“Capture the heart of your story, not its every nuance. Look for spots to add voice and flavor, giving the reader a feel for your narrative style within the book. Remember overly detailed synopses only lead to questions. Your goal is to keep your readers on the edge of their seats, not scratching their heads in puzzlement.”
It's the thing every novelist dreads. In fact, some might say we not only dread it, we actually fear it. Like spiders.
Yet more and more editors and agents are asking for it, not to mention contests and even mentorships. So in the same way that we must muscle up the courage to corner the arachnid with a large glass and a slice of non-bendy paper, we too must muscle up the courage to sit down at our desk and squeeze one page of single space words from a fifty, (to one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand) word novel.
It can be done. It might make you scream and sweat and curse God for ever creating the one-page-synopsis (and spiders), but it can be done.
And because I once heard a very wise person say 'teach what you don't know,' I happen to have written a formula. I cannot promise it is perfect or that it will help you to sleep better at night (what can I say--spiders like your warm snuggly bedroom so much better than the cold damp outdoors,) but it is a template. A beginning. A face-your-fear-and -do-it-anyway, tool.
I actually built this as part of a resource guide for our writing community over at Inked Voices.com. So if you are a member, you can access it over there in its more fancy font and form. If you are not a member, you should be:) But either way, I'm sharing the rough guide here too.
Hope it helps!
A one-page synopsis tells your story in ultra-short form. You’ll share your main character’s journey and the events of their story, from beginning to end.
Because the synopsis is short, stick to the plot events key to your character’s journey. Remember that the synopsis is not a plot summary. Your character’s internal journey should drive the plot events in your story, and this should come through in the synopsis.
How to use this Template
This template is based on the plot beats found in the Hero’s Journey. Use it to ensure you are covering the essential points of your story’s external plot and internal arc.
For each beat below, write a short summary of what happens in your story. Then, join them together. This is your rough synopsis. If any additional details or events are needed to clarify the story arc, add them. Finally, cut unnecessary words/phrases, rework sentence structure as needed, and add transitions (e.g. meanwhile, later, soon, etc) so your synopsis flows.
Below, we have provided ten essential plot points/story beats and have used The Wizard of Oz as an example of a one page synopsis break down. The template is adapted from Susan Dennard’s guide at PubCrawl and a study of Save the Cat Writes a Novel. The case study example has been adapted and modified from a synopsis study originally posted on Slideshare by Chandan Kumar.
1. Opening image and protagonist intro.
This sets the stage for the story to come: the where, the who, the mood, and the tone. Give one or two describing words or phrases to show us your MC and tell us what he/she wants.
--When a huge tornado hits Kansas, it uproots a house and carries farm girl Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, away. A dreamy orphan who has always longed for escape and adventure, Dorothy suddenly finds herself in a magical land called Oz.
2. Catalyst/Inciting incident
An event/decision/change which causes the MC to take initial action, ultimately, driving the story in a new direction.
--When she steps outside, Dorothy realises that the tornado has dropped the house on a wicked witch. Dorothy is lauded as a hero and given magical ruby slippers.
3. Plot point 1
This is the action taken (related to the catalyst) that changes the story’s direction. Once your MC crosses this line, there is no going back.
--But, realising she is now trapped in Oz, all Dorothy wants is to find her way home to her aunt and uncle. So she sets out with Toto along a yellow brick road, to find a wizard who is her only hope of getting home.
4. Conflicts & character encounters
On this new journey, your protagonist meets new people, experiences new things, but also, the antagonist/villain rears their ugly head!
--Soon she is befriended by a tin man, a scarecrow and a cowardly lion who respectively lack a heart, a brain and courage. The three agree to accompany Dorothy in hopes that the wizard might also grant them what they each desire. On the journey, the friends face many obstacles - including the Wicked Witch of the West who is determined to avenge her dead sister.
5. Midpoint - The stakes are raised!
Everything has been going pretty well, but then…something occurs which causes the MC to make a 180 degree turn in either direction, emotion or something else. The stakes are raised! Once again, when she crosses this line there’s no going back.
--When they reach the Emerald City, the four friends present their requests to the wizard, who appears as a terrifying, disembodied head of smoke.
6. Winning seems imminent, but… the bad guys are closing in.
The MC assumes she has succeeded, but then the antagonist suddenly defeats her and...
--Dorothy stands up to him, but he will only grant their requests if Dorothy brings him the broomstick of the wicked witch of the West.
