During the last Pages session we explored Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamilo. The author’s journey continues to be on my mind. I am inspired by her resilience. Resilience, I am sure, makes her a courageous and successful writer. In the last week of the Pages class, the writing prompt for the rough draft was, “Write a story about yourself that you would like to tell someone someday.” This prompt leads to unlimited possibilities! As I read each child’s submitted rough draft, I realized they all decided to write about a struggle they experienced. That made me reflect on the books we have read for the Pages class this past year.
During our first Pages session we read Fish In A Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This is a school story focusing on a new Teacher, Mr. Daniels, and 8 of his students. Like any classroom there is diversity—race, culture, socioeconomic status, intelligence, personality, family life, and more. The main character, Ally, struggles in school and is ultimately diagnosed with dyslexia. The author’s own struggle inspired this story. She was never officially tested for dyslexia growing up, but struggled with reading and self-esteem until she reached middle school, when she experienced her own Mr. Daniels who cared and inspired. Lynda has written two other books, both highlighting characters with struggles and how they successfully made it through to the other side.
Kate DiCamillo openly talks about her children’s books being a little sad. Her characters demonstrate how we readers can survive trials such as suffering or loneliness. In the end there is always a seed of hope, that ultimately things will work out. I mentioned in my previous post that Kate moved to Florida from Philadelphia when she was 5 years old due to chronic pneumonia. What I didn’t mention was that her father who was a dentist who had a practice in Philadelphia and never left. He visited over the years but kept his life and practice in Philadelphia. Opal, the main character in “Because of Winn-Dixie”, struggles throughout the book with understanding why her mom left her when she was 3 years old. Opal has no contact with her mother and is filled with many questions and a great longing that we readers feel deeply.
We as human beings are drawn to struggle. We see struggle every day in the world. We see it in the people around us. Reading about struggle helps us see our own and other’s struggles in life. Writing about struggle can help us figure out the world around us and the workings of ourselves as well. I have heard writers say “we write what we know”. I like what Lynda Mullaly Hunt says, “I think I tend to write what I’d like to know—things I long to understand but don’t.”
It takes courage to look deep within and write our struggles for the world to see.
It takes resilience and a long list of related traits to add hope to any struggle.
Struggle is part of our human condition; sharing is how we relate to each other. When we share our struggle in stories, we see the similarities in our humanity over our differences. There is always the thread of hope in struggle. The question is not whether there is hope but how we get there.
Keep writing courageously! I will get to the other side, understanding my struggle a little bit better, knowing I am not alone, that hope is waiting for me. Hope for me does not guarantee happiness, only the knowledge that things can be better or different then today. And that I believe, is enough.