In which I channel Flaubert and become self-aware. And rhyme unintentionally.
Today, in honor of the inauguration, I would like to write something beautiful and deep, something like this, or something like Obama's speech, that would leave you shivering and alive, something that would RESOUND. I want to RESOUND, people.
I do not resound. And I fear I am far more likely to leave you giggling to yourselves than I am to leave you shivering, unless you are visiting la Maison Jacqui, where we refuse to turn the thermostat above 64 degrees.
My very favorite quote when I was 17 was from Madame Bovary: "...human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to when we would make the stars move with our melodies."*
I would make the stars move with my melodies still, but lately, I think maybe I should leave the star-moving to others. Voice is my strength. My plots stagnate and my middles are meh, but my characters' voices are unfailing. I have been asking myself, though, what is MY voice? And the answer, when I am honest, is that I am practical. I am realistic and "let's get going why are you standing around talking about stars when there's life to live?" I love to play and I love more than almost anything to make people laugh. That is me, much more than heaviness and philosophification. And the older I get, the more I am able to let go of the dream of being James Joyce, and to cling to the dream of just being me. Dancing bears are outright funny, and someone's got to bang their drums. And you know what? I'm pretty good at the cracked kettle.
I have read countless chapter books and novels for young adults and children. I tell every new writer who asks me for advice to read, read, read every classic, well-written book for kids they can find. I stand by that advice.
But after the last chapter, I am learning I need to close the door on all those other voices. I need to leave Katherine Paterson and Nancy Farmer and, gulp, even Salman Rushdie, at their own writing desks, so I can be alone at mine. And I think only then will I be able to write the novels that are my own.
So here is my challenge for you: who are you? What is YOUR voice? And if it's not in your writing, why not? No, seriously, I want to know.
* my translation, because that's how I remember it and it fits my French version
** photo from Wikipedia Commons, by Fernando Revilla
Tuesday, January 20, 2009