So, I am the last party thrower of the week as part of this fantastic celebration of Jeannie’s novel, KATERINA’S WISH. Today, I have decided to explore wishes of children—but not just any children, though. Children who grew up to become children’s authors.
Before, I introduce the many generous authors who offered childhood wishes that range from poignant and tear-worthy to laugh-out-loud funny, I’d just like to say that I am thrilled to see KATERINA’S WISH finally enter the world. It is a fantastic book. Interesting. Rich. Layered (I love layered books!). It is the kind of book that lingers afterward. It is the kind of book that leaves vivid images behind. Trina is a kid that so many of us can relate to. I certainly could—that’s for sure.
For wishes are a big part of any childhood. I also think that wishes are a vital aspect of any book character, for knowing the wishes of a person (real or not) is a special peek into the heart. Often good fiction is about the wishes. The longing. And Trina has plenty of both.
So, what did some children’s authors wish for as kids?
Despite a profound lack of talent or a ability, every four years, I wished to be an Olympic athlete. I knew I could tolerate the early mornings, long practices, and other sacrifices. I’d even be kind of noble about it. I’ll let you guess whether or not that one came true.
When I was in second grade I had a friend who lived in a trailer, and I thought it would be so cool to live in that compact space and be able to move wherever you pleased (in theory). So when I grew up I wanted to live in a trailer, drive a cute red Chevy Chevette and eat Fruit Stripe gum any time I wanted. I also wanted to be an Olympic ice skater like Dorothy Hamill. I never did take lessons, but I did get the hair cut she made famous, and that was good enough for me (and probably less dangerous).
My childhood wish was to play in the NFL. It wasn’t until fifth grade, when scrawny little me received my “Stars of the NFL” paperback ordered through the Scholastic Book Club, and made a sobering discovery: Everyone in the book was male and about 200 lbs. I was bummed for a few days and then decided I wanted to be a writer.
I wished for a pony. I got braces instead.
I had a lot of childhood wishes, but the first one that leapt to mind was wanting to turn our basement into a perfect replica of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, complete with chocolate river and boat ride. I drew up plans and everything. My parents, strangely, refused to let me begin construction. They were not totally unreasonable, however: they let me flood our back yard one freezing night to see if I could make an ice rink (that didn’t work so well either).
I also wished I could ride on a starship. Still do.
When I was in kindergarten, my wish was that when I grew up I would be
able to work at the checkout counter at Stop and Shop with my best
friend Amy. When I moved up to to first grade, I upgraded my wish to
World Peace — slightly more difficult to attain.
When I was a kid I wanted to be a famous actress. I forced my mom to let me audition with a “NY agent” who came to our small town to find talent. My mom let me audition but quickly pulled me out of contention. I was so mad because my friend’s mom let her go to the next step and travel to NY to meet with the agent. A few months later, the agent was sent to jail for stealing kids’ money by telling them she would make them a “star.” I went all the way to a theater major in college before I realized that I was really talentless. Then I switched to screenwriting, which gradually led me to here. However, let me say that I was writing stories all through my childhood, usually stolen plot ideas from The Brady Bunch. But I never really thought about being an author–not when there was a possibility of being a huge movie star. Funny, because now I will be signing my autograph, which I worked on endlessly as a kid. Still looks horrid, though, so the practice did no good.
Here are the wishes I can actually remember:
1) lots of wishes about being famous, usually as a writer/poet but occasionally as a dancer (don’t ask)
2) LOTS of wishes about one cute girl or another…not quite what I want to be known for
3) sadly, that’s about it…I was a little fixated on the whole writer/girl thing as a teen
My wish was to become an elementary school teacher, which I did. I actually did wish to be a writer for a bit, but as I grew up, I never considered it as a career path. I do remember in 4th grade starting the first few chapters of a fan-fiction Nancy Drew story, but I abandoned that, leaving Nancy stranded on her front lawn just as a mysterious helicopter had landed. My teacher was big into reading and writing that year, and that really planted the seed for me as both a reader and writer. The next year, in 5th grade, however, we switched classes for all subjects, much like middle school, so I didn’t know my teachers as well as I had in earlier grades. One day I turned in a story I wrote for English, and the teacher called me up to her desk and asked if I’d actually written it, or copied it from somewhere. I told her I wrote it myself, but I could tell she didn’t believe me, and I was mortified. I remember “dumbing down” my writing assignments after that, and didn’t write again for pleasure until I was in my 30s.
