I’m having a tough time writing the sequel to Serendipity & Me. Not sure if it’s because I’m doubtful of its publication chances, or what. But maybe by posting one of the first poems in the new manuscript I’ll get motivated. So here it is, (although I can’t get the correct indentations to work here):
I ask Dad,
Does Lola hate animals?
Of course not, he says.
Who really hates animals?
But I saw a dog approach her once
and she went the other way.
I guess they’ve never had the conversation.
The one I expect to have someday with anyone
who will be important in my life.
The one about What Is Your Favorite Animal
and How Many of Them Do You Plan on Caring for?
My answer right now would be cats
and a gazillion.
But maybe when I’m older
I’ll be more realistic about the number.
Dad takes my silence
It’s just that I think she might be nervous
I don’t want to scare her off.
The thought of Lola
makes me nervous.
I wonder if he gave any thought
For my readers who are excited about a sequel–thanks so much for your enthusiasm. It motivates me to get this written. Your keenness inspires me to do my best so that hopefully I can give you another story that you will love.
I can’t look at your ideas for a sequel, though. It needs to come from a clear space within me. But just the idea that someone is so eager to know what happens next that they start writing it themselves is very gratifying.
Feel free to write your own sequel and post it on your own space. And I’ll do my best to get my version of what happens next to Sara and Serendipity into the world as soon as possible.
Stirred to work harder….
Some readers in the past have asked me to write a sequel to Serendipity and Me. I didn’t say no, but I didn’t say yes, either. Until recently, I didn’t feel any compulsion to write a sequel.
Now, suddenly, I do. I don’t know why or where it came from. I think I just woke up one morning and went, “Oh, that’s what happens next.” And because it’s a story with characters that I love, they are goading me forward. They are telling me, “This is our story. Make sure you write it down.” And so I’ve started.
The kitten that arrived after Serendipity was already written is making writing easier. She is such a wild, weird creature that there’s all sorts of new cat material to incorporate into this manuscript.
When will I be a media star?
I don’t know how many of her antics I’ll use, but I’m happy for the inspiration.
What? You said you needed inspiration….
From Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, illustrated by Flora White (Oxford University Press, 1914)
This summer I spent a couple of weeks visiting at my parents’ house. It’s the same one I grew up in from the time I was four. My mother has been trying to weed out books for the last few years, so it was finally time to decide which books we could bear to give away and which books were coming home in my suitcase.
This “Big Golden Book” of Disney’s version of Peter Pan was one that came home with me. Not because it’s a version I’ll spend time reading again, but because it’s a writing memento.
Writers bring all their experiences in life to their work. I didn’t remember this particular book when I was writing Serendipity and Me, but my heart recognized it when I saw it again.
And I had to wonder about the influence it had on my novel that I didn’t even realize. My narrator, Sara, is supposed to play Wendy in her class’s production of Peter Pan. Throughout my book, there are references to this iconic story. It’s such a rich buffet to choose from. (Spoiler alert. The excerpt below gives something away. Scroll down quickly if you don’t want to know….)
Illustration by Alice B. Woodward, from The Peter Pan Picture Book, 1907
The Big Golden Book was one of my first introductions to Peter Pan. Along with the Disney movie, there was the original Peter Pan in library hardback (with that evocative library smell) that I read when I was about 10. And I can’t count how many other references to Peter Pan I’ve experienced throughout my life. Hook is a special movie shared with my kids. Just last night, I saw a preview for a new Pan movie.
When I was finishing up copy edits of Serendipity, I searched for and found two copies of Peter Pan to buy. One was just a normal edition. One was an anniversary edition, illustrated by Michael Hague. The 100 year anniversary! That came out several years ago. Oh, to be like J.M. Barrie and write a book that lasts so well….
The problem with getting a novel published, finally, is you can’t revise it anymore. There comes a time when the editor says, “Okay, that’s it. Off to the printer.” And everything you might want to change that you haven’t thought of yet will never get changed. That’s it, baby. You are finished.
Serendipity & Me, Viking, 2013
The kitten that arrived months after my kitten novel was released really brings home this point. I wrote that novel based on many memories of ghosts of Cats-mas past, plus the ones that lived with me at the time. But it had been a few years since any of them were kittens.
