Disappointment…has a taste, like oatmeal with no salt…

What do we do with disappointment?

I never know who might read my blog: ex-students, I know.  Family members, especially those who live far away.  Friends. Fellow writers.

And the people who read my books.  Who are young people…  So, if I write a piece about what it’s like to work very hard toward a particular goal–in this case, preparing (4 weeks) for a job interview (5 hours) for a position I would have loved to have–and then I write about the waiting (4 weeks) for a response and then the disappointment when the answer is “no”…well, it’s not the story we’re supposed to write for kids. Some people like to argue about whether or not books for children should have hopeful or even happy endings.

Over and over, in books and movies, kids see the main character triumph against the odds.  But disappointment, having to change goals and direction, moving on…these are not the subjects of stories for young people. But my new novel, Molly’s Cue, which will be released next spring, IS about a change of direction.

Fact is, disappointments do happen. We do work hard for things…really hard, even…and they still don’t happen. Some people are convinced it’s a matter of what we believe, and how hard we believe in ourselves–as if it’s something you can measure.  Like this: Person A had 20 kilograms of belief in her self, but Person X had 68!  So…guess who got the job…

Or, conversely, Person A had two negative thoughts about not getting the job, but Person W had four negative thoughts. Person W did not get the job.

Anyway.  For whatever reasons–NOT lack of hard work, NOT lack of feeling good about myself–I did not get the job.  So.  No happy ending.  And moments of feeling not very hopeful.

Where is that story? Do people want to read that story? A “change of direction” story? A friend of mine, in her 50s, says that she can’t find anything to read that really speaks to where she’s at in her life–that mirrors her reality. Maybe that’s because we’re afraid to talk about these things. We’re all supposed to be Superfolk, and if we’re not, it’s because we’re doing something dreadfully wrong, and we should keep it to ourselves.

What is the purpose of disappointment? Everything must have a purpose now. One should be able to multi-task disappointment with any number of emotions. Maybe I need to think as a painter thinks: look at what I see before me, and consider what I do see, not what I think I see.

In a close-to-the-end rewrite of Molly’s Cue, I had to cut out a particular line.  A line that an earlier editor had marked as a favourite. A line that I was rather fond of. But sometimes a story calls for something else and, for the sake of the story, you cut. So I cut. Today I use it. As the title for this entry. With changes of direction, it’s entirely possible to find what you think you’ve lost, or even something unexpected.

ancient yelloweds…

After a year spent working in elementary education, I’ve returned to what feels like home, reading about theories and ideas and writing texts.  I’ve been imagining writing and literature course syllabi, and what texts might be useful to not-so-young writing students.

I’ve captured some notes from Tom Chiarella’s Writing Dialogue, which is a solid book to re-visit, and from Josip Novakovich’s Fiction Writer’s Workshop (which has the best chapter on point of view).  Then I picked up my old–ancient–copy of John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers.  What was I? about 18 when I ordered this from the Quality Paperback Book Club?

Since last September, I’ve had to don reading glasses.  For several months last fall, I’d find I had to have them some days, and other days, I could pull off reading without them.  Now I can’t, not if the book is close to me.  Today, I put on the glasses, and brought the book closer…and as I closed it, the pages fanned, and a particular scent wafted to me: old book smell.

When I was a child, most of what I read was old…old Grosset & Dunlap, most likely.  Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Judy Bolton.  Ancient yellowed Trixie Belden.  And that old book smell was the best part of summer.

To think I’ve lived long enough to have a book, once new in my hands, acquire that smell.

Just to make sure, I smell it again.