A Little Good News and the Star-Belly Sneetches

I got some really good news this week. The American Library Association’s Booklist publication, which goes out to libraries, reviewed my latest novel, Charlotte’s Story, and gave it a star.

Now, if you’re a Dr. Seuss fan, as I am, you might not think much of stars. The Sneetches is a book devoted to the debunking of the notion that one thing (or Sneetch) is superior to another thing (another Sneetch), and I think it’s a pretty good story. Some Sneetches start to put stars on their bellies, and get a bit above themselves, and other Sneetches get irritated. Then everyone gets a star and no one is special. But the story of the Sneetches relates more to things like status handbags, fancy cars, athletic shoes, and polo players, alligators, or golden fleeces on one’s clothes, and general I’m-better-than-you foolishness.

In publishing, it’s a bit different. A star says, “Hey. Take a closer look at this book.” That’s all. But it’s a very cool thing to me because I put found the journey of writing Charlotte’s Story challenging and yet terribly rewarding. It felt risky to me–and in a small way, that star makes me feel good about that journey. Here’s a snippet of the review:

“Murder, sexual obsession, and misogyny explode in the final scenes, bringing all the simmering evil to the surface in a shocking finale, that, like all good horror stories, is probably not the end. You just can’t look away from this bombsite—nor forget it. Dripping with southern gothic atmosphere.”
Booklist, starred review, Charlotte’s Story

 

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What’s a girl to do, once she’s got her first star? Well, I have a lot of friends who have a lot of stars, and it’s not even a big deal to them anymore. So I guess I’ll just do what they do: get back to work.

You probably already know how distractible I am. Right now I have a pretty good schedule–exercising and writing in the morning and early afternoon, homeschooling and doing the domestic goddess thing in the late afternoon and evening. I really, really loathe a schedule with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns! Every day, I tell my husband how much I hate schedules, and he nods sagely and says, “Yes. You do.”

How is it possible to detest something that’s so good for me, my mental state, and my productivity so very much???? (Hmmm. Let me think–cauliflower and green peas come to mind.) I fight it with every fiber of my being. Part of it’s the ADHD. Part of it is just plain stubbornness.

I read an article the other day about exercise. It was a study that tracked the gaits of people as they walked. Did you know that humans are genetically programmed to be as efficient as possible when they expend energy? Whether we’re stalking our food, or walking to the beach, we have our own internal rhythms that keep us from wearing out any sooner than is absolutely necessary. Even when the participants in the study prompted–physically–to go faster, they always resisted (not consciously) so that their bodies would maintain their energy-efficient, slower gait.

Do I ever identify with that study! Sometimes I feel like everyone else’s program is set one or two gears higher than mine. I want to preserve that extra 20 minutes to lie about in the morning, rather than get up and exercise. I want to write a thousand words instead of fifteen hundred at a sitting because I am reluctant to push myself that much harder. And I want to eat ALL the food at once so I don’t have to get up from the couch again (okay–that’s maybe stretching the analogy a bit). My pace is rather plodding, and I am comfortable with it that way. I fear I’m genetically programmed to not be very productive.

What do I have to say to that? It doesn’t make me very happy. So…

I say, genetics are, indeed, a thing. And thank goodness I have a brain that lets me dream of something beyond satisfying my basic needs. I can–yes! I can!– get beyond my desire to down a bag of tortilla chips (I do love a good bag of chips!). Thank goodness I have the example of other people–amazing people–who get up every day and fight their genetic impulse to conserve their energy, so they can show us how it’s done.

I still hate a schedule. I will always hate a schedule. But it’s just a feeling. The reality is that I’m engaged in a battle with myself–fighting my own genetics. My own comfortable habits. My own (dare I say that word again?) resistance.

We always want to return to the mean. The place of comfort, the happy middle. Sometimes that’s okay.

But in order to get the work done, the comfort has to be put on the schedule–just like the work. I think that way lies real peace.

What about you? What is your resistance telling you to do–or not do?

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