our stories, ourselves

An author and I were talking about her new novel, which at the time was very much a work in progress. She was upset because she wasn’t as far along in the writing of the book as she thought she’d be by the time we met. Further, the story seemed to be taking some turns that she hadn’t expected and she was feeling challenged, forced to rethink characters, scenes, and the end of the story. I was quiet, letting her tell me about what was going on with her characters…and before long, she was sharing much of what was going on in her life.

Life was delivering some pretty rough blows just then—family illness, disappointments in loved ones, financial upset. Life was taking her on a twisting and turning journey, throwing up surprises, road blocks, and forcing her onto new and frightening paths. She wanted the characters in her book to be clear and level, she wanted her book to be her soothing solace, her nurturing escape from the roughness of what was going on in her life. But instead, just the opposite seemed to be happening. Her characters were revealing themselves to be complicated, multi-faceted, surprising, not always likable, but always human. Her story was becoming more complex, less easily resolved, messy. And so, in talking about her characters, we ended up talking about our own selves. We shared life stories; we railed against illness and death, we recalled our childhoods, we laughed about misguided relationships, we wondered about love, we talked about faith. We recognized that the very best stories—in books and in life—are those in which the characters make it through whatever happens, coming out the other side soiled or bruised or worse, but all the more strong and wise. And we promised each other that we’d take the same attitude towards our own lives…and if it rains, let it rain.

I’ve never forgotten that conversation and I think often of what it means to let it rain. It means allowing our stories and ourselves to learn and to grow from the changing weather. Allowing our stories and ourselves to ask for help if we seem at risk of drowning from the deluge. Allowing our stories and ourselves to rage and roar, then—when the calm comes (for there will always be a calm)—transform those storms into new landscapes with new horizons. Allowing our stories and ourselves to be flexible and limber while remaining confident in the roots we’ve got beneath and in the goals we’ve got ahead.

An author and I were talking her new novel, a work in progress. An author and I were talking about life, a work in progress. It was the very same conversation. Let it rain!

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc

drydenbks LLC

drydenbks LLC: emma d dryden’s company offers editorial & publishing consultancy services to children’s book creators & producers. www.drydenbks.com