|My big yellow lab is standing 8 or 10 feet behind this plant, and that makes the plant appear huge!|
When I wrote The Children Are Tender, a friend said she enjoyed learning more about my life. And then she smiled at me and said, "Or...perhaps your life as you would have liked it to have been?" She missed the mark just a bit; focusing on what is beautiful is not the same as saying there is no ugliness. As I say in the introduction, the characters and settings are fictionalized, but what is absolutely true is my love for my home, family, and profession.
I focus upon the beauty of Kansas as the setting of my book, and allow the beauty in the heart of children to drive the story. There isn't a lack of conflict; although there aren't many accounts of the petty carping and pointless conflicts that sometimes do happen even in the best of workplaces. I don't include discord unless it is important to the storyline. I write of a heartbreaking incident of racial prejudice and I describe the pathos of a child who is spirited away in the middle of the night, never to be seen again by his teachers. I describe the enforced early retirement of a good teacher whose leavetaking is treated with more of relief than regret by budget-cutting administrators, a mother who calls the public school a setting for the emotional massacre of children, and a highly qualified teacher who is demoted to the level of a test administrator. Most of these things happened to me during the course of my teaching career, and trust me, they do not represent my professional life as I wish it had been. But I do focus on love: the love of a teacher for her students, of husband and wife, and the of the beauty of a place called "home." Whatever we focus upon does tend to loom large in our memories and hearts, and so perhaps my friend feels that no one's non-fiction life could have been so blessed as that of the main character in my novel. In that, she is mistaken.
My blessings may not be so large as they appear to me, but then, it's a matter of chosen perspective.