The Big Question

It’s the question everyone keeps asking. It’s a question I never quite have an answer for. No, it’s not “why do you drink milk even though you’re lactose intolerant?” (because the cookies get lonely, obviously).

It’s the question I get asked most often. It’s the one I have the most trouble answering. At every signing, and in every interview, someone asks…

“Are you going to write another book?” I started off by always saying no. Writing makes me sweaty, and tired. I had one story to tell, and perhaps only one.  Also, at some point, I thought, I should become an adult. And adults don’t travel around the country, stuffing their faces with In-N-Out Burger like I did this week (see next week’s blog for details of my CA trip!). So I usually said no. But this seemed to really disappoint people, so I started saying maybe.

By maybe, I meant simply, “I like all of the people I meet, but I still don’t know what I’d write about, and also, just to reiterate, writing makes me sweaty and tired.” People seemed to like maybe much much better, which put me in a tough spot. I had to come up with a book to at least pretend to mull over.

That was difficult.

As my Twitter followers may have inferred from my live updates, the Scripps National Spelling Bee is my Super Bowl. What does that have to do with my next book? Nothing, I would have said if you’d asked me a week ago. But I’ve been pushing ideas around in this wavy-haired head of mine (a head experiencing cymotrichus, the winning word in this year’s Bee) I came up with both a thought and a question:

The Thought: Watching the parents on the sidelines of the Bee was almost as exciting as watching the kids themselves. They spelled along silently, clenched their fists, nodded patiently- there was every possible reaction. Some seemed almost telepathically connected to their child. Others seemed worried that missing a word might break their precocious darlings break into a million pieces.

The Question: And so I wondered- what role do parents play in the lives of hyper-successful kids: kids who blossom early and do things most adults could never even dream of? What are those parents feeling as they watch their children spell toward scholarships and glory? And how did they contribute? What are some other situations, like the Bee, where this bond is sharpened and tested?

Of course, right now it’s a broad question. It may be something that only interests me, and it may only interest me for now. But if I had to write a book tomorrow, that would probably be it. It’s an unpolished idea, but it’s an idea, and that’s better than telling the kind folks at my signings that I’d rather nap than write another book.

So will I write again? I honestly don’t know. But try telling that to an assembly of 300 elementary school students.

For their sake, I’ll at least give it some thought.

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Published in: on June 13, 2011 at 9:00 am  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. After reading your book, ( I have I mentioned lately how much I loved it and how proud I am of you?!), I think you and Dan should try writing Children’s Books together. Just a thought.

  2. just read an NPR article about your reading adventure with your dad. what an amazing journey you two were on, through thick and thin, good times and bad. my boys and i would read the same books for a few years, but then they just lapped me by reading all of the Eragon and Ranger’s Apprentice and Potter books without yours truly. at first it was about instilling a love of reading into their lives; now they’re primed and rolling along each week some new book and don’t need my recommendations (though I do review their books to make sure they’re appropriate).

    keep up the great work on your writing and reading and good luck to you and your family!

    Jg. 😉

  3. I also just read the NPR article. I Just think that is so neat. I wish you and your family the best.

  4. Alice, I feel as though you are my friend – or child – or…something. I’m just so incredibly proud of your book. And of your father who made the decision to spend real time with his daughter. His decision lends credibility to the many parents who quietly decide to do a right thing with and/or for their child. The decision then bears fruit in the life of the grown-up version of that child. I’m not a writer, but am passionate about reading, especially reading to children. As a previous respondent noted, it can instill a life long love of reading and learning. My husband and I (mostly me, really), read to our children daily from the time they were toddlers until they were well established readers and they took off. Both are successful young adults. I pray one day to read to their as yet unborn children. Hey, a woman must have goals, right?

    I wish you every continued success, and yes I do hope you write another book.
    Tammy Sheffield Paal

    • Thanks Tammy! I’ve felt proud of people who are not only older than me but total strangers, so I completely understand and appreciate it! I can’t tell yet if I have another book in me… maybe by the time I do, you’ll have grandkids to read it to. Here’s hoping!

  5. Hi! I honestly have not read your book- yet; however, we are looking to utilize the book as a “theme” for our incoming freshman at my University. The freshman are part of a Living Learning Community, so they live and learn together- like a cohort. Being on the living side, I try and incorporate “themes” to connect the two together. Do you have an ideas?

  6. I just read your book and loved it. I’ve read to my son every night since he was in the womb and he is only 18 months now but I hope to continue our “streak” for while more! I agree with Stephanie and think you and Dan should write children’s books together! The tales about the hedgehog and sheep made me smile and wish I could hear about their adventures, too! Those are books I would definitely look forward to adding to our streak.


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