7. Dark night of the soul…
The MC believes she has failed, and must battle through the blackness of despair to find the strength for a final battle.
--In order to get the broomstick, the friends will have to kill the witch, but that seems impossible. Dorothy fears she will never make it home to Kansas. When her three friends see her despair, they rise to the occasion and persuade her that they will get the broomstick or die trying!
This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The MC rises up and faces her problem head on. What happens here, between your MC and the antagonist?
--On the way to the witch’s castle, the witch traps Dorothy and threatens to drown Toto, so in desperation Dorothy agrees to hand over the slippers, but the witch can’t remove them without killing Dorothy. Toto escapes and leads Dorothy’s companions to the castle. After overpowering some of the witches guards (and thereby proving that they do in fact have brains, heart and courage), they free Dorothy. During the battle, the witch sets the scarecrows arm ablaze. Dorothy throws water on her friend and accidentally splashes the witch, causing her to melt.
Does everything work out? Does your MC live happily ever after? This is where you tie up all your loose ends.
--The four friends return to the Emerald City in triumph, but the wizard still won’t give them their wishes - he can’t because he’s not actually a wizard, but just a man. He explains that Dorothy’s friends already possess everything they had been seeking all along and agrees to take Dorothy home in a hot air balloon. Suddenly at the last minute, Toto jumps out of the basket and Dorothy goes after him. The hot air balloon and the wizard fly away without them. Dorothy is devastated and the power of her desire, plus the power of her slippers sends her home to Kansas.
10. Final image
The final image is proof that change has occurred. Your chance to show us what your hero looks like after their epic transformative journey is complete.
--Dorothy wakes up in her bed in Kansas surrounded by family and friends and tells them of her journey and that she never wants to leave again, because--there's no place like home.
Now we put it all together…
When a huge tornado hits Kansas, it uproots a house and carries farm girl, Dorothy Gale, and her dog, Toto, away. A dreamy orphan who has always longed for escape and adventure - Dorothy suddenly finds herself in a magical land called Oz. She is lauded as a hero and given magical ruby slippers. When she steps outside, Dorothy realises that the tornado has dropped her house on a wicked witch.
Realising she is now trapped in Oz, all Dorothy wants is to find her way home to her aunt and uncle. She sets out with Toto along a yellow brick road, to find a wizard who is her only hope of getting home.
Soon, she is befriended by a tin man, a scarecrow and a cowardly lion who respectively lack a heart, a brain and courage. The three agree to accompany Dorothy in hopes that the wizard might also grant them what they each desire.
On the journey, the friends face many obstacles -- including the Wicked Witch of the West who is determined to avenge her dead sister.
When they reach the Emerald City, the four friends present their requests to the wizard who appears as a disembodied head of smoke. Dorothy stands up to him, but he will only grant their requests if Dorothy brings him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. In order to get the broomstick, the friends will have to kill the witch, but that seems impossible. Dorothy fears that she will never make it home to Kansas. When her three friends see her despair, they rise to the occasion and persuade her that they will get the broomstick or die trying!
On the way to the witches castle, the witch traps Dorothy and threatens to drown Toto, so in desperation Dorothy agrees to hand over the slippers, but the witch can’t remove them without killing her first. Toto escapes and leads Dorothy’s companions to the castle. After overpowering the witches guards (and thereby proving that they do in fact have brains, heart and courage), they free Dorothy. During the battle, the witch sets the scarecrow's arm ablaze. Dorothy throws water on her friend and accidentally splashes the witch, causing her to melt!
The four friends return to the Emerald City in triumph, but the wizard still won’t give them their wishes - he can’t, because he’s not actually a wizard, but just a man! He explains that Dorothy’s friends already possess everything they had been seeking all along and agrees to take Dorothy home in a hot air balloon. Suddenly, at the last minute, Toto jumps out of the basket and Dorothy goes after him. The hot air balloon and the wizard fly away without them. Dorothy is devastated and the power of her desire, plus the power of her slippers sends her home to Kansas.
Dorothy wakes up in her bed in Kansas surrounded by family and friends and tells them of her journey and that she never wants to leave again, because there’s no place like home.
Dennard,Susan.“How to write a 1 page synopsis" PubCrawl, www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/04/17/how-to-write-a-1-page-synopsis. Accessed 1 July 2020.
