Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Snowy Accident

         Many authors on the margins like me have marketing strategies that often include newsletters, where they tell you about works in progress (that’s wip for you non-authors), offer giveaways and provide the details about the hummus sandwich they had for lunch. Anything to keep a precious reader connected and interested. I rarely write about writing or my life as an author because quite frankly—it’s boring as shit. It would just be a lot of conversation about getting up early and sitting in front of a laptop, the tyranny of the day job, complaints about having to workout, bourbon and why U2 sucks. 
     So, I don’t write about writing. But, the other day as I was up early sitting in front of my laptop I stumbled upon something in my writing that I want to talk about, and it doesn’t include anything about the tyranny of the dayjob, working out, bourbon or goddamn U2.
     The way I work is very loose. I don’t map anything out or use outlines. I don’t think of things I want to say and write them down on stickies or recite them into my phone. Usually, I have an overriding topic I want to explore, which always includes people moving forward and people standing still. Then, I create certain situations or scenarios where they can either succeed or fail. It’s like I put a guy in a bar, order him a beer and what unfolds next comes moment by moment as I sit in front of my laptop. And, sure enough the other day I’m going along on my wip and my mc (main character) finds himself helping his college age daughter with her broken down car at a small inner-city CAO school (Community Action Organization) where she’s doing an internship. There’s sub-plot here that I won’t get into, but the director of the program starts to show him around the school and they eventually end up in a spot where she asks my mc if he would like to read a story to the preschool age children. So my mc looks through a little library of books and much to his delight he finds: The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats.
     Of course, before my mc found The Snowy Day I had to do a Google search of beloved children’s books and there it was among others: Where The Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, The Giving Tree, all of which I loved and read hundreds of times to my own kids—some twenty years ago now.
     We had long ago purged The Snowy Day and such books from our house that is overflowing with books, but I was still able to recall enough of it from memory to finish my chapter, incorporating some of the tactile feeling and sound that so characterizes it. I also looked at some of the gorgeous illustrations on the internet and read some of the criticism in Wikipedia, which vacillated between over and under emphasizing the race of the mc—Peter, an inner city black boy. While all of the criticism seemed a little misplaced to me, it should be noted The Snowy Day was published in 1963, which was the dawn of the Civil Rights era and the beginning of reevaluating race in America.

     I did another thing too—I ordered it on Amazon and for the two days I waited I couldn’t remember feeling more excited to get a book than I did about this one. I would have been very disappointed if it wasn’t sitting on my porch after a long tyranny filled week at the day job when I got home on Friday. But, there it was and it was just as spectacular as I had remembered it. The bright colorful illustrations, the simple language, the memories of reading to my children and of course, my own childhood recollections of first snows. I can’t be sure of the magic that touched Jack Ezra Keats in creating this book, but the palpable sense of wonder in what Peter is seeing and feeling through soothing shapes, colors, language and the way he positions his body in space transports me to a better place. It’s a place of freedom and innocence, where the world moves blissfully along with wondrous piles of snow and sticks. It’s a place where I can see my mom’s blue eyes as she serves me piping hot tomato soup. It’s a place where my little brother is my best friend and he is me and I am him. And, it’s a place of infinite possibly, where the successes and failures of life don’t exist. Only the moment exists.
My mc making his way into that CAO school where his daughter is doing an internship and rediscovering The Snowy Day was just about the best and certainly the most peaceful little accident that happened to me all week. Maybe when the alerts on our phone's are driving us crazy or our heads are spinning from from the rapidity of the news cycle a good place to go to block out all the noise is one of these life affirming children’s books—which, maybe, were never meant to be just for children.

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