Thursday, September 20, 2012

Touchstone Moments

Now that I am working on my plan to make the rest of my life as wonderful as possible, I dug up a list I started making a couple of years ago of what I call "touchstone moments" for my writing life, moments of pure joy in being a writer.

Here are a few of them:

1. sitting on the front steps of a little rented house in Princeton, on a day I took off from work at my secretarial job at Four Winds Press/Scholastic, working on the revisions to my first children's novel, Luisa's American Dream

2. writing a chapter of The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda Macleish in the tucked-away loft of the Hollins University Library during the two weeks I spent there as writer-in-residence one summer

3. writing the first line of How Oliver Olson Changed the World in a motel in Green River, Utah, on a family vacation: "Oliver Olson looked up at the moon."

4. having a date at my friend Leslie's house to try to see what would happen to a pickle if we put it in the oven at increasingly higher temperatures - research for the science experiment in Fractions = Trouble! where Josh is trying to answer the question "At what temperature does a pickle explode?"

5. waking up at the Times Square Mariott Marquis Hotel when I was in NYC as a judge of the 2005 National Book Award in the category of Literature for Young People

6. staying in a little tiny room on a little tiny hall in a converted former orphanage at a convent in Mendham, NJ, for a poetry writing retreat

7. walking with other writers at the annual Children's Literature Festival in Warrensburg, Missouri, to see some cows

8. sipping champagne and eating strawberries at the spring reception for new books by local authors at the Cheshire Cat bookstore in Washington, D.C., many many years ago

9. getting up early when I was in junior high school and writing my autobiographical book T Is for Tarzan while listening to WABC on my transistor radio

10. going to see the film Julie and Julia with my writing group on one of our summer retreats at Lake Dillon

11. writing at the general store in the Colorado mountain town of Gold Hill with my friend Cat

12. writing poetry based on prompts from the first lines of Petrarch sonnets with two other poet friends. The best prompt was: "I swim a sea that has no shore or bottom. . .. "

So here's what I want the rest of my life to be: a life with more moments like these.  That isn't so hard. I  want to collect more glimmering, shimmering moments of writing joy.  First I want to have them.  Then I want to write them down on my list.  Then I want to savor them in memory.  I can do this!


  1. I have to ask: At what temperature does a pickle explode?

    Also, is cleaning the pickle spray from the oven part of the Touchstone Moment?

    [Bonus question: does a pickle explode at a higher or lower temperature than a cucumber?]

  2. Claudia, I love these, and you've inspired me to recall my own touchstone moments...I'll put them in my handy-dandy "Accomplishments" journal that I began the day after the Illinois-SCBWI workshop!

  3. Alas, Scott, a pickle does not explode at any temperature, just gets completely black and smoky and as lightweight as a feather. There was no cleaning of the oven, but there WAS replacement of the microwave, which shorted out during the course of the experiment. Carol, I'll await your touchstone moments!