The Real Audience
Oh, Writer Friends, I have been thinking Very Deep Thoughts these last few days. Thoughts about childhood, and why I write, and who my real audience is. Is it because it’s spring, and the does are dropping their fawns in the field by my house? Does it have something to do with the oak pollen sifting down from the live oaks on the hill, salting everything until the whole world glitters, saffron and gold?
Maybe I’ve been reading too much poetry.
Maybe it’s because a few people* have expressed some concern that my current dark manuscripts might be a bit dark, a bit disturbing. So I’ve been thinking of my childhood, and the books I treasured, and trying to picture who I’m writing for – and (except for my eldest son, who is my intended audience for most everything I write), the child I see reading my books when I close my eyes to picture it… is me. Me at nine, or ten. Skinny, smaller than the rest of my class, younger by two years, a big bobble-head full of thoughts of books. I memorized pages of Emily Dickinson when I was eight. I was strange, but the books didn’t care. I loved them all: funny, scary, dark, sweet.
Honestly? I didn’t care for the sweet ones quite as much.
Maybe this train of thought was brought on by my most recent piece of happy news – the envelope that arrived form Pockets magazine, complete with its lovely, postcard-sized contract informing me they would like to publish my short story, The Class Oatmeal, this August. When I saw the acceptance letter, I flashed back to my childhood – all those hours spent sitting in Methodist churches, bored to tears, my book already finished. Waiting for my dad (the pastor) to finish his meeting/funeral/phone call/sermon, I would read the ever-present issues of Pockets over and over.
It’s nice to have a story there. I’m pleased. I used my less-than-1,000 words to spread the Gospel a little bit more, as unobtrusively as I could! I know those friends who are worried over my recent forays into the scary stuff (middle-grade scary, not true horror) will love this short story, will approve of it.
But I wonder why they can’t see the glittering message — the one I believe lies at the heart of all I write, that same good news of hope, grace, possible salvation, even — in the darker works? It’s not as glaring, I know. Maybe it’s hidden for some by the humor and the tension. But to me it’s as apparent as the oak pollen on the wrought-iron chair by my door, sparkling every time the sun peeks out.
I think I would have seen it, as a kid. I write everything for the little girl I was, trying however I can to reach her – and, I suppose, all the other children who sit and wait for a story that can save them.
Who is your audience, Friends? And does spring ever make you melancholy?
Now, I’m off to work on a very sad, somewhat dark middle-grade fairy-tale-based novel that’s more magical than real — and as authentic as anything I’ve ever tried to write. I’m actually kind of scared of this one. The perfect novel for my current mood. 😉
* If you’re reading this, it wasn’t you. 😉