Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You might be a writer if...

I've been let out on good behavior for a few days having turned in my revised critical thesis. This basically means that I have time to take care of those fires that have been burning so evenly around my house. One is the Dr. Doolittle room, which goes straight to the heart of this blog: You might be a writer try to make books come to life.

I don't mean the books you write because, of course, you try really hard to make those come to life.

I don't mean the books you read when you were a kid. Raise you hand (mentally) if you're one of those kids who tried to levitate rocks like Luke Skywalker or wondered if you really could tesser if you just thought about it hard enough.

No, I mean that you're still doing that today.

Guilty secret: I am.

Only, it isn't so secret anymore. You see, the summer residency at Vermont College assigned Linda Sue Park's Project Mulberry. Three other books were assigned with hers. We only had to read two. Being the good student I am, I only read two. But then, being the guilt student I am, after residency was over, I got the other two and read them (and I did not just write that in case any faculty members are reading my blog. Really).

Project Mulberry was assigned because of its format. Instead of Park remaining an unseen, unheard, unexperienced author, she steps in and has conversations with her main protagonist. The question posed was whether this got in the way of the actual story, if it pulled us readers out and whether that ultimately worked or was a hindrance.

Granted, all of that was interesting, but what really hooked me was the actual story. Two children raise silkworms, make thread and then embroider a project from the thread they've made to enter at the state fair.

In the words of ten year olds everywhere...Awesome!

So when my kids came home from their Montessori school needing a creative project for the year (they are in 4th and 6th grades in the same classroom), BANG! I had the perfect idea for them.

And they liked it. Yippee! Super Mom gets to secretly do good and make her favorite read come to life. Could life get any better?

It could get a whole lot more real, but I'm skipping ahead.

We ordered the worms. The girls quickly pointed out (after having read Project Mulberry, too) that the worms were more expensive in real life than in Park's story. I tried to explain that a few years had gone by, inflation, that kind of thing. I think they were still upset that reality did not exactly mirror fiction (as was my pocket book).

We pressed on, setting up shop in the garage since it's got the perfect incubating temperature at the moment, a balmy 85. Teh eggs arrive. We carefully placed them in the habitat, sprayed them with water...waited...sprayed...waited. In only six days, they began to hatch (faster than in Park's story, but no one complained this time).

Then the trouble started. We have a mulberry tree on our property, so food shouldn't have been a problem. We picked some leaves.

The worms wouldn't eat them.

Uh-oh. Silkworms eat mulberry leaves and mulberry leaves only. ONLY. What were we going to feed them?

My oldest pipes up, "the brochure the eggs came with said sometimes fall leaves are too tough."

Why didn't she tell me this before? (Let's not get into why didn't I read the pamphlet the eggs came with. I read Project Mulberry!).

So, I called my parents who always have a wild assortment of young trees growing in their yard. It was raining (storming actually), but I pleaded the case of the dying silkworms. My mom, who really must have wondered how old I was at that moment, agreed to trudge out in the deluge and check the leaves. We raced over to collect them.

Silkworms saved!

Until two days later. The temperature in Oklahoma shot up to the mid-90s. My husband, who has this thing about closing the garage door immediately after he pulls in his car, no matter how hot outside it is, did. The garage heated up.

Silkworms started dropping, like, well, like flies.

We ER-ed them into the laundry room. Painstakingly moved them from the dried out leaves to fresh, new, young, clean, delicious leaves.

Silkworms saved!

Then this morning, they started dropping again. Won't eat their leaves. Won't move. Might be in the sleeping stage, but we can't be sure. Frantically, I went online for advice. The only thing I could guestimate is that it could be mold on the leaves. Carefully, I created a new habitat, washed new leaves, and have now transferred all of the worms to their new home. My kids helped until carpool showed up.

Silkworms saved?

I really hope so because if we have to start from scratch, I will never get another word written on my novel. I have become a 24/7 silkworm caregiver. (This is not to mention the 30+ tadpoles we saved from soaring 100 degree temps in July and are now raising right next to the silkworms, of which, currently, 7 have sprouted all four legs and have greeted me mornings in the sink, on the faucet, on the sponge...).

I guess the motto of all of this is: Be careful what you wish for. I have never ever had a book come to life in such an exciting, frantic, uncertain, real way.

Does this mean I am becoming an amazingly great writer...or is my imagination finally getting the best of me?


Jenna said...

Oh, geez. That's intense. Hope those silkworms don't take too much away from your writing!

(And I, for one, am still cheezed that I can't use the Force, tesser, and make the lights come on by shouting "LUMOS!")

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What a project!
I love the concept of that book--it's always a thrill when authors find a new way to play with audience/characters/plot/pov.