Is that Mom in my novel?

A blogger friend of mine wrote a post this week about how her mom influenced her writing. Elizabeth A. Havey, Beth, made me think of the ways my mom influences me. Check out her story at her blog, Boomer Highway. (I hear you, “Okay Boomer.” Beth has a lot of great things to say. She’s been there. Or she is there.)

Mom hates this picture. I love it because she looks so carefree and because this is what she looked like the summer after her third baby.

I dictated my very first published story to Mom. She wrote it down in her mysterious shorthand.

Mom showed me she had faith in me by steno-ing exactly what I said. I know this to be true because as I told my story, I stopped and edited, and so did she.

Mom touched me deeply when she sent me her clipping of that tiny story from the Flint Journal. I was just about to embark on a second career as a writer. She had clipped it and saved it for at least forty years.

I don’t remember her telling me how proud she was. Maybe she didn’t because she didn’t want me to get puffed up, and you know, humility is a virtue. Maybe she did and I forgot.

Is Mom in the books I write?

Of course Mom is in every book I write. And of course she isn’t.

Every single person I’ve ever met, or seen in a movie, or watched on TV, or witnessed in the stands at one of my boys wrestling matches is in there. And they are not.

My father’s family inspired A Ship of Pearl. But the people are fiction inspired by real people. Why did I do that? Because every person in my head is my interpretation of them. My interpretation is not really them.

You might say that every character I write is me. After all, they did come out of my head.

When my second novel is published, I’m sure readers who know Mom will recognize bits of her in the voice of Rita. They will be right. And those readers who recognize me in Rita’s voice will be right, too. And if they here their own voice, they will also be right.

That’s the curse and the blessing of being a writer.

I liked that Beth shared a little of her writing in her blog post, so I will too. I hope she recognizes that imitations is a form of flattery. So here’s a snippet from my draft.

“Elizabeth was so different than her brothers. When she wasn’t helping out at home, she was working at Dibble’s Five and Dime, or she had her head in a book. In that way she was like me; always reading a book or practicing my violin. Elizabeth didn’t have a violin, of course. We both had time to volunteer wrapping bandages for the Red Cross and collecting tin foil. Every girls and woman did that for the Effort.

Don’t get me wrong, Elizabeth and I had a bundle of fun. Just not the carefree kind those Craine boys did. A quieter kind of fun. The wildest we got was when we took our bicycles out to Torrey Rail Yard.

Something about riding my bike just set my heart free. We’d go out there and do figure eights and ride no-handed, put our feet up on the handle bars. Even then we made sure to tuck our dresses down between our legs and sit on the ends. My favorite was pretending to be one of those circus horseback riders. I’d try to mock tricks like that: side-saddle, one foot on the peddle and one straight out behind like a flying ballerina.”

From May His Tribe Increase

Oh my! I just realized that Itsy-Bits, who is Elizabeth in Rita’s eyes, has the same name as my blogger friend. It’s you, Beth. And it’s not you at all.