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That’s what it says in a little text box as I type in each new post: “enter title here.” So that’s what we’re gonna do today. Ooooh, this one ought to be fun.
As many of you know, as long as I’ve had a draft of a book (two and half years now), I’ve been calling it Whoosh. I chose this word for a few reasons: 1) It played a role in the early cancer story when my friend’s mom used it as the title of each of her Carepage messages, meaning the sending of a wish off into the universe. 2) For me it came to symbolize the suddenness with which our lives went from completely normal to — whoosh — anything but. And then, back again (and back again and back again). And 3) there was that little moment in 2008 when I was rocking Austin to sleep and thinking about what to name my about-to-be written book when I looked down at my beautiful sleeping baby to discover he was wearing pajamas with tiny airplanes surrounded by the word “Whoosh.”
I like the word. And I like the title. But (there’s always a “but”), it is hard to say out loud. No, not hard to say but hard to hear. I find that when people ask me in person (as opposed to on the computer) and I say it, they inevitably look at me like “Huh?” and then I have to say, “Whoosh, you know, W-H-O-O-S-H. It means blah blah blah.”
When I go to the conference in one month’s time, I will have three minutes with each agent: 90 seconds to pitch my book and 90 seconds of feedback. Trust me when I say that I don’t want to waste any of those precious seconds spelling out the title of my book!
Soooo, here’s your chance: Enter title here. I’ll take any, no editing necessary. Of course, I’ve toyed with others over time. The Luckiest is a natural option. I forget why I didn’t go with that from the beginning, maybe it’s already been used. I went through a brief period of calling it Little A and Big Wilm (“Little A” being one of our nicknames for him and that book my mom and sister-in-law made us for Christmas a few years ago was titled Little A Climbs Big Wilm). But that seems very cancer specific. I like Eternal Spring (already used, for a Holocaust book) and The Wrong Side of the Window (where we’ve spent so many of our days). Ordinary Miracle, the name of the Sarah MacLachlan song used for Austin’s first Miracle Story is great, except that my anti-religious stance makes it sort of hypocritical. I read another mother-of-a-cancer -patient memoir a while back (which wasn’t any good, except for the title) called Cancer’s Gift. I do like that — for all it’s taken away, cancer has given us gifts. But . . . already used.
So, start that brainstorming. I’m willing to consider any and all suggestions. And I’ll be sure to thank you on my Acknowledgments page if I choose yours! Of course, I may end up going back to Whoosh. Or this may also ultimately be decided by an agent or editor, but I have to be able to call it something when I pitch it. “As Yet Untitled” just doesn’t have that great a ring to it.
Aw shucks, thanks everyone. It was a pretty incredible story, especially the fact that I first wrote about that license plate on the CarePage a full five months after the last time I’d seen it and then it was spotted again by friends within one week. (Make sure you read the comment from Linda Yonkers on the last post.) And then it hasn’t been seen since! That was remarkable.
You know, I tend to be a very reality-based person, without much faith in, well, faith. But there have been strange — some would say mystical — happenings since all this began. The entire license plate fiasco was, without question, the most powerful of those. But there was also that moment, at least two years ago now, when I was sitting in the rocker nursing Austin and thinking about a title for my not-yet-written book. I’d been mulling the “Whoosh” idea, after the many CarePage messages sent by my friend’s mom, embodying our wishes being sent off into the universe. It also seemed to capture the idea that we had so quickly and completely gone from a happy, healthy, normal life to one anything but, and then, whoosh, back again. And as I was sitting and rocking and pondering all this, I glanced down at my boy who had fallen asleep in my arms and there, emblazoned across the chest of his pajamas, was a tiny airplane and the word, Whoosh.
Those faded pale blue pajamas are one of the few pieces of clothing I haven’t passed on to the sons of my friends, but have instead kept in a careful pile of “things to save forever.”
Oh, there were more, some tiny. Like when I once incorrectly referenced e.e. cummings in a CarePage entry that should have said Robert Frost, and the very next day as I was listening to NPR, a reporter was introduced as “Bob Frost.” And I first thought, “That’s weird. Someone really named their kid Bob Frost?” and then I suddenly gasped and hurried online to correct my non-English major gaffe.
Some were just creepy coincidences, like a few days after we learned of that new (but actually old) tumor in his left abdominal cavity, the “almost relapse” of March-April 2009, and one night Austin woke up crying in his bed. I walked into his room and he was writhing about, eyes still shut, and he mumbled, “Cut the piece out!” He’d been playing with scissors that evening, cutting paper into tiny pieces (one of his favorite activities to this day) so I’m sure it was that but still, I nearly died to hear him say those words. We hadn’t told the kids anything yet at that point. I hurried back to our room and shook Mark awake and said, “Do you think he knows? Do you think he can feel it inside of him?”
So, I guess I can just say that the world is full of mystery. And I’m okay with not having all the answers.
On another note, I do plan on writing more. I haven’t done anything to my manuscript since last summer, not like “this past” summer but last last summer. And even that was just some quick revisions in an attempt to add in the “almost relapse” weeks. So now I need to sit down with it and figure out how to include another six months of intense treatment without writing a 600-page book. Hard enough to convince agents and editors to take on the oh-so-uplifting topic of childhood cancer without making it a tome.
My mom and I have signed up to go to a big writing conference in New York City in the end of January, so I have three months to really pull this together. My mom, you may remember, has been working on a young adult/middle grades novel for more than a decade and she just finished it last week. It’s about a girl who is diagnosed with diabetes, based, of course, on me , complete with a Jenny character and a Sarah/Dallas/Keila composite character and the requisite “Zach,” better known to anyone who attended Roxboro in the mid-eighties as Josh. (Check out this old post to see what those days were like.) My mother had to assure me fifty times over that it wasn’t actually me and my life and my conflicts that she was writing about and when I read the first few chapters, I was finally convinced of that. The framework of my family and social (and medical) life is certainly recognizable but it is definitely fiction. I’m eager to read the rest though and to share it with those of you who were along for the ride.
Anyway, I know you logged on to see those darn treehouse pictures but I’ve been waiting and hoping for them to finish before I “reveal” it. Doesn’t look likely before Friday so I promise (really!) that I’ll post some tomorrow.