John Clark addressing this month’s theme of age and maturity. I’ve achieved former, but studiously avoid the latter. I’m 75, and this year my body has decided to get serious about the betrayal aspect. I won’t go into details, but trust me when I say that there are things I used to take for granted that now dance along the line that divides unwise and damn near dangerous. Nothing says humility and mortality like slipping on a wet rock wall and face-planting on a paved road. That’s a tale for another time, methinks.
Anyhow, Mark Twain’s adage about youth being wasted on the young, rumbles through my head like the MTA train that Charlie’s trapped upon in the Kingston Trio song (saw them in concert three weeks ago and they’re still awesome). Let’s face it, with rare exceptions, teens don’t write much salable fiction. They’re in the middle of the hurricane that will either make or break them, hopefully giving them experiences and insight that will allow them to be compassionate and creative after they exit the storm.
On election day, I worked at the polls in Waterville along side ten or so members of the National Honor Society at our high school. I had a chance to converse with many of them and came away greatly impressed with their motivation and insight. Would that their peers follow their example. Sadly, I know that won’t always be the case.
While many things have changed since I was a teenager, the feelings around common experiences remain the same. Getting the courage to ask someone out, having a relationship dissolve, facing the fear of doing something for the first time (magnified when on stage or in a sporting event), experiencing success, feeling frustrated by parental refusal to listen to YOUR side. These still generate the same emotional flow. Sure the politics, ‘big’ social issues, and technology are different, but those can be woven into a story no matter how old you might be.
I’m currently part of two writers groups after having none available for years. One is in person here in Waterville and the members have different types and genres of fiction. I’m sharing a book currently called (I’m Not Singing) The L.A. Blues with them. It begins in Long Beach, California but soon moves to Machias, Maine after the teen protagonist, Skye, learns that she and her mother have inherited a house and holdings worth 2 million dollars. The caveat is that they must move there and live for a year. Given that Skye has never heard Mom talk about any family and has no clue who her father might be, she’s curious as hell.
The other group is composed of SCWBI New England members from Maine (with a Colorado outlier) and came to be when the current one grew too big. For that one, I’m sharing Thor’s Wingman which is an alternate reality/urban fantasy featuring a teen who was traumatized by his father’s verbal and physical violence to a point where even after therapy, he had difficulty looking at, or talking to anyone except his mother and grandfather. However, a side benefit of his difficulty with people is his skill as a woodworker, as well as an ability to navigate the wilderness alone. When he encounters a wounded Eagle that is more than meets the eye, it sets him on a quest that involves finding a way to reach the lands of Norse mythology to retrieve something.
Both books, like most of what I’ve written, are set in Maine, using my own experiences in nature and as a mental health professional and librarian. The ability to convey the ‘Maine experience’ is something both groups have noted. Each has also given me plenty to think about and work on in these books.
Where does that leave me in terms of the theme for this month? Primarily grateful as hell that I still have a solid bank of experiences to mine in terms of what to write, plus an imagination that, so far, seems the remain ten feet tall and bullet proof.
There's a story involving all these bottle caps, but it's for another day.