Three of the four cats at the time…
This new kitten not only brought the essence of kitten-ness much closer, but she is such a wild child that the kitten in the book could have been so much more….I hesitate to fill in that blank. Because I love my fictional kitten Serendipity. But my new kitten (now almost a cat) Katniss, well. Let me give you an example.
If I can just squeeze in here…
…a little more…
What are YOU lookin’ at?
This isn’t even a very good example. It’s just the only one I was able to get semi-action pictures of. (Although you can see a video of Katniss rescuing her stuffed mammoth from the top of a dresser on my Facebook page here.)
Katniss is like no other cat I’ve ever known. She carries stuffed animals half her size around in her mouth, drags them upstairs and down. She has this strange motion when she’s drinking water from a cup–left paw to the right lower side of the cup, batting at who knows what. She’s quite adept at catching flies between her two paws. And apparently her dream is to fly, evidenced by the height to which she jumps whenever the mood takes her.
So now I have the perfect cat to base an intriguing cat character on. But unfortunately, that novel ship has already sailed.
Or maybe another novel about a cat isn’t too much…?
You talkin’ about me?
Like Sara with Serendipity, there’s a new baby in the house.
We were on the porch eating dinner when we heard the sounds of a kitten in distress. My son (Corey), his friend and I raced outside and found her across the street, in the bushes leading down to the river. She was far from any houses on that side of the street. We came to the conclusion (from the scrape on her chin) that she’d been thrown from a car, left to fend for herself. She seemed scared to be alone and came to us gratefully.
We brought her in the house and she made herself at home. My son said he’d take her to college with him. I thought that was a good idea. At the time. Now she’s been here a week and I can’t imagine how it will feel to have her gone.
I would tell you her name, but my son has yet to name her and he won’t let me do it. (Her name is Skitters. Don’t tell him I said that.)
Here is an odd thing: Corey’s cat died of extreme old age in May. Princess was an unusual-looking cat. Technically a calico, but with less white than they usually have. This new kitten, except for her face, could be a twin to Princess. She even walks the same way.
We miss Princess and we’re very grateful for such a perfect replacement.
Although the cornfield boys aren’t too happy about it….
A week from tomorrow (3-22), Serendipity & Me will be festively launched at my church (Hively Avenue Mennonite Church, 800 E. Hively, Elkhart, Indiana–7:30-10:00 p.m.).
The best of the festivities come in the form of a cover band called Re/Issued. These guys always do my book parties, and I am extremely grateful to them for that. It helps to have a husband in a band when you’re throwing book launches!
They are quite a collection of loveable guys with talent and wit. In the picture below, they pause briefly from practicing last night for the event. From left to right: Byron Warkentin, Paul Boers, Bob Birkey, Marc Roth. Come for the books, stay for the music. (Or just come and stay for the music!)
When I was asked to move Serendipity & Me from a picture book manuscript to a novel-in-verse, the story had to expand. Obviously. “I think you have more to say about this little girl and her father,” the editor said. I just had to figure out what it was.
It shouldn’t have been too surprising that I learned the father was a professor at a small college–one just like the college I went to. Because a cat was deep at the heart of my college experience.
He was found outside my dorm by a suite mate. “What are you going to do with him?” I asked when she pulled the kitten out of her jacket in my dorm room. She didn’t know. She willingly gave him over to me. He was Not Allowed, so my roommate and I hid him in our room.
We thought we were doing well, but after about three weeks, the RA came to us. “I can’t keep pretending I don’t see him when he keeps showing up in my room,” she said. The little stinker would crawl under our door and head straight to hers.
Fortunately, my fiance’s RA was happy to pretend he didn’t see Stinky. So Stinky spent the next several months in Marc’s dorm room until we got married at the end of the semester.
Cat culprits on campus
Stinky spent a lot of time in Marc’s dorm window, obvious to all passersby that Unallowable Activity was happening in that room. But no one said anything. When I wrote about Sara’s father pretending not to notice the kittens in the dorm window, it was how I imagined the authorities at my college reacted to Stinky in Marc’s window.
Stinky, about 3 years later