My first memory is of writing.
Except I couldn’t write yet. I am two or three and sitting beneath the kitchen table while my parents eat dinner above me, conspicuously ignoring me. I get the sense, thinking about this memory and also about my life now as a mother, that I have just had a tantrum. And won. And now, instead of eating dinner, I am sitting beneath the table, drawing.
But I want to be writing.
The cover for my first novel arrives any day now. I haven’t seen it yet. There is much about this process that is a mystery to me, and nothing has happened the way I thought it would, the way it was “supposed” to. I won a contest; SUPERVISION is going to be an e-book as well as a paper and cardboard thing.
These details make the magical process of making a book come to life even more confusing, time-consuming, and alien. I feel even more out-of-the-loop. What is happening?
I am drawing under the kitchen table, making my parents’ portraits, I remember, because I don’t know how to write their names. I want to tell their stories—to tell many stories—but I don’t know how to make the words. And when, in fact, I finally do learn to write and read, not too long after this dinner memory—my mother teaches me—I write the only words I know over and over in different combinations: hi you love Alison goodbye.
My child is learning to read. We pull into the parking lot and he spells out S-T-A-R-B-U-C-K-S. When we throw away our napkins, he reads “trash.” He wrote his name, his full name, for the first time just a few days ago after only writing the first letter for a year. It wasn’t traced. It wasn’t a lesson. He just wrote it, signed his name once, then again. His preschool teachers were so excited. They saved the papers, presented them to me solemnly, hugged me. One of them had tears in her eyes.
This is the magic key, after all. This is the ticket. Now you are never alone. Now you are comforted. Now you know the world—and many, many others. Now you can make your own world.
So it’s taking a few days for the cover to get here. So I don’t know what it will be. So getting a first novel published is a lot harder than I ever thought. Publishing my first novel at the exact same time my son learns to read makes the magic so extraordinary, so sharp.
It is magic, I have to remind myself. Writing, from the very beginning, is magic. I bought this old piano. I came to a historic house. I felt my eyes snap open. I felt my fingers start to ache. I felt an idea leap into my head from who knows where—and then another, and another. And I felt if I did not write it down, I would die. And I could not stop. And I could not stop. And I did not stop. And every time I re-read the end of SUPERVISION, I have to tell you, I cry a little, because it did end for me; I’m no longer writing/living/dreaming that world.
But it’s about to begin for you, this particular magic, this dream world I dreamed.
See you under the table, while we wait for the key.