February 4, 2008

NIBEM 4: Rainbows and Ruminations

Rainbow weather in Goleta yesterday. Woke up to heavy rain that alternated with periods of bright sunshine throughout most of the day. Late in the afternoon after a sudden pounding shower I saw the first rainbow. Vivid arcs of color layered over dark rocky mountains. "Rainbow, it's a rainbow!" I repeated to myself like a mantra as I ran to get the camera. By the time I got outside to take a picture, the rainbow had already started to fade. I stayed outside with my little digital camera until my eye could no longer see any color. About ten minutes later it appeared again and I ran out in my barefeet to take another round of photographs.

The outcome of my attempts photograph the rainbows was less than satisfactory. Rainbows are surprising and wonderful, but they are also fleeting and almost impossible to capture in a photograph. In fact, the very act of trying to take a picture of it, ruined my opportunity to enjoy it. Rainbows surprise and delight. They are elusive gifts and should be cherished for that attribute as well as their beauty.

Speaking of elusive gifts...now I need to address the big issue. The elephant in the middle of the room issue. Writing. For the past four days it has been pretty easy for me to sit down and write 500 word entries for this blog. I am definitely writing more quickly and haven't been obsessing about quality or rewriting–at least not too much. Why can't I do this with my Emelia manuscript?

I don't understand why tackling that writing is so hard for me. I love Emelia. I love the character I've created, and I love the real "Emelia" who inspired me to write the story to begin with. Real Emelia (henceforth referred to as RE) shares a lot in common with my ficitonalized version. She is a latina girl, and at least when she was a student at the school where I work, she was overweight and lonely. RE was the reason I started the lunchtime walking club. I wanted to give her lunch break a focus besides food. The exercise aspect was important, but I also wanted her to have a chance to make some new friends.

Most days I had to hunt her down in the cafeteria and cajole her into walking with the group. She was a slow and plodding walker and I spent a lot of time encouraging her to keep up. We only walked for 30 minutes, but to RE it probably seemed like a marathon. She always gave the impression that there was somewhere else she'd like to be, but she did come with us most days.

I was amazed at the beginning of the next year when a teacher showed me RE's response to a question on a test given annually to English Language Learners. The question was "What makes a good leader?" RE wrote “A good leader for me will have to be my computer teacher cuz last year we join a walking club We did a lot of walking whith her She’s a good leader for me" Her words (with her own punctuation) made me realize that participating in the walking club had actually meant something to her, even though she'd never said anything directly.

Her words are the reason I wanted to write Emelia. I want to capture and embellish her experience and show readers the universal aspects of adolescence. RE's visible obstacles and her emotional struggles aren't that different from other students' seeking to find a level of self-acceptance that will allow them to function comfortably in middle grade society. By sharing RE's experience through the fictionalized world of Emelia I could possibly give readers a reassuring perspective on growing up.

Oops. 6:45 a.m. Time to get ready for work. To be continued later.

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