My childhood wish was to be able to see the teeny-tiny people I was SURE lived in the walls of our house. I’d set up little rooms for them and even set out food. =)
Well, my whole life was about wishes. One of the more goofball ones was my deep, deep, thought-about-it-so-much-it-was-distracting wish to be able to travel back in time to the world of Little House on the Prairie. (Yeah, I know) I wanted to be able to bring Laura forward in time to shock and amaze her with the terribly futuristic culture of the 1970’s. Just imagine what she would have thought of a transistor radio, a Buick, or my Huffy Dill Pickle Bicycle.
I also spent a lot of time imagining how I would intro each new thing as well. None of that, “Hey, look at this!” and then just flipping the switch. No, I would come up with ways to have her think one thing and have the item turn out to be something different. Somehow, I think I would have transformed into some ten-year-old version of Alan Funt.
The really weird thing (Again—I know) though? I never liked Laura that much. I probably should have focused on bringing Nellie forward in time. Proudly sporting a bow in her hair the size of a propeller, she would have insisted that she knew how to drive that Buick even though she’d never laid eyes on one. Still, though, it would have been an adventure.
When I was young, my one wish was to discover my talent, the thing I was meant to do. Pretty sure I finally got it.
When I was 15 years old, my father was on a wait list for a kidney donation, so I wished for that a lot, sometimes even prayed for it, even though we weren’t religious and I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God. One time, I was alone in the house when I got a call from his doctor saying that my dad was next up on the list for a compatible kidney, but only if it didn’t match the person who was first on that list. Unable to contact my parents (this was before cell phones) and not sure of “the right way” to pray, I copied the way Meggie did it on the TV miniseries The Thornbirds–kneeling dramatically in a patch of sunlight and closing my eyes. But a kidney never came. My father died a year later. –Hilary
I spent my first many years wishing I was a cowboy–a handsome man on horseback, a man with a fast gun who took care of trouble fast. I wished it when I went away to Catholic horse camp, when I dressed as the Lone Ranger, when I grew into Butch Cassidy, when I sat outside our small basement apartment and stared into the field across the street. Once, watching a rodeo, I put my name into a drawing for a horse and sat there in the stands with a tiny daring hope that I would win it. It’s that horse hope I stil think about today–what it means to believe in the impossible–to make a wish against all reason–the horse, the gun, the slow ride out of town.
To gallop on the Black Stallion faster than the wind.
To be interviewed by Oprah. To go to Disneyland everyday.
To be on Broadway!
And last but never least. The woman of the hour. The woman of the day. The woman of the whole darn week! Our own Jeannie Mobley!
I think I was more of a dreamer than a wisher–that is, I was always daydreaming myself into another life or another world, but I don’t remember explicitly wishing for those things to come true. I spent hours practicing figure skating in my socks on the kitchen floor and imagining a daring and heroic gold medal finish at the Olympics, but that never went so far as me actually enrolling in skating lessons. And of course as a pre-teen and teen I spent far too many hours wishing I was prettier, thinner, and more popular, but I consider those to have been frivolous wishes.
The summer between third and fourth grade, my family took a trip to Canyonlands National Park and spent the summer hiking and exploring. I came home from that trip wanting to be an archaeologist, a wish that I held onto unwaveringly. When I was sixteen, my parents let me go on an archaeological dig for a week, thinking I’d get bored and want to come home. At the end of the week, I called and asked if I could stay longer.
When I was in junior high and high school, I had many English teachers who pushed me to become a writer, and though I completed three novels before I graduated from high school, I never intended to make a career out of writing. It wasn’t until I was around thirty that I came back to writing fiction, and not until I was past forty that I decided to pursue it as a career.
Well, thank goodness you did, Jeannie, or we wouldn’t be here celebrating your dream come true. Your beating the odds. Your amazing achievement that will get readers to think—and even learn a thing or two! (Gasp!)
Congrat’s my friend. It has been an honor, a privledge, and a joy to be with you on this journey. I look forward to our continued travels…
And finally, to end this week of wishes and dreams, here’s a magic carp for YOU to wish on. You just have to print it out and fold it first.
Here’s hoping all your wishes come true!