Thursday, December 31, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Many people I know like beginnings - they like spring, and dawn. Personally, I have always preferred twilight, and autumn. I like endings. To me, endings offer the promise of that new beginning before it has begun. Once trees are budding in the spring, and once dawn's first light touches the sky, the new season or the new dawn is underway. It feels to me as if its course has already been set. But while the old season or old day - or old year - is in the process of ending, the future is filled with limitless possibility. Its course has not yet been set.

New Year's Eve feels the same way to me - full of promise. And this is not only the end of a year, it is also the end of a decade. It's been kind of a tough decade for me, dealing with physical injuries and difficult moves. But with 2009 drawing to a close, the new decade appears full of limitless possibility. Nothing is yet set in stone. Books I have yet to read could introduce me to wonderful new authors and beautiful writing. Books I have yet to write could be the most intense and insightful and moving works that I have ever written.

It's all still possible.

I wish everybody one last night of possibility. May you treasure the potential that 2010 offers, before time shows you its reality. This is a night for dreaming.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reading and Writing Friendships

It's been snowing. The river outside my office window has frozen in choppy waves and the ice is frosted in white. It's the perfect time to curl up with a book, whether that's a manuscript in progress or someone else's book to read. Most people are under the impression that writers and readers are solitary souls with no interest in companionship. Nothing could be further from the truth! Writers and readers are surrounded by friends, whether those friends are fellow writers in a community spreading from our local critique group to online contacts on the other side of the world, or friends we discover in the books we read or the books we write, who walk off their pages and make their homes in our hearts.

Often as I read a book while I was an aspiring author, I'd wish I were brave enough to write to the person who'd written that book, and tell him or her how much I loved those characters and their story. "And one day," I dreamed of adding, "I'll be published just like you." But I never wrote. What if they saw me as a stalking fan? Even worse, what if they never wrote back?

One of those books was About David, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Lynn, the narrator walked off the pages of that book to become a friend. I even liked difficult, damaged, and dangerous David. And I very much admired the author. I lived in upstate New York at the time, and worked part-time at my local library. When I discovered that Ms. Pfeffer was speaking to a group of librarians in our region, I convinced my librarian boss to let me go along. This much-admired author was a great speaker, as friendly and intriguing and human as her books. But I still couldn't manage to introduce myself as an aspiring writer and a fan, although I went home and over the years have read my way steadily through her books.

A few years ago, I saw she had a new book out, Life As We Knew It. Miranda, experiencing the changes in her family's life after a meteor strikes the moon and knocks it off course, stepped off the pages of her diary and made herself my friend. She was no noble heroine who saved the day by setting the moon back in its place - she was a prickly teenager who was angry that the world was ending around her when she just wanted life to get back to normal so she could have a boyfriend and a proper date - and fudge. Yet she grew through the book into a teenager who still wished for those things, but accepted that she wouldn't get them, and treasured what she had in terms of family all the more.

After I finished reading this book, I felt the familiar desire to write to this author. But by then I was a published writer myself. I looked online, and to my delight, I found that Susan Beth Pfeffer had a blog! And an e-mail address! And so - I took the plunge. I wrote to her. And I made a friend, not only of the characters in a book this time, but also of their author.

I've just finished reading the ARC of the third, and probably last, book in her moon series, This World We Live In. (There was a second book in the middle, the dead & the gone, which I've also read and enjoyed, but if I write much more this blog post will grow to epic length...) I'm marveling at how my friendships have deepened, both with Sue and with Miranda, who is still prickly and fights with her mother, but has also grown into a strong, unflinching young woman who makes hard choices out of love - more like her mother than she yet realizes - and is able to act on those hard choices with tenderness. I don't want to write a formal review of this bleak, yet beautiful book - I just want to treasure the way my relationships with character and author have moved forward.

Between my friendship with Miranda and my friendship with Sue Pfeffer, I'm not alone at all as I look out at the snowy expanse.