Writing Practice and Meeting up with your MUSE
Writing Leap #63
When young children are diminished, passed by or pushed into the background by adults or other children the result is often a deep feeling of, “Something is wrong with me.” If your young characters experience such hurts it colors all aspects of who they are. Evoke the hurt and your young person will come alive on the page.
Hemingway said, (something like) “Find where the pain is and write about that.” He also said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Here’s my story about Mae, a six-year-old who carries around isolating feelings of not measuring up.
The Plaid Dress
A lady with a soft round face and gray curls sat down near the front of the bus on a seat facing the aisle. Settling in, she smiled at a little girl in a plaid dress across from her who was sitting next to her mother. The little girl didn’t smile back. Instead she lowered her eyes. The lady with the soft round face saw right away that the little girl’s misty eyes were blinking back a veiled sadness. The lady sensed that this was not a sudden sadness, but one that lived deep inside this little girl.
“Did you have a nice time in school today, Mae? The mother leaned over and put her arm around her daughter.”
“It was a very soft ‘Yes.’ Mae jiggled her foot in a nervous repetitive motion.
The lady with the soft round face and gray curls sniffed twice. It was a magical sniff. She was a magical person. She looked at Mae across from her and here’s what she saw.
It was Mae’s classroom. Her teacher, Mrs. Perkins, was saying, “Sophie, Lisa and Bethany, please come up front by my desk.” Three little girls in plaid dresses got up from their desks and stood beside Mrs.Perkins. “Now you, Peggy, and let’s see, you, Alison. Come up to the front with the others.”
The five girls giggled and whispered to each other. Mrs. Perkins arranged them side by side in a line and asked them to hold hands.
“Now there you are, all in plaid dresses,” Mrs. Perkins said. “Go next door and show your principal, Mr. Green, how pretty and adorable you all look.”
And then the round-faced lady on the bus saw something else in her vision. She saw a little boy next to Mae stand up from his chair and wave his hand madly at the teacher. “Mrs. Perkins, Mrs. Perkins. Wait. You forgot Mae! She has on a plaid dress!”
Mrs. Perkins looked at Mae and glanced away. “No, no, not today. Mae has a sweater on.”
The last thing the lady with the soft round face saw was Mae trying to force a smile. The lady closed her eyes and felt her heart break. The bus pulled over to a stop. Mae and her mother and the lady all got off. The lady leaned down to Mae and said, “May I say that you look so very pretty in that plaid dress! I have a granddaughter about your age and I think I’ll get her a plaid dress for her birthday.” The lady started to walk away, then turned. “She looks a lot like you. Big beautiful eyes and bangs. She lives far away.”
A tiny smile crept onto Mae’s face. It almost stretched into a big smile. “Thank you,” Mae said to the lady with the soft round face. “Say Hi to your granddaughter from me, Mae.”
To write about a child’s deep sadness, from the child’s perspective, can be challenging. What do you all think, writers?
May your writing run deep in any form you choose: realism, humor, fantasy and poetry.
Mae’s plaid dress
Sophie’s plaid dress
Lisa’s plaid dress
Bethany’s plaid dress
Peggy’s plaid dress
Alison’s plaid dress