It simply dropped its green leaves. Okay, perhaps that's to be expected from a tree that is young and still new at this.
I fed it and tucked it into a blanket of winter mulch. Year two came and went with no red, no orange, not even brown. Maybe it was still getting it's tree legs?
More food, more TLC, and even some base plantings to suggest to the tree what color looks like.
I was full of hope this third autumn. Perhaps the maple would be inspired by the mentor trees across the street--sweet gums in full riotous reds and oranges.
Check the photo. Half the leaves are already gone--green leaves on green grass. I think my maple is a dud. A failure. Spectacular is just not in its vocabulary.
Yesterday, winter winds revealed how wrong I was.
This maple revelation reminds me of my writing journey.
For years I tried to write fiction. One story was rejected 32 times before publication. The others continue to circle through publishers, rather like water down the drain.
I thought it was because I was new at this. So, I attended conferences, took online classes, and got my BIC.
Year two and three went by, and my fiction was still "green". Mentor texts and colleagues revealed their secrets, but my imagination refused to get vivid. My writing was a failure. My stories were duds.
Then, one summer, I tried my hand at nonfiction. Research became addictive, my subject became a family member, the writing was more effortless. Turns out, creating color from my imagination isn't my strength. But constructing a nest to support the life of another is.
I'm still not good at fiction. But my picture book biography of Captain Hanson Gregory, inventor of the doughnut, will debut May 3 from HMH. And I think it is pretty spectacular.
What about you? What have you discovered about yourself as a writer? Please share in the comments.
I recently attended a community green event where we created our own vermicompost bins--otherwise known as a worm farm. The idea is to recycle kitchen veggie scraps by feeding them to the busy, homebound Red Wrigglers (Eisenia fetida). In return, they silently create an incredibly fertile compost to use in our gardens.
As I tore up strips of newspaper for their bedding, it occurred to me that a red wiggler is a great role model for a writer. They take in eggshells, carrot tops, spoiled strawberries, potato peelings, spinach leaves, and even coffee grounds. And what they leave behind after digestion is a product that is nutrient rich and capable of supporting life.
Further observation revealed five reasons to imitate a Red Wriggler.
1. Worms aren't easily discouraged.
Worms have no teeth. Yet they will tackle egg shells, bits of carrot, even coffee filters. Digestion is accomplished by a constant ripple of their muscles which works the food through their very long digestive system.
Writers may dread revising their first draft, which can be as dull as a worm's mouth. But through repeated muscle movements of our fingers on the keyboard coupled with the powerful juices of a brain in gear, we can improve and polish our words.
2. Worms reside among words.
Damp recycled newspaper makes a good home, and even a snack source, for my worms. They literally live in the stories.
Good writers surround themselves with words, constantly reading the works of others. It gives them company, informs their work, gives them mentors, and is a great pleasure. Instead of newsprint, writers need a library card.
3. Worms are what they eat.
I feed my Red Wrigglers with nutritious scraps. I avoid oil and salts, either of which can kill these busy little eaters.
I feed my writer brain with the expertise of others (conferences, online courses, professional books and magazines, and online socializing with other writers). I avoid negative people, including my own inner critique, either of which can kill my forward momentum.
4. Worms convert garbage into gold.
Over the course of a couple of months, my wrigglers do a Rumplestiltskin number on recycled kitchen waste. They spin it into high-nutrition compost that will grow my plants like Jack’s beanstalk in no time.
Over the course of many months, writers spin facts and ideas into an engaging composition that will grow the minds and imaginations of young readers.
5. Worms are not picky.
Newspaper, tea bags, bits of cardboard, and veggie scraps all go into their worm tummies and given time, come out as castings coveted by gardeners for its fertile properties.
Writers should develop a worm-brain. Worm-brain isn’t a dread medieval disease. It’s the ability to be hyper-alert to story ideas that are thinly disguised as Life.
Here’s how worm-brain works. I was watching the Kentucky Derby. I saw so many nonfiction topics laying around the track that I hurried to record them in my pocket notebook.
Worm-brain often begins with “why" or "how?” Why do women wear such exuberant hats at the Kentucky Derby? Why do the racehorses seem to have a buddy horse before the race? Why do they run counter-clockwise?
Or, you could be examining worms…
Don’t be picky. Jot it all down in your omnipresent notebook. You never know which bit will become a fertile source for a blog post, magazine article, or book manuscript.
Do you have worm-brain? Share your inspiration with us in the comments.
Ah, books. I never outgrew my love of children's books. My passion became a career--I was an elementary school librarian. And now I write books for kids!