Now somewhere past its second draft, my "teacher story" exists now in the realm of potentiality. It could be something, it might be something, and it is this sense of possibility that is exciting. There is still so much work to be done, but it's a writing project I'm committed to and excited about.
I made a crucial change. The main character is now a kindergarten teacher instead of a junior high teacher. This opens up a lot of space for her to grow and evolve into a new person, away from my initial inspiration. I think this may have been the hardest part of getting here to this point: really digging at this existing figure and trying to rethink her in order to create a new space, the right space, for her to occupy — a space that she is truly at home in, a space that will betray her, a space she must reclaim eventually, and a space that can support and sustain the length of a novel.
It feels good to be in it again and good to be doing these things that for so long I've been missing: working, creating.
I feel like, additionally, now that she is a kindergarten teacher, I understand more about her. She is the kind of woman who leads a quilting club at her local women's shelter so that the women can take these coverings with them when they go. And she volunteers as the choir director at the senior citizens' home and gets them out into the city, where words are not enough and song is how they can express their deepest sentiments. She is also the kind of woman who, in the car on the way to school every morning, listens to The Chordettes.
I feel like she has strong maternal instincts, which is not as obvious as it sounds. What I mean is that even though she nurtures all these children in her care all day, all week, year after year, she is growing ever more aware of a desire to have her own children. And that what she wants most is to love. In everything that she does, in everything that she touches, all she leaves in her wake is proof of her love.
I feel like, more than ever, I need to be writing a character like this.
But of course there needs to be more.
What I've got so far is something like this: When a little girl from her kindergarten class dies one night at home in her sleep, and when the teacher begins to obsess over the idea that any of her children could also die in their sleep during afternoon nap time and in her care, in her classroom, this haven she has made for herself and for them, her entire world goes dark. Not only will she feel that she has failed that one little girl, that she could now fail any or all of them with her inability to keep them safe, but she will also question her ability to mother. She will do inexplicable things and lose herself. . . .
So this is it: this is the new book. It is an exciting time.
P.S. Do you see that little braided flower up there? The kindergarten teacher made it. She made it for you.