Mystery and fantasy writing

Posts tagged ‘Friendship’

Great Things

As a teacher, you never know what affect you have on your students.  I was an elementary school librarian for 30 years, and occasionally, a former student will tell me how much they enjoyed coming to the library and how they loved Max, my alligator puppet.  Even though he never said a single word, everyone remembers Max because he would do things when I wasn’t looking and often tried to give me kisses on the cheek, which the children found hilarious.  I’m always surprised, too, by which books people remember out of the thousands I read aloud. Former students have mentioned The Phantom Tollbooth, The Hobbit, Harry the Dirty Dog, Cracker Jackson, and The Thief of Always.  

But what I remember from my elementary school days are two things my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. O’Brien, said to me.  Mrs. O’Brien had one green eye and one brown eye, and one day I pointed this out to her.  The minute the words left my mouth, my fifth grade self retracted in embarrassment.  Of course she knew!  She looked in the mirror every now and then, didn’t she?  And no doubt her mother must have let her in on it.  But she didn’t roll those mismatched eyes, or give an exasperated sigh, or shake her head sadly at my stupidity.  She very kindly said, “Yes, Jane, I know.”  And somewhere inside me, even at eleven years old, I realized something that changed the way I treated people from then on: that if it’s possible, you never make the other person feel bad.

And the second thing?  I don’t recall the situation, but I can still see her standing at the classroom door.  Perhaps we were going out to the playground.  Perhaps we’d just come in from lunch.  That part doesn’t matter.  What matters is what she said to me.

 “Jane, one day we’re going to hear great things about you.” 

What a wonderful thing to tell a child—or anyone, for that matter. You’re going to do great things.  You have a future.  You’re going to make a difference.

            Just like Mrs. O’Brien.

 

Male Call

Okay, I’ll confess right away that I’m the only Southern woman in the world who hasn’t seen “Steel Magnolias.” Or “Fried Green Tomatoes.” I’m sure they are wonderful stories that have brought happiness and closure to millions, but if I want to hear a bunch of women talking, I can go to any beauty parlor, teachers’ lounge, back yard or church group and hear it all in graphic gossipy detail. But what’s going on with the guys? That’s what I want to know.

I’ve always been fascinated by the friendship between two very different men. Women have loads of friends. You’ve got your shop till you drop friend, your cry on my shoulder friend, your exercise buddy, your old school friends – loads of them. Men may have a lot of pals, but usually have one really good friend, and they don’t even confide everything to him. The two friends in my Grace Street Mysteries are searching, as everyone is searching, for home and family. David Randall, my investigator, is dealing with the death of his little daughter. Camden, his best friend, is dealing with his unwanted psychic ability and the fact his mother gave him up for adoption when he was only a few days old. Both men have women in their lives they are trying to win. Both men care for each other in that strange gruff way men have.

Here’s an example of a serious discussion: “You okay?” “Yeah.”

My friend John writes only from a female perspective, all about abused women and their trials and tribulations. This is what he grew up with and what he’s trying to understand. The men in my early years, father, grandfather, and many uncles and great-uncles, were loving and nurturing, and wonderful story tellers, but there was also an air of mystery about them. You never caught them soul searching, or dissing the farmers in the pasture next door, or gossiping about, well, anything. They were sportsmen and hunters, loved to fish, could repair cars, build houses, fix faulty wiring and leaky faucets. But what went on behind those serious male faces? At times, they seemed as remote as mountains. I was always so curious, but as a child, never thought to ask.

As writers, we love to walk around in someone else’s life, to imagine how things are from the other side. I think it was Stephen King who said that a writer should have “an androgynous mind,” (although his probably has a few sharp teeth, as well.) It’s quite an adventure to explore how opposite and how very much the same the opposite sex can be. There are many things I wish I had asked my father. Now through my characters, I look for answers.

Just to make sure I’m as accurate as possible, I always run things by my brother, my touchstone for all things masculine. “Is this something a man would say?” I’ll ask. “Is this how a man would handle these feelings?” And Joe’s answer is always the same:

“Yeah.”