Kumar,Chandan. “How to write a synopsis - Wizard of Oz.” Slideshare, www.slideshare.net/ChandanKumar70/how-to-write-a-synopsis-14084506 Accessed 1 July 2020.
Brant,Marilyn. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novel beat sheet.” Savethecat.com savethecat.com/beat-sheets/the-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy-novel-beat-sheet Accessed 1 July 2020.
Brody, Jessica. Save the Cat Writes a Novel. New York. Ten Speed Press. 2018.
Today I’m thrilled to be interviewing author, Summer Short, whose debut middle-grade novel,
‘The Mutant Mushroom Takeover’ released on 22 September with Simon and Schuster. The book has received four starred reviews and has been touted Packed to the gills with fun, by Kirkus.
Congratulations Summer on your middle-grade debut release! Having read some of your opening pages and because I know first hand what a super talented writer you are, I am personally very excited for this book to be out in the world.
I know it is the first in a two-book deal, which is simply amazing--Can you tell us a little bit about the story?
Absolutely! The book is a lightly spooky STEM novel about eleven-year-old aspiring naturalist, Maggie, and her best friend, Nate who’s a conspiracy theorist and wanna-be YouTube star. Together, they’ve got to figure out the mystery surrounding an unusual glow-in-the-dark fungus that's spreading through their small town. Meanwhile, Maggie’s dad has moved across country for a new job, leaving Maggie desperate to put her family back together again. For now, she’s stuck in her gramma’s mobile home with her grumpy older brother, Ezra, who started developing odd symptoms after a run-in with the bioluminescent fungus. And Ezra isn’t the only one––all around town people and animals start sprouting unusual growths and acting a little bit off. Things get even weirder and more alarming when Maggie’s brother develops a bluish glow and a nagging cough. Maggie’s got to use every bit of her scientific know-how and Nate’s impressive knowledge of all things spooky to save her town and her family from the mutant mushroom takeover.
Wow. And yeah! for girls in STEM:) Where did the original story concept come from?
I’ve always had a penchant for things that are a little bit quirky. Strange happenings in nature fascinate me so when I stumbled upon an old documentary called Fungi: The Rotten World About Us on YouTube a few years ago, my wheels got turning. I was so intrigued by all the bizarre qualities of fungi that I kept researching until I discovered an especially bizarre variety with some very weird abilities. This real-life fungus plays a key role in my book so I can’t say too much or I’ll give away spoilers. But just know it’s creepy cool. Another source of inspiration came from my son, who was ten at the time. He requested I write a story about a pirate named Root Beard who had a bead made of living tree roots. I loved that concept and sort of tucked it away in my brain. Eventually, it coalesced with the weird tidbits from the fungi documentary and an important character in the book was born.
I know that you were a 2018 Pitch Wars mentee. I’m applying myself this year (nervous laugh…) so I’d love to hear a little bit about that experience and how it might have helped shape your books journey?
Pitch Wars was a great experience for me. I made new friends and found new critique partners. One of the very best parts was getting to know my mentors Kim Long and Jennifer Brown. Throughout the process, they gave me insightful feedback that helped me revise my manuscript. When the agent round of Pitch Wars arrived, they helped me refine my query and synopsis, and later walked me through how to respond to agent offers. When my book sold, they were there to cheer me on and remind me to take a deep breath. Pitch Wars was an amazing ride and a fantastic learning opportunity.
Releasing a debut during a global pandemic must be something of a challenge and experience in itself, can you share a little about how that has been for you?
Because of COVID, my author activities have shifted to virtual instead of in-person events. I’ve participated in a couple of online author panels so far and will also be doing my book launch party virtually with a local independent bookstore. While I’d love to see friends and family in person and sign all their books, the virtual launch lets me connect with people who otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to attend.
With some bookstores and libraries still closed or open at limited capacity, there is a little more uncertainty, but I try to be hopeful and remember that people are still reading books and that stories are important now as much as ever. I also try to celebrate all the little wins along the way and to find joy where I can. For example, even though I won’t have an in-person launch party, I still ordered some custom mushroom sugar cookies for my release day. I’ll snap some photos for social media and then my family and I will enjoy chowing down on sugary mushroom goodness.
I love that you ordered mushroom cookies!
In addition to being a children’s author you are also a full time Mom of three—Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule/process and how you manage your time between writing and mothering/family.
