Last night I slept on an air mattress in an unfurnished farmhouse at the edge of the Baraboo Bluffs. From my makeshift office on the front porch, I listen to the wind rustle the leaves of a nearby pear tree and the red winged black birds perched atop corn stalks trilling their joyous melodies back and forth. I know this relative silence and solitude would not be everyone’s dream, but it seems to feed my writer’s soul.
Sophie barks, and then races off to sniff the air at the edge of the cornfield where cows graze in the distance. I think about Virginia Wolf, who said a women writer needs a room of her own, and think “Wow,” I had no idea how much I needed this place, this space, this openness. It helps my mind focus on what is important and fortunately, even if my loved ones don’t relate, they’ve been remarkably supportive.
A beep on my cell signals a text, just as I write these words. It’s from my son. From a place where the noise never stops, where twelve million people jostle for space and where the constant din of subways and sirens would surely drive me mad, but on which he seems to thrive.
A prodigious reader, yet still a man of few words, he writes: It’s a masterpiece.
He’s just finished my book. Double Exposure, the story of an intersex teen athlete, and though over the past few week the reviews have been rolling in, this is the one I value most!
Because when my son was a teen himself, he set a rule that he would only read my books after they got published, thus saving himself the agony of reviewing countless messy drafts, I’m sure. Nevertheless, on occasion he let me read him passages I was puzzling over, which he would then critique. His honest perspective, and believe me it was honest, became a kind of weathervane for my work. Now he is twenty-three, he still reads vociferously, and he still doesn’t dally in hyperbole, so I trust him.
With a sense of accomplishment and elation, I text back: Call me when u can.
When we do talk, he tells me that this story is about way more than identify or gender or basketball, that it’s a story every human being in the world will relate to, because this is a book about the deep need to belong, to fit in, to be accepted and loved for who you are.
I pummel him with questions, which he answers succinctly and finally says, “Mom, don’t change a thing. It’s perfect the way it is.” Then adds, almost incredulously, “You even got the technology right!”