Motherhood & Words

This morning as I headed out the door for a walk, there was a crispness to the air, a hint of fall. I always feel melancholy as summer winds down, and that’s there—the knowledge that another summer is coming to an end, and that fall, then winter are right around the corner.

But mixed in with the melancholy is, I have to admit, some relief. I’m very much looking forward to having the house to myself again, to getting back into my routines: meditation, writing, mid-day runs (hopefully, if my hip and gallbladder cooperate).

But it’s been a good summer—a summer on the patio, a summer with family and friends, a summer of books, a summer of noodling. (Thanks, Levi Weinhagen, for reminding me how much I love that term.)

Last month, I realized I needed to shake up the structure of my novel. Or maybe I didn’t need to, but what if? What if I blew it wide open, introduced another narrator? I thought about it on walks, in the early morning, my head fizzy with possibility, a new voice starting to take shape. But was it the right voice? A sixteen-year-old boy? What did I know about teenage boys? Was I crazy?

So I turned to my Facebook friends, searching for male narrators to help convince me I was on the right track. I ordered every book that was recommended, and Donny and I are making our way through the stack. So much fabulous YA fiction! I can’t get enough of it. Here is some of what I’ve been reading and loving:

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley – I don’t usually read fantasy, but even before I opened this book, I knew I’d love it. And I was right; it swept me away. I fell in love with Aza Ray and Jason. I wept uncontrollably at both the beginning and end, which prompted many hugs from the girls.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I’m not sure how many times I’d picked this up in the bookstore and turned it over, smiling as I read the inside flap. So when a friend recommended it for my quest, I knew it was time. It’s so damn good. I was giddy as I read, nodding my head, desperate for these two to find their way together. Like Magonia, this book has alternating narrators, and it works so well. So well.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alíre Sáenz – How have I not read any of Sáenz’s books before? He’s amazing, and he’s a powerhouse having written eighteen books, including poetry, novels, short stories, and children’s books. I raced through this beautiful book with my heart in my throat, so worried about these two young men, so wanting them to be okay. LOVE!

Small Damages by Beth Kephart – You know that I love Beth’s writing (which I’ve written about here and here), and though this novel doesn’t have a male narrator, it’s been on my list for a long time, so I was excited to dive into it. I was not disappointed. It’s beautiful and sad and hopeful. I could feel Spain come alive on the page, almost smell the citrus in the air. Just lovely.

I’ll keep going with the pile stacked high on the floor of my office, but now it will be for pure enjoyment rather than reassurance. These awesome books have helped me trust that young man taking shape in my mind. So I’ll noodle about him a little longer and as soon as everyone clears the house and heads back to school, I’ll let his voice spool out across the page.

What are you noodling on this summer?

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Jennifer Wolfe on August 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    I’ve been noodling on a novel all summer, listening for the characters to form. Sadly, the end of my summer is exactly the opposite of yours-I’m back to teaching, and the days not my own whatsoever.

    • Kate on August 11, 2015 at 7:52 am

      Oh Jennifer, I know! That’s so hard. My teaching allows me my mornings still, so it’s freer than yours. I wish you had a fall to yourself to get those characters down on the page.

  2. Sue on August 10, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Love reading YA- read and enjoyed Eleanor and Park. Will put the others on my list. I am enjoying summer but feeling adrift and unable to write. Hoping the fall structure helps with that. I obviously needed a retreat!

    • Kate on August 11, 2015 at 7:53 am

      Sue, I SO wish you’d been there this year. I missed you. But I hope the fall brings more grounded time and lots of writing. xox

  3. Melissa Uchiyama on August 11, 2015 at 12:33 am

    I wonder what you’d think of Vaclav & Lena. It’s really different–everything is in this neutral, 3rd person language, but the writing itself is so close, so real & intimate.

    • Kate on August 11, 2015 at 7:53 am

      I’ll add it to my list, Melissa! I’m up for anything!

  4. Joy Riggs on August 11, 2015 at 7:39 am

    That’s so exciting, Kate! You must be on the right track with the structure shake-up — your energy about it practically leaps off the page. If you need to observe any real-life teenage boys, or have technical questions about video games or super heroes, I have two in-house experts.

    • Kate on August 11, 2015 at 7:54 am

      Joy, ha! I’ll be stopping by to observe!

  5. kristen on August 11, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I know these feelings; I need the quiet house to write too. I’m excited to hear you are working on a novel. Fingers crossed the noodling goes well. xxk

    • Kate on August 11, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Thank you, Kristen! xox

  6. Andrea on August 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    So great! Sounds like you’ve got a lot of fun noodling ahead of you this fall. So excited to hear about your novel!! And I’ll look for some of these for my teenage son (not that he listens to anything I have to say, but…).

    • Kate on August 11, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Oh yes, do recommend them to him, Andrea! I think (hope) he’ll like them.