The Moments I Knew

I would say I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life.

I have had many dreams outside of writing, but it was always “I’ll be a _____ and a writer.”  (Blanks include marine biologist, nautical archaeologist, several other things that end in -gist, mathematician (ha!), and museum curator.)

But writing. Writing was always there, and every once in a while I get a reminder that it’s what I’m supposed to do with my life. Like little whispers to my heart, those moments of peaceful certainty are enough to sustain me through every hard writing day, countless rejections, and each time I have to throw away a story out and start again. Those quiet moments mean a lot, and they don’t happen very often.

But I had one this weekend.

The first “writing aha” moment was when I was seven (?) and wrote my first two picture books. After showing them to my mom, she said, “You could be a writer.” Now, Mom tells me I can be anything (as most moms do), but this was different. I knew she meant it, and I knew I really could.

Others have come throughout the years. One when I was fifteen and wrote a very silly two-page story (that included an elephant stampede) that I’m still convinced is some of my best work. Another, when I filled out a Pepperdine application at 11:30 at night–this is equivalent to 3 am for most other people.

And another, when I read the Boston Jane book series. I’ve blogged about Boston Jane before, but this weekend, the series came back into my life in a very wonderful way.

I got to meet the author of Boston Jane, Jennifer L. Holm, at the LA Times Festival of Books. (Don’t worry. I’m sure to blog about this festival at least three more times because it was amazing.)

I was able to get my trilogy signed and meet Ms. Holm and her brother, Matt. (They write super cute graphic novels together.)

And I don’t think my interaction with her could have gone much worse.

Jennifer: “Hello!”

Me: “Hi.” (I handed her Boston Jane.) “This book series made me want to be a writer.”

Jennifer: “Aww. You’re going to make me cry.”

Me: “Me too.” (I proceeded to cry.) “I’m sorry I don’t have the original covers.”

Jennifer: “That’s okay. I like these ones better.”

(I laughed for a beat too long.)

Me: “May I have a picture?”

Jennifer: “Sure.”

(We took a picture.)

Me: “Thank you. Thank you. Have a good day! Thank you.”

I ran away.

I don’t often crash and burn in interactions, but when I do, tears are usually involved. I don’t want to say I scared Jennifer Holm, but I definitely didn’t give off a very “mentally stable” vibe. I mean, we exchanged many smiles, but I couldn’t remember how to form words. (Also, my hair was doing weird things.)

It was bad. I was running away thinking about how I didn’t say anything I wanted to, except that first line, and then I remembered I forgot my phone with the volunteer who took our picture and had to go back and get it. Perfect.

I did a fast-paced walk in the other direction. Then, I decided to look at my signed copies because that would make me feel better, and in the second book (my favorite one), she put a note (that I hadn’t seen her write through my tears). And I looked at that note and thought, “That’s true. I don’t know when or how or any of the specifics, but I believe that’s true.”

And there it was. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I had an awkward interaction with one of my favorite authors. It didn’t matter that I am more than a little unsure of where I’ll be when school lets out. It matters that I will be a writer, and I know it.

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libraries: a love-hate relationship

When I was in junior high, I would sometimes walk to the public library after school. I was terribly productive there, and I could avoid the bus by waiting for my mom to finish work. Yes, the bus was that bad, like playing-Nickelback-the-whole-ride-home bad.

The library was a discovery of resources. A whole building full of books?! Why haven’t we been coming here every day? I often think this each time I step into a library.

But the Millers are what you might call… forgetful, and this doesn’t mix well with things like “due dates” and “late fees.”

They pass. We forget. We stay away from the library, avoiding large fees and the librarian’s stink eye. We let time go by. The librarian retires. We go back. We realize (again) how cool libraries are. We check-out. We think we can do it this time.

(Maybe I’m being too harsh with the use of “we” here. I’m sure someone in our family is capable of returning things on time, but I am not that someone.)

Our “this time” fails. It’s a brutal, ugly cycle. In fact, a certain brother can’t even go back to that library anymore. (Something about a $30 fee that’s gaining interest.)

But back on track. In middle school, I was (again) in the discovery stage, and the public library was (again) a magical place.

In this glorious building, I fell in love with a boy: Jehu. He had a scar on his cheek and never apologized for being himself. He was a sailor with tanned skin and blue eyes.

Okay, okay, Jehu is from a book, but not just any book. Jehu is from Jennifer L. Holm’s Boston Jane.

Boston Jane isn’t really about Jehu.

Guess who it’s about? Yes, Jane.

Guess where Jane is from? Yes, Philadelphia. Wait…

Boston Jane is great. Trust me. Here’s why:

e.e. cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” That’s what Boston Jane is about: finding that courage to be true to yourself.

Convinced? No?

How about this quote that’s actually from Boston Jane: The Claim (last in the trilogy): “This, I thought, was true love. Someone who made you happy without saying a word.”

Awwww. Just read it, okay? Good.

Now, if twitter had existed in middle school, I would have been showing off this Jennifer Holm re-tweet like nobody’s business. But since I’m older, I’ll just SHOW OFF THIS JENNIFER HOLM RE-TWEET LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS (in capital letters).

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