Icarry my books with me everywhere I go, I leave, I return, I follow where the road takes me. I ignore the signs. I write my own directions. I advance on my journey. I decide to stay awhile. I can’t wait to leave. I run away. I travel to the ocean. I hunt for a place to hide. I climb the mountain for a better view. I speak to no one. I stutter with a stranger until I turn them into a friend. I speed past my enemy so he can’t carry me away. I don’t allow her to accept my rejection. I unpack my suitcase filled with dirty clothes. I pack it with my clean things. I find space inside my bag for sweet candy. I guard my letter of introduction into that club for talented females. I pick up a child or two along the way. I hike beside a funny angel who makes me giggle and laugh and lean on her. I pause to read a guide-book in several foreign languages. I write on lined, ruled paper left abandoned by a student. I fold it neatly in half, into tiny squares for a bookmark. I hurl volumes at the mean girls. I stab devils with strong words and sharp-pointed pencils. I decide the right time to turn off the tarry, mucky highway when I want to. I, I, I, I, I. I am ready to rest, to wash, to talk now. My reason is to have contact with you and everyone and all of us. Done, finished, over with walking, falling, holding the sack of junk and bits of rags made out of rough scratchy fabric. And here is a beautiful place to stay. Kay Castaneda
I began writing this blog post because someone asked me a very rude question. The subject itself wasn’t the problem; the person’s tone of voice and the look on their face was the giveaway to their sarcasm. I’ll name this person Jealous Envious Maude. Don’t be offended if your name is Maude. It’s not about you. Maude really tried to push my buttons that day when she engaged me in a conversation about my book. I had recently published my new novel, Emmie of Indianapolis. She avoided me when I spread the news to family and friends. She’s not nice enough to be called a friend. She’s in the category of not quite an enemy because she loves to start trouble.
Maude approached me with that glassy-eyed grin that makes people tell her they’re on the way to the bathroom when she comes near. I didn’t have time to make up an excuse. It had to be something you firmly believed in while you told her a lie. For example, you could say that you had to go lie down in your car because your migraine was the worst it’s ever been, and if it didn’t go away in three minutes, you were going to the emergency room for a shot of morphine. That day, she caught me without a lie prepared.
I was in the break room eating brownies with James, our maintenance man, who is my favorite person at work because he’s never in a bad mood or gives anybody the evil eye. Maude made her presence known by huffing and blowing out air just like the Big Bad Wolf. She always has to hog the conversation. Neither James or I wanted to stop eating brownies. Maude always takes away everyone’s appetite just by standing over them or when she interrupts someone. That would be every single time she gets near. James said he had to repair a hole in the roof. Since I was busy swallowing the last bite of brownie and had my mouth full, I wasn’t able to speak. Maude asked me how my book writing was going as if she didn’t know the book was finished, published and for sale.
“I am done Maude” I told her.
“Oh, I was not aware you were through with it yet!”
Her true message was she didn’t think I could finish writing it, that I wasn’t smart enough or could barely write my name. Maude puts everyone down. They just brush her off and go back to their work. I can’t do that very well because I’m too nice. My first thought when she insults me is to do things that I really wouldn’t do. Pinch her arm, pull her hair and maybe bite her the way I bit a little brat kid in first grade who said my hair was dirty. It was certainly not! Forgive me Lord for these feelings. The last straw was when Maude gloated while asking me to tell her what a writer does.
“Isn’t writing easy? All you have to do is sit down at the computer. Anyone can write a book, even a child. Did you hear about the scientists who put a monkey in front of a computer and he wrote Shakespeare sonnets, better than him in fact!”
“Listen Maude,” I said, “I will tell you what a writer does. A writer is a person who tells stories, stories no one has ever heard. Writers explain history but don’t rewrite it. They are people who describe Grandma Celia so well until the reader feels Grandma is truly their own. Writers paint pictures of far-off places, places you will never get a chance to go. Writers argue politics, religion and solve society’s problems all within 490 pages. Writers invent characters so unique that they make you feel new emotions or remember long-dead things. Good, bad, ugly, beautiful, all colors, all sizes and personalities; writers give them to you, the reader. Writers make you think or reinforce your own ideas, or they may convince you to change your point of view. Writers introduce readers to other writers and books they’ve never heard of. So many things Maude. So many things. In fact, Maude, a writer is never done. A writer spots people on the highway who would make a perfect model for their next heroine or their next villain. Writers hear words spoken by strangers that would be exactly, or almost, what their new book’s characters would say. The work a writer does to produce a book is really never finished. They may think of ways to rewrite a scene or draw a more exact vision of a waterfall or a cave. Writers might not be satisfied how they described a ranch house where their hero lives. It’s endless, Maude, what writers do. It’s indescribable and unfamiliar except to another writer. You could never do that Maude. You could never write a book because you are too busy yakking and running your mouth, insulting your coworkers and those around you that characters would never speak to you the way they speak to a writer. You would never hear them if by chance they spoke to you, insisting they be placed inside a story. I could discuss the writing process with you if you’re interested. I could tell you about the places I visited that would be a perfect location for my next book’s setting. Writing is difficult, grueling labor, Jealous Envious Maude. But they do it anyway because they love it. That is what writers do.”