Balancing writing with family life is always a bit of a juggling act. Even before COVID, I homeschooled our three kids, so that takes up a chunk of my time, but it’s also part of what led me to find out some of the crazy things I discovered about mushrooms (science research with the kids). I usually write for a couple hours in the afternoon when the kids have finished their school work. But when I’m on deadline, I follow a stricter schedule. I’ll wake up before the family and get in a couple extra hours of writing before the house wakes up. Then I’ll usually get in some more time in the afternoon/evening once school and other things are wrapped up.
I actually didn’t know you are a homeschool mom on top. Okay, so that places you firmly in my list of top 10 author heroes. I feel like we should do a whole other blog post just on that alone!
Last question—If you could offer just one piece of advice to other writer’s/Children’s authors, what would it be?
Don’t self-reject. What I mean by that is don’t close the doors to opportunities because you feel like you’re not good enough. Whether that’s submitting your work for a writing contest, querying a certain agent, participating in a critique group, or attending a class or a conference. There’s already a lot of rejection in this business, there’s no need to add any more by discrediting yourself. If you don’t take a chance, you won’t know what’s possible. Yes, you may get a few doors closed on you along the way, but that’s okay. Dust yourself off and keep going. If you stay with it, you’ll find your groove and your people.
Such sound advice—I’ll remind myself of that when I’m submitting to Pitch Wars! (More nervous laughing…)And where can we find you on the web?
My website is srachelshort.com. I’m also on Twitter and Instagram and you can find my book at Goodreads and at Simon and Schuster
Finally, are there any Indy bookstores who have signed copies of your book for sale?
Yes! Interabang Books in Dallas where my virtual launch party will be hosted.
Thank you, Summer. This has been so brilliant. I can’t wait to read this first book!
Good luck with everything!
This interview was first posted at inkedvoices.com
Almost four weeks ago we piled five humans, four suitcases, one piano, two guitars, one ballet barre, one piece of Marley flooring (on which to practice ballet) and one upright double bass into a car.
Well, that’s a slight exaggeration since we did two trips, because clearly there is not a car on planet earth big enough, in which to fit all our stuff. This is what comes of spawning creative kids. Their stuff comes too. And sometimes their stuff takes up a vast amount of space. And yes I absolutely should have stood my ground when we were having the violin vs double bass convo several years ago but hey, here we are.
Fortunately my kids have a dad who would do a round trip to Mars if they asked him to.
So we are in the countryside. And its delightfully green.
I hadn’t realised how stressed I was. How claustrophobic I was. How withered my creative soul felt.
Four weeks in nature and I can breathe again.
We are staying in a wonderful artists residence which is full of sculptures and original art. There are pheasants in the garden –pheasants for goodness sake – and deer too. The other day while I was writing outside, a Coyote skulked past. He saw me at the exact same moment that I spied him. We locked eyes, my breath was caught – I wondered if his was too - and then as silently as he appeared, he was gone. I blinked as the white tip of his tail disappeared into the tree’s - glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone else had seen, but I was caught all alone in the moment. And then the moment was gone.
I’ve actually been researching coyotes this past year for a book I've been working on and when I saw this one I actually momentarily assumed it was a domestic dog – you see, I’ve been researching urban coyotes who have adapted to nocturnal living in highly populated cities, but this was the middle of the afternoon – full daylight – and for a moment I’d forgotten that that is their norm in the wild.
It was a rare moment. Beautiful and solitary. It made my heart feel alive.
And then there are the groundhogs. Many, many groundhogs. Like these things could take over the world - or at least America. Now there's a thought...
An Emily- fess-up –
So the first groundhog we saw, we had to google to find out what it was (yes, I know. But I doubt if you Americans would recognise a common shrew if you came across one, or that you wouldn’t get wholly excited if you spotted an English hedgehog. Just saying.) I have to admit I was very surprised and not a little excited because I realised I had actually spent my entire life thinking that they weren’t actually a real thing. I mean, I knew they were a thing, but I thought they were some kind of mystical or magical creature that only get spotted on the rarest of occasions and bring good luck or something. Clearly not because they are everywhere. That would be a whole lot of luck, and I’m not feeling the lucky vibes in the world right now.
So there you have it. It took our family just four years to morph from wild-hearted barefoot in the bush, Africa family to wide-eyed marvel at groundhogs and squeal at big-bugs urban city family.
How fickle we humans are.
Seriously, our time here has been a gift. A time to reflect. To reconnect