Today's title post comes from author Charlotte Agell
How is it that a character arrives, steals my heart, annoys me to pieces at awkward moments, and demands that I write down her story? It’s always a mystery.
India walked in through a few different doors. To begin with, there was a memoir by a student at the middle school where I work. This fifth grader was adopted from China and was quite new to the United States. Lili’s story moved me, on so many levels, particularly her raw emotion about her birth mother. It got under my skin and stayed there, the way the best writing does. Writing down India’s feelings about her birth mother was a way to gnaw on that bone, to keep considering the issue.
Writing does help me digest things, and may be part of why I keep doing it. India’s father, for example, lives with his partner, Richard. At the time of my writing this book, Maine was on the cusp of validating a legislative decision in favor of gay marriage. This decision was reversed by the voters, but was very close. We are inching toward respecting marriage as marriage here in Maine (as opposed to only between a man and a woman). I wish it were already so! Richard and Andrew exist in the book for several reasons, and one of the reasons is surely that I am rooting for their right to be the couple that they are. This doesn’t mean that India is instantly in favor of her new step-parent, despite his obvious charms, or that the book is about gay marriage. Hardly. It’s about the realities of India’s life and times, a story of a certain girl in a certain time in a certain place.
Writing can be a bit like weaving, too, although I’m hardly one to engage in fiber arts (my knitting turns to knots). India’s story is mostly utter fiction, but inside it dwell pieces of my past: the unidentified flying object I saw with childhood friends in Sweden, my friends’ (yes, sadly plural) breast cancer, dogs I have known and loved. In India’s “accidental adventures” there are remnants of my own childhood adventures– I, too, made a snake mistake. That’s just where it starts, of course. These things take on a life of their own, or they are not stories but memories. For me, there are many ways into a fictional landscape. Once I arrive there, I have only to walk around and listen, making sure, of course, to capture anything I notice in print – even if it means waking up at 3 a.m. to make note of it. It’s a joy to walk around Wolfgang with India and her friends. I’m pleased to say that next she goes off to camp (and encounters her worst enemy there), but that’s another story!