A New Preface

When I heard the news about Maya Angelou’s passing today, I immediately went searching for proof. How could it be? She seemed to be glowing in this interview with Oprah that I watched the other day. I remember thinking how young and wise she seemed.

I spent part of Mother’s Day reading through Maya Angelou’s new memoir Mom & Me & Mom. I was intrigued by her relationship with her mother, and it reminded me of something. Not my own relationship with my own mother, but someone else’s experience. I couldn’t pinpoint which mother-daughter duo I was thinking of at the time.

In the BBC article that confirmed Maya Angelou’s death for me, I spotted a tribute tweet from JK Rowling. A quote:

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~ Maya Angelou

I knew instantly that if I had seen this quote before publishing my novel, I would have used it for a preface. Not only because Maya Angelou’s mother (like Caroline’s) thought she was special, but didn’t know how to show it. But because this truth represents exactly what I was trying to write about in The Proper Order of Things. What is normal anyway?

My novel currently begins with a dedication: “To Mama Bird. You were always there.” Unlike Caroline and Maya’s mother, my own mom was there. I was one of the lucky ones. Tonight I’ll be opening up that old manuscript and adding a preface where I always knew one belonged. I just hadn’t read the right words yet. Thank you, Ms. Angelou.

An Interesting Interview Question

I’m two thirds of the way through Creativity, Inc. by Pixar president Ed Catmull, and I’m already dreading the fact that it will soon be over.

In the early chapters of the book, Catmull shares a lot about his relationship with Steve Jobs. At one point, when he gets up the nerve, Catmull asks Jobs a question that I think all interviewers should use:

“How do things get resolved when people disagree with you?”

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. Not just about my own answer or the answer Steve Jobs gave (my way or the highway), but also about the ingenious way Ed Catmull used Jobs’s answer to analyze his business partner and find ways to break down barriers that were stifling growth at Pixar.

I’ve also been thinking about how I might use this question to help develop future characters in my own stories. And how to help my own kids become better negotiators. And how to help my online English students. This book does that to you.

In the Company of Books

This is how I felt today after spending the day in a Chapters bookstore –my annual Mother’s Day gift to myself:

When I’m in the library surrounded by all those volumes, all the stacks, I feel like I’m in the company of a great many friends. Friends who never leave and friends who are always there when you need them to offer comfort and warmth. I feel anchored there.

Sylvan Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese