A student called me a sponge. He said I absorb everything people say to me. I think he meant it as a warning to other students. Watch out for this one, she’s tricky. She’ll absorb you.
I do observe and take in the people I meet. It’s always been true. I still have speech mannerisms picked up from cousins I met in Ireland when I was 13, college roommates, fourth graders I taught in 1993. I can tell how someone is secretly really feeling from a mile away. I remember names instantly. I absorb people. I’m like an X-Files monster.
|I might be this.|
A person cannot go around feeling other people’s feelings all day long and function like a proper adult in society. I have a complex set of coping mechanisms to deal with this hyper-sensitivity, including but not limited to starchy carbs, extended gym workouts and writing novels.
I write novels because if I did not then how could I have answered the questions I had after spending a year in the classroom with a young sociopath who lived to inflict pain on other boys? I wrote The Cameraman about a kid who beats up his victims in boys’ bathrooms from the point of view of the bully’s fascinated classmate who films the beatings to show on his website.
I wrote The Spider Man after spending eight years teaching hundreds of underestimated and powerful high school girls. Without writing a novel about a character channeling the ancient goddess Brigid in the new millennium, how could I have expressed my awe for those girls who were determined to use all of their considerable gifts to do nothing less than save the world?
I wrote How To Be Manly about a funny and loving teenaged boy struggling to become a man when his male role models are a dad who is deadbeat at best, dangerous at worst, and a grandfather whose dementia renders him more like a child every day. How do you learn to become a man of worth and honor when the person raising you is a grandmother who sees you only as a boy? How do you build self worth when to your own father you are worth nothing? I see boys accomplish this very thing every day. I’m dying to know how they do it. So I go home to my computer and turn into a boy for a few hours a day and I tell his story.
I write my stories for the young women and men forging through their own private odysseys in these crazy times. I see them slay their own monsters with daily courage and ingenuity. I didn’t start out trying to be a Young Adult novelist, but when I sit down to type, sometimes very young voices come out.
Stories line up in my brain like trains in a station, not so patiently waiting for their turn to be told. I’ve absorbed them and now they must come out. They must come out or I can’t sleep, I cry too much, and I become cross over nothing.
My student was right. I absorb stories, roll them over in the tumbler of my imagination. It’s all I know to do with everything I see, know and feel through my own journey as a human being in this world.
Call me the Story Eater.
Call me the Story Eater.