark: Mommy. I mumbled yes. That would be good for my temper.
He is something about showing up. Earnest and humble, but with an alter ego who knows exactly what he's got. The point is to look how he cares: he cares, deeply, about being delighted and delightful, about being his very best. He goes forward.
I bet he wears red socks.
I'm all set, he says. There's a bit of fog but it belongs.
Straightening up after two years of darkness and aftershocks and eggbeaten brain. There's a gigantic manuscript—the biggest—and not one but two release dates. One year from now, Flight of the Griffons, the sequel—twice as long as The Dread Crew and officially classified as a YA book—will be wet ink on fresh paper. In the coming months, Penelope and I have to deal with each chapter, paragraph, sentence, word; my dad insists on proofing the highway continuity of eco-terrorist pirate conspirators; I need a native chief, a helicopter pirate, and an activist to vet things; Sydney has to draw his heart out. Then to the printers, to warehouses, to you, maybe? After so long, such a slog. I can hardly believe it. Secret prairie camps and high altitudes and low crashes and Missy, glorious Missy, wandering far: Spring 2014.
And one year and a few months from now, the second release date. A book of monster poetry for 4-8 year olds. I can't say much else except that Sydney is going to first draw his heart out and then his brains. Goblin guts, a giant smashing her foot through a mall. Muddy fairies up to mischief with the crows. A bare-butted ghost and a sea siren. It's a bit gross, fantastic-gross, already test-read at Evan and Ben's school. I make myself hoarse, reading that book. Growling and snarling and RRAAAAGGGH. They giggle. For a few days after, at drop-off, kids look at me kinda sidelong with a smirk. Grade two hallway cred. If I Were A Zombie: Fall 2014.
A two-book year after two-year eggbeater brain. And now, with such an irregular daily practice—creative, literary, meditative, and otherwise—what next?
Adult fiction? Eeek. More pirates, a book three? More poetry? Must get to it keep going more more. That plus editing, photographing weddings and portraits, teaching. The year is stacking up and I feel oddly still, suddenly. Somebody burst in and threw all the windows open and it was fresh and bracing and I think, maybe, it was all of them doing it all at once. Evan, a storyteller, more devoted than I am. He is my new teacher. Ben, all kisses and smooches and giggles. Missy, who has been waiting such a long time. A witch, a ninja, a robot. A man in regal yellow. Friends. Red socks. They all said It's time. Slick your ears back.
What's good for your temper? Is your air stale or fresh? Have you ever sat like a sardine? What makes you regal? What makes you brittle? How are you doing?
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