Just gotta clear my head of some wandering, yet troublesome thinking. You may click out now if you'd like because honestly this one is really about sorting my brain compartments and maybe the worse piece of crap I have ever published. Or it may be brilliant. Not likely, but possible.
I met a child, really, online playing Literati in Yahoo Games several years ago. I had been playing that scrabble-type game for many months when she first joined to watch one of my games in progress. I welcomed her to the room and she said very little. The chat box was fairly empty at the end of that game and I invited her to sit and play. She passed saying she had things she needed to get done, but asked if she could look me up another time for a game. I had no idea who she was, where she was, her age, her intellect nor her intentions.
The next night she did in fact, find me and ask to join my game when the one I was playing ended. I agreed. We started to get acquainted through the chat box and the game took a long time to play. We actually talked more than we played and I closed the room to other players or viewers so we could talk privately. She told me a bit about herself. She lived in Oahu, Hawaii and was a high school student. She had recently moved in with her brother because her step-mother had not wanted her in her home. She didn't give many details, though I asked. She was stingy with details but gave me enough information to know she had some issues and I thought she was in need of an ear. I had two of them, so I lent them. She told me English was her second language and playing scrabble or any other word game, helped her learn more and feel more confident. She was of Mexican and Hawaiian decent. Her first language was Spanish and her Hawaiian was fluent, she felt her English was adequate, but needed more development. She asked the definition of a lot of the words used in scrabble. Some were easy enough and some I would look up and dumb down the definition for her. It was a fun way to spend a few hours each night.
Yes, each night. She and I talked and played for a few hours almost every night for over 4 years. She became my very dear and very close online "granddaughter". I can tell you, I loved this girl. She sent me drawings that she had done and they hang framed in my office still.
My kids were and are, very skeptical that she was real or anything like what she said she was. They think it was just someone messing with me and ultimately hurting me. I will never know. I will never think she was anything less than I believed at the time and I have absolutely no reason to hold on to those beliefs. I just do. If the kids are right and she never was, I loved and cherished the girl I believed she was. If I was right, I lost a valuable and precious friend.
To summarize, I learned and lived her life with her for the four plus years that she was able to type and communicate with me. She was as real as any friend I have ever known. I cried many nights with her and for her and I prayed for her, always.
I chatted with her boyfriend, eventually husband, and became friends with him also. I liked him a lot and as she grew sicker and sicker, I talked with him even more. When she was gone, we continued to talk. I sent him the first draft of the story the day after I finished it. He gave me his blessing to continue with it and publish it, if I wished, and assured me she would have loved that I did this.
He has disappeared from my life now. He remarried a couple years after she passed and he kept in contact with me until that marriage dissolved and I cannot find him. I have reached out to him over and over and get nothing in return. This could tell me something. It could mean he doesn't want me in his life for any number of reasons or that he made the whole thing up for over 7 years and is tired of the game. I will never know, unless he contacts me at some point. I have no address or phone number for him only email, which is now closed and the yahoo messaging we used to use returns nothing to me.
My book, The Island Princess, is all about this girl and her family and my relationship with her. She called me "Abuelita" which I believe is Spanish for "Grandma" or more literally "Little Grandmother" and is used as a more endearing form of Grandmother. Perhaps like we might say, Grammy or Nana or any of the other names we use for the Grandma that is special.
My problem now is that I have decided to re-write parts of the book and republish it. Good decision because although I love the story as it was, I think it could be better. I asked someone I respect a great deal to be honest with me about the book and she was. I thought about what she said and mulled it around and reread the book and aside from the fact that I may have accidentally published the draft version, rather than the edited one, which I did, it could be told better. The story is a great one. The telling could be improved. I took her ideas and put them in my brain and started earnestly to make the changes. I haven't gotten very far. I keep stopping to cry or remember or just evaluate what I want the reader to see as I am writing.
I have discovered that I cannot think about the reader as I write. It stops me in my tracks. I keep thinking, "I can't tell this story. It's too close. It's too painful. It's too hard. I can only tell it the way I originally did. I can't change the format. I can't think of who's reading. I can only tell the story as it was told to me." I realize now that whether this story ever gets its due, meaning someone out there reads it and is moved, or not, it is finished. I cannot rewrite this particular story. I am cleaning it up. Removing some errors. I will do what I feel good about doing, but this story is not mine to change or embellish. It is her story whether she ever existed or not. It is my job to share it as she shared it with me.
So my head is all full now of doubt. I don't know if I have been on the wrong track all along or if I just don't have "it" or if blog writing is for me and I should just do this and stop with the grandiose thinking...
I wonder if all the people who have encouraged me all these years after reading my manuscripts are just people who are being kind to me because they love or like me a lot. I wonder if the stories I have written are just plain blah. Did I somehow let my loved ones encourage me toward something I am just not capable of doing?
I know we all work so hard to get just the right words, just the right scene, just the right colors in our work and I'm no different. The truth is, though, that none of that matters if the ability to make the story feel real isn't there. If you don't know and care about the characters, the story doesn't matter. I don't know that I have that ability. I don't know.
I do know, am certain about this one thing, if a writer ASKS you for an opinion on their work, give it. Be honest and kind. It isn't that hard, but it does take a few moments. I suggest you wait to be asked, it will be accepted more openly. I have asked several people and I have only gotten one negative reply. I believe that one showed me more than all the positive ones by making me accept I may have limitations in talent. I may have bitten off more than I can chew and I may have to store the left overs. Perhaps if I freeze them, I'll develop or discover a new recipe that will make them more palpable to others.
Reviews are very helpful and very instructive when they come from honesty and kindness. Please give both when you are asked.