Thursday, March 26, 2009

Keep the Dream Alive

"I'm playing baseball."  

He always starts talking to me when the line is coming in from the playground, before he's even crossed the threshold of the classroom.  This tells me he plans what he's going to tell me each morning near the four square court.  He always repeats himself a few times, because it's important and I might not have heard.

"I'm playing baseball and I'm going to get one hundred dollars for every game, 'cause that's what they get."

"This spring?" I ask.

"Yep.  A hundred dollars.  That's what you get."

I've volunteered at the snack bar for Little League, and I know what they get per game.  I can only hope that his mom will clear things up before the first game is over.  I hate to see him looking at the real after-game compensation--a paper cup with lukewarm orange soda.  

I take the coward's way out and nod my head vigorously and say, "Wow!  Cool!"  

The teacher can't be the one to crush their hopes and dreams.   When I was in the sixth grade, I was on my way to swimming lessons.  It was our neighbor's turn to drive.  He wasn't my teacher, but he was the Assistant Superintendent of Schools.  I had just finished my first novel It was a hundred pages written mostly on colored notebook paper.  I told that Assistant Superintendent that I was going to have it published.  I was so proud.  And then...he laughed.  Real nice.  Luckily, my amazing sixth grade teacher, Mary Rinear, said, "Of course you'll have a book published.  You're a writer."  

I didn't bother calling the carpool driver when ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER was published.  But I did call my old teacher.  I found her, still teaching at a school 3,000 miles away from me.  She said, "I'm not surprised.  You were always a writer."  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chatting with the Middle Schoolers

Yesterday, I went to talk about ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER with a group of kids at my daughter's middle school.  "Do you want to go with me?"  I asked my daughter.  

"No.  That's okay."  She said it politely, but firmly.  

I was thinking that writing a middle-grade novel might put me up a little higher on the coolness meter....but...well, you know.  It's middle school and I'm her mom.  Would it help if I was Stephanie Meyer? I asked myself.  Probably not.

The book club kids at her school were great.  But the best thing about them, was they were kids just like me a while back.  (Only they called it Junior High way back then in the Dark Ages...)  They lived and breathed books, just like I had (okay, like I still do!).  They were smart and well-spoken and they listened so intently.  My favorite part was toward the end of my spiel when I said, "Do you have any questions for me?"

"Actually, we have nine," one of them said.  

The rest nodded in agreement.  You gotta love that.  Not "ten", or "I don't know", or the ever-popular shoulder shrug.  Nine.  They were curious, they were thoughtful and they were readers.

One of their teachers asked if they'd like to take a picture.  We were in the library and one of the girls points to a prominent area of shelves.  "How about in the Twilight Zone?"  

Stephanie Meyer, you're killing me...

But a teacher so gracefully said, "I think the light might be a little too bright over there."  She pointed to the bookshelves next to the circulation desk.  "How about over there?" she said.  "...under that big sign that says NEW..."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Library Book

When I walked into the soup kitchen from the parking lot, I knew people would be lining up early.  With the New England wind chill as intense as it was, the director always opened the doors before the usual time.  The cafeteria area became their crowded living room, and people arrived early and stayed late.

One thing I've noticed in the past few months is that tempers seem to flare easier.  There is more than the usual amount of tension in the air.  

But there is one guy who always seems the same.  He always takes the time to come to the counter and thank me.  He tells me about job leads, and he always has a smile for the clients and the volunteers.  But one big thing I've noticed about this guy is that he almost always has a book in his hand.  

It's a library book.  This guy has practically nothing, but he has the library.  That's one thing that hasn't changed for him.  

The library.  It's free.  It always has been.  How lucky are we?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Was in Love With Moose Freed

I was in love with Moose Freed.  You remember him.  He mowed the lawns in the neighborhood in Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret.  Margaret loved him, too, which made sense, because in my mind, Margaret and I were best friends.  So it was just logical that we'd have the same taste in men/older teenage boys/neighborhood lawnmowers.  

Moose was an easy one for both Margaret and me.  We could worship him from afar, Margaret from the other side of the lawn, and me from the safety of a book.  Margaret was new in town, much younger than Moose, and a bit on the shy side--all distinct disadvantages.  I was at a distinct disadvantage where Moose or anyone like Moose, aka, a boy was concerned.  I had glasses and braces.  And they weren't those nice little stick-on braces that they have now.  The kind they have now can be practically invisible, undetectable.  Let me assure you that if there was any hint of a light source nearby, my braces were plenty detectable.  Those shiny silver bands went around each and every one of my teeth and they came with something really special:  headgear.  And mine wasn't the semi-acceptable kind that was somewhat hidden around the back of your neck.  Nope.  Mine had a form-fitting cap of sorts that rested on the back of my head and fed two giant wires to my mouth.  I guess you'd have to see the "before" picture of me on my website (, if you don't believe's the picture of the kid with the yo-yo) to fully appreciate the severity of my orthodontia.  I didn't have to wear the headgear for the full twenty-four hours in the day...but it left a beautiful imprint on the back of my hair to make it look as if I was still wearing it.

Each of the fifteen plus times I read Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret., I waited for Moose to really notice Margaret, as if Judy Blume had magically changed the story on me.  If there was a chance for Margaret, maybe there was a chance for my 13-year-old self!