Notes from my Younger Self by Guest Author Sandra Kring

sandrakringWe’re very happy to welcome guest author Sandra Kring to the ball. Her debut novel, Carry Me Home, was a Book Sense Notable pick and a 2005 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Award nominee. The Book of Bright Ideas was a 2006 Target Bookmarked selection, and Thank You for All Things was All You magazine’s book club pick for October, 2007. Her fourth book, How High the Moon, will be released April, 2010.

Anyone who comments today will be entered to win an autographed copy of Sandra’s book, Thank You for All Things!

There have been many times in my life when I would have welcomed a visit from my future-self, so she–armed with the knowledge of how the story would end–could reassure me that I’d be okay.
But looking back, I realize that it was something more powerful than a promise from the future that got me through an abusive childhood, the loss of a baby, divorce, and the journey from aspiring writer to published author. It was faith fueled by the youngest part of myself. The part of me that believed it was magic that made Mexican jumping beans pop, and that if I got a pair of PF Flyers, I really could jump over buildings.

It was this youngest part of me who whisked me off on this writing venture, and believed without a doubt that we’d reach our destination, even though we’d be riding on nothing but a wing and a prayer. Fortunately for me, when I get so wrapped up in adult worries that I start confusing dire thoughts with “reality,” Life, in its infinite wisdom, points me back to her. And so it did, when I was laboring to finish my fourth book.

tyfat1I was a month behind deadline, 27,000 words beyond a sane word count, and still my child narrator–who by her own admission has a mind that wanders like a puppy without a leash–was going strong. After working 10-12 hours a day for weeks, the only thing dwindling faster than my resolve was my bank account. So in an effort to take a pause and a breath, I took my son for dinner at our favorite restaurant. When we arrived, I excused myself to go to the restroom.

I heard the little girls behind one of the two stalls, and guessed that the little one doing most of the talking was about three. She was in the middle of a story, but stopped when she heard me close the stall door. “Hey,” she said. “I think somebody’s in here. Is there somebody in here?”

“Yep,” I said, as I flinched, because even the simple act of hanging my purse on a hook, hurt my neck and shoulders.

“What’s your name?” she asked. I told her, and she replied with, “Oh. My name is Kea. And that’s Kendsey on the toilet.” I smiled as I unzipped and sat down.

“I can see you,” Kea said, her matter-of-fact delivery telling me she was oblivious to the fact that maybe that’s not something a stranger who is sitting on a toilet might want to hear.

I peered through the narrow gap alongside the stall door, but saw only bright wall tiles. “I can’t see you,” I told her.

“Down here,” she said. “Look under the wall.” And there she was, on hands and knees, staring up at me as I peed. Kea. With a head full of blond ringlets, Crayola Cornflower- Blue eyes, and pink cheeks.

“You have very pretty curls,” I told her as she blinked up at me.

“Yeah,” she said. “And I got a puffy shirt, too.”

Kea disappeared and Kendsey hissed. “Kea, don’t! You aren’t suppose to open the door when someone’s on the toilet!” (Obviously, the girls’ mother didn’t think to also tell them that you aren’t suppose to peek under bathroom stalls, a fact that had me giggling.)

“But I want to show the lady my puffy shirt!” Kea insisted.

Seconds later, while I was zipping my jeans, my stall door (latched with only a magnet) burst open, and there was Kea. She looked down at her pink shirt where a plastic-covered picture bubbled over her heart.
“See my puffy shirt?” she said. “It lights up when you poke it. See? You wanna poke it?”

I was glad my bladder was empty, because by the time I got back to the table, I was laughing so hard I could hardly hold myself up. And I laughed until my eyes watered and my shoulders sighed.

Here in the adult world, where we are inundated with daily responsibilities, subjected to misfortunes, and chronically exposed to negativity, it can be easy to cave to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. When I find myself in this place again (as I surely will), I’ll remember sweet Kea, so innocent and trusting, plagued by none of the shoulds and have tos and you-can’t-do-that messages that often confine us adults to spaces tighter than a public restroom stall. Kea was my protagonist, and my youngest self made visible. An arrow that pointed me back to the part of me that writes for the sheer joy of telling a story and believes wholeheartedly that it will be good when I’m done. I smiled all the way home that day, and finished my book four days later.

Whatever your dream, I hope your youngest, most trusting self, will be your traveling companion.

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30 thoughts on “Notes from my Younger Self by Guest Author Sandra Kring

  1. Now that I’m back from dropping off the kids, I want to add a personal note:

    Sandra,

    I’m thrilled that TDB has featured you today — and is giving others a glimpse at the talent and quality of the person behind the books.

    You are not only a fantastic writer, but a huge supporter of writers in general. A rare trait for authors of your success. Thank you.

    Truly,

    Chris

  2. Hi Sandra, what a lovely post and a wonderful reminder to not lose sight of our inner children who delight in blowing bubbles or having a friend over for (real or imagined, it doesn’t matter) tea. It’s so easy to get bogged down with thoughts of mortgages and deadlines, the car that needs service or the bills that need paying. It’s the little things, the simple things we lose sight of and can make us lose ourselves.

    Your perspective and optimism are true gifts; thanks for sharing them with us.

  3. Thanks so much for being our guest today, and reminding us that we sometimes just need to lighten up and embrace our inner child. Your books sound wonderful!

  4. Hi Sandra-

    How great to meet you here at The Debs! I love your story–what a perfect example to remember that younger self in all of us! Can’t wait to read your latest.

    Judy

  5. Oh, what a beautiful story! I love this, and Kea reminds me of my kids, especially, “Wanna see my puffy shirt?”

    I was blogging on Monday about how college-aged Kris took herself way too seriously. She (and I) could use some wisdom from an even younger version…

  6. It says so much about you that you laughed instead of shooing them away in anger. Hmm, as I child I once told a babysitter’s pimply boyfriend, “You’re ugly, you ass.” So perhaps my inner child should remained a bit leashed? Naaah!

    Great post! Thanks, Debs.
    KIM

  7. Chris – Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your kind words.

    As for supporting writers, I do what I can for writers who display amazing talent and have the drive to work hard until they’re published. Not so much because I think that I have any magical answers for them (the road to publication has many paths), but to let them know that if I got there, they can too. I do this because I remember a time prior to selling when I saw authors as belonging to some elitist group that “regular” people couldn’t join. About that time, I wrote a piece of fan mail to Jennifer Lauck to tell her how much I enjoyed BLACKBIRD. She wrote back from a manual typewriter and her letter was filled with typos. She ended the missive with a comment about how she had to go because her young son was running in circles around her and she’d lost her concentration. That letter meant the world to me for the humanness she showed, and the hope she gave me. I’m a firm believer in the adage that you take when you need, and give when you have. Ms. Lauck was gracious to me when I needed hope, and now that I’m published, it’s my turn to pass hope along to yet-unpublished writers who need it.

    Joanne – Sometimes I think that the real reason I write all my books through the voice of a child, is because it keeps me in touch with the youngest, most hopeful part of me. This younger part sees life more as a blessing than a burden.

    When I’m working on a book especially, I am very child-like since I stay in character for the duration of the novel. I’m happy then, but not very prompt about paying bills or getting to bed at a decent hour (which explains why I’m late to the ball!).

    And then, there’s the time I looked at the expanse of floor in my new apartment and remembered what fun it was to turn summersaults from wall to wall when I was a kid, so got up to do just that. Good grief, what was I thinking? That hurt!

    Anyway, thanks for stopping in, Joanne. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog.

    Deb – It’s my pleasure to be here.
    Deb, Eve, Katie, Kristina, Meredith, Tiffany–congratulations on the sale of your first book. May you all have long, amazing careers!

  8. Judy – Nice to meet you, too! And I’m glad you loved the story. I STILL laugh when I remember Kea, and every time I go to that restaurant, I’m hoping she’ll be there.

    Kristina – If your children are like Kea, I’d be happy to babysit them. I can’t promise your house would still be standing when you got home, but your children sure would have fun!

    As for your blog, I’m sure many could relate to it. Interesting, isn’t it, how when we are teens and young adults we take ourselves too seriously, then as we grow older, we often take life too seriously?

    Kim – Hahaha to what you said to your babysitter’s boyfriend. I’m sure your babysitter was thrilled.

    Your comment reminds me of a little scene from HOW HIGH THE MOON, when 10-year-old Teaspoon sees her teenage mentor’s boyfriend for the first time:

    Lenard didn’t look at all like I imagined he’d look. He had one of those faces that looked like somebody pinched their fingers over his nose when he was a baby—while it was still squishy and soft like clay—and gave it a tug so hard that his upper lip got pulled forward right along with it, and neither boinged back in place. “He’s ugly,” I said.

    “Teaspoon, you need to learn not to comment on people’s looks,” Teddy said.

    “Why?” I said. “People comment on my looks all the time.” Soon as I said it, though, I got it. “Oh, you mean if they’re ugly.”

    Out of the mouths of babes, as they say!

  9. Sandra,
    Thanks for guesting today. Lovely post, and it’s so true that writing has to come from the youthful part of your soul that still believes in magic. Good luck with your new book!

  10. LOVE this post. And I love that you finally made it to the Debutante Ball! How the hell are you, girl??? BTW to anyone who hasn’t read Sandra Kring’s books–run out and buy them. She’s a fabulous writer!

  11. Okay…I’ve been quietly reading these letters to younger selves all week, but this one has pushed me over the edge. I’m going to have to totally steal your idea and write my own letter on my own blog. I can’t help it. I tried to hold it in, but I have a lot to say to my younger self. Seriously, if there could be a way to do this that would appeal to teens without feeling schmaltzy…wouldn’t this make a great collection of letters from MG & YA authors?

    Anyway, loved this post…got me a bit teary. I could totally see that puffy shirt and all the details. Loved it! Thanks for sharing.

    cheers,
    Joelle

  12. What I meant was, wouldn’t a collection of letters like this be a great book for teens. If it was done right. Too much caffeine…typing faster than I can think!

  13. Great to see you, Sandra. That charming story about Kea and you on the loo had me in stitches. I love books written through the eyes of a child, and can’t wait to read your latest. One of the first novels I read of a similar vein was Elizabeth Berg’s DURABLE GOODS. I started reading it on the recommendation of a friend and didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. She’s become one of my favorite authors.

    As for supportive authors … what would we do without them? I’ve been beyond lucky with my writer friends, and my first novel would never have made it all the way to publication without them.

  14. Sandra, this is like a letter to my soul–great, great post! I am currently struggling hard to find the joy within the grind of being a wife, mom, author, dog-owner, home-and-car-owner, etc and I DO need to stay/get back in touch with my younger self–the one who believes in magic.

    And as Jenny said, everyone should go buy your books–you are a kick-ass writer.

  15. Thanks, Tiffany!

    “…the youthful part of your soul…” Yes! And I not only think that writing HAS (pretend that’s italicized) to come from our youthful part, but that it DOES (this one, too), whether we’re aware of it or not. Even those who write in the most sophisticated of styles, draw on memories they gathered when they were very young. Back when they lived in the moment and experienced life with all of their senses lit brightly. If we didn’t draw on these early observations, emotions, and sensations, our descriptions would be lifeless, incapable of evoking vivid images and strong emotions in our readers.

    Jenny! I’m doing well, and hope you are, too. Thanks for the plug on my books. Gotta pay the rent, as they say. Which reminds me…

    Joelle – Go for it! Seriously, I love your idea. And it WOULD be done right as long as the letters did not sound preachy. And I don’t think that would happen. Publishers don’t buy MG or YA stories by authors who preach. If these writers are published, they are writers who know how to talk to to teens, not at them.

  16. Well done Sandy!!! Love your work! Well, you know that honey! Congratulations! Kind regards Lee Mitchell. xxxx
    Author of The series “Classical Masters For Acoustic Guitar”

  17. I remember very well looking under all the stalls in the dressing rooms at department stores. Little cretin I was!

    What a cute story. Obviously everything worked out… thanks so much for being our guest today!

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  19. Sandra

    Great reminder to ignore the whispers of adulthood that stunt our growth adn stop us from trying with all our might. I love all your books and have shared your named and turned your books face out whenever i see them..
    Much Love and good thoughts..

  20. Lee, thanks for stopping by. The best to you with your music!

    Danielle – I feel for you. Been there. Done that.
    I remember how when I was writing my first book, I let go of everything but my story. And I mean EVERYTHING! I kept the family and dog fed, but that’s about it.

    By the time I reached the end of the novel— in six weeks, though I have NO clue how—my house was a complete disaster. So bad that had Social Services walked in, they probably would have walked out with my kids AND my dog. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s when fire broke out in my basement.

    I thought I’d die of shame when the firemen (all local volunteers) had to stumble through that mess to open the windows when they de-smoked the house (hmm…maybe they were fumigating). And what could I say? That inspiration had a grip on me and I couldn’t stop? I doubted they’d understand, so I gave them the bottom line instead: tell anyone about the condition of my house and I’ll hunt you down like a pack of rabid dogs.
    Now I live alone, my old dog is dead, and my three children are grown (and as far as I know, none of them were permanently scarred from those six weeks of neglect). Now I sit in a perfectly spotless, silent, beautiful apartment with almost nothing to do but write. And what was I doing in between replying to these posts? Staring out into the courtyard watching two adorable children wobble on training wheels while their mother grilled lunch, and thinking, “Awwww, I miss my kids when they were little,” and looking at the dog tied to the patio across the lawn and thinking, “Ohhhh, maybe I should get a dog.”

    Now before you start thinking that I’m going to tell you how you should appreciate the stage of life you’re in because it will be gone before you know it (even if that’s true), think again. Seconds after having those thoughts, the kids started fighting and the dog started barking to go inside (who could blame him?), and I remembered just how frustrated I got back then as I tried to juggle all my responsibilities and writing.
    I live alone now, in a spotless and beautiful apartment, with no one’s needs to take care of but my own. And while finding the time to write is a whole lot easier now, I have many days when I can’t find the energy or inspiration to write.

    Inspiration itself, it seems, is much like a child. It knows nothing about clocks and calendars. It will come to us when we’re so busy we barely have time to breathe and demand to be fed and played with, and it will take long naps when we most want it to wake. Still, one way or another, we get the books written.

    Hang in there, Danielle.

    Katie – Wow, imagine if you and Kim had been sisters. The two of you unleashed in a clothing store could have shredded what little self-esteem any of us had when we were teens to microscopic-sized shreds!

    Donna – Thanks so much for your support. Store owners might not appreciate you turning my books face-out, but I do!

    EVERYONE – Thanks to the Debs for inviting me to blog, and to everyone who stopped by to read it. The best to all of you! Have a fun-filled and safe 4th. Now I’m off to experience Lake Superior and the Robert Cray Band! Yay, play time!

    My best,
    Sandra Kring

  21. Sandra,

    Wonderful post and a great inspiration for writers like me who are still hoping to some day be published. Your post reminds me of the words of David Morrell who said to be a good writer you have to explore your deepest emotions and listen to your daydreams. Adding that you have to pick your youngest, most trusting, self as your traveling companion makes perfect sense.

    I’d love to be in your drawing and if I don’t win, will definitely buy your book anyway!

  22. I adore you wish for us……that younger self…..so cool….I will visit a lot. No you never sent me the blog site so I am innocent. ALWAYS!!! LOL

    Have a fun weekend…I plan to as well.

    Call soon or I shall.

  23. What a wonderful story – sounds like just the stress breaker you needed! I’ve told you before – I love your books….you transport me back to a time of more innocence. I find as I’m getting older and the pace of life has picked up, I long for the days of my youth. For awhile, I have them through your writing.

    Thank you Sandra – looking forward to #4!!

  24. Please do not enter me in the contest as I own and treasure all of Sandra’s books…..she is a favorite and one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

    Gayla

  25. What a sweet story. I think thats always true about children. Their innocense gives you a feeling that everything will be alright. Sometimes I also wish to go back to the days when I was so carefree and all I could think about was my puffy shirt 🙂

    Great guestpost.

  26. Sandy,

    I absolutely loved your blog entry. You never cease to amaze me with your wonderfully joyful view of the world. You are an inspiration. You (and your inner child) have taught me more than I think you could ever know. Never let that part of you that believes in the magic of jumping beans be drowned out by the stresses of adult life.

    I can’t wait for your next book! I’m sure it will be as fabulous as the first three!! I’ll be in touch soon… I have a lot to catch you up on. Take Care and have a great day!

    xoxo,
    Sarah

  27. Donna, Jacqui, Gayla, Marcy, Violet, and Sarah – Thanks so much for stopping in, and for your kind words.

    Eve, Katie, Kristina, Meredith, and Tiffany – Thanks again for inviting me to guest blog. The best to each of you. May your careers continue to flourish, and writing always bring you joy.

    Continued blessings,

    Sandra Kring

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