We’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.
I 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.