I just got back from the Eastern PA SCBWI Annual conference in the Poconos. It's the third year in a row that I've attended.Usually I come back from this conference revved up and ready to write... Not this year.
It's not that it wasn't fun. Sure was great to see my friends again, and meet new faces. The presenters were good and so was the food, mostly...except for that broccoli thing they served me Saturday night. I won two teapots for my collection from the raffle, and I met a wonderful author that I'd love to have come to my little guy's school. The weather was great. All in all, it was a good weekend.
But, I discovered what my story is missing: an 'essential truth.' Editor Nancy Mercado described this as an underlying theme for a story. She asks, "What captures the heart of your story?" Wow. I've been struggling over these opening chapters to my story for the better part of a year now. And this is why: I have no essential truth. I think I have a sort of superfluous truth. The 'bottom line' of my story is about as clear as chocolate pudding. So, I came home from the conference pumped up to restart my story again, after I actually find it. The 'finding' part is weighing me down.
I didn't stop to find my story today, because it was my little one's birthday. She turned four, and has placed herself next in line for the British throne, I think. Her poor older sibs are little more than servants to her, and if they don't play with her when she wants them too, off with their heads! Its hard not to laugh when she's being so saucy, because she takes herself very seriously. She's a good girl when she wants to be. We just have to keep encouraging her in that direction. If I have to, I trump her 'queen' card with my all-prevailing ace: the 'queen mother' card. Sometimes I have to, in order to free her servants from her now-four-year-old tyranny.
My fantasy story that's missing an essential truth is all about a mother/daughter relationship. I reflect on my relationships with each of my two daughters, and only find bits and pieces of what I really want to convey to my readers there. Tonight, as I held my little one in my arms and remembered the day she was born, I faced going way back... back to my own childhood. Time to drudge up my own rocky adolescence.
I do so with some angst... it wasn't pretty. My mom died almost three years ago, so the journey back to those years will be bittersweet. But it's necessary. Once I find that truth, I can finally birth this baby and let it live on its own. And let me just say right now, I'm looking forward to that happy birthday!