A Gift For You: Awesome Book Idea, Just Add Writing
Friends, the past month has been surprisingly difficult, or, perhaps, difficult for a surprising reason. September marked the end of my tenure as a stay-at-home mother to a preschool child. It was the longest job I've held to date - 8 years and change - and I was so looking forward to all of the creative time that having two kids in full-day public school would afford me.
I made ambitious lists of projects to tackle, things to make, and words to write. Primarily, I was going to finally write a book idea I first came up with 9 years ago when i was still teaching American Literature to highschoolers. I would finally give that project that had been simmering in the back of my mind the attention, time, and effort that it deserved. I would fulfill a dream of getting that idea out of my head and rendering it into something solid and workable. I would be so productive and happy, creative and artistic, intellectual and carefree!
And... I wasn't!
Oh, God, was I ever NOT any of those productive, generative, and joyful things. You know what I was instead? A right bitch, that's what. A snippy, brittle, unpleasant monster of a jerkface. And, let me tell you, this is not a disposition that harmoniously melds with that of a high-needs child who has just started Kindergarten.
Weep for my smartner, readers, weep for my elder smartling. They were caught in the crossfire of my younger girl's post-Kindergarten meltdowns and my sharp-edged frustration at feeling blocked, stuck, and, worst of all, obliged to my creative work. It felt like drudgery, like homework, like Sunday night before a week of school. Sitting down to it every day felt like detention.
And that's because it's an idea, for me, whose time had come and then gone. The time to write it was 9 years ago when it was fresh and exciting in my mind. And now, I still fully believe in the idea of this book, but it's not for me anymore.
But maybe it's for someone.
Maybe it's for you.
So, dear readers, dear world, I'm giving you my idea. You can take it in its entirety and run with it. You can take what you like and leave what you don't. You can use it as a writing assignment for your students. You can write a beautiful, timeless, Pulitzer-prize winning work of art. You can laugh at it and turn away, shaking your head.
I don't care. That part's not my business. And neither, anymore, is writing* this idea. I can sell this book. I totally want to read this book. And there's no way I'm about to sit down and write this book. Not now. Maybe later, but probably not.
My only business here is to commit to my aim of getting this idea out of my head. It's not coming out as a book, but I'll no longer carry it, regardless.
Here you go. Do what you will.
Remember Of Mice and Men? You know, the Steinbeck you were assigned in middle school, if you weren't assigned The Pearl? The one with the little smart guy and the big sweet guy with the intellectual disability who the little smart guy has to euthanize even though he loves his big, sweet self? Because the big guy accidentally killed that hot femme fatale woman because she screamed when he wanted to pet her soft hair?
But not that one.
Because, even though that description is mostly true, it doesn't tell the whole story of the book's victim, known only as "Curley's wife."
And all we know about her is that she's young, beautiful, frustrated, cruel, lonely, and had been living a life such that her best bet was to marry a man she doesn't much like and live in isolation with him and his father on a remote ranch in Depression California. Her backstory, as sparse as it is, leaves readers with more questions than answers as to who she is and how she got there.
And that's why, I bet, most of you just thought of this cinematic image from the 1992 film adaptation and maybe the phrase "sexy bitch" when I reminded you of her.
But that might not even be an accurate depiction of the character. We know she's older than 15, but by how much? Is she a child? Was she starving? Was she turned out? What befell her to make her wind up at the ranch where she is murdered and left in a barn like a dead animal?
What is "Curley's wife's" story?
Someone needs to write that. Not me. But someone.
I imagined writing it out in narrative poetry or multi-genre vignettes like Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust, Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street, or Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. You can take that idea, too, if you want it. (And you should definitely read those excellent books.) I imagined writing it for a young adult audience, given that Curley's wife very well might still be a teenager. I imagined including Farm Security Administration photos for a visual referent of that desperate time period.
Now I imagine you taking these ideas, running with them, and making something moving and beautiful with them in whatever way you choose. Because I've got other fish to fry, other art to make, other words to write. And, for as long as I held the promise of this idea close, it's time to let it go and make room for new undertakings.
*True story: I just unconsciously typed "writhing" here. You can see what trying to force this project was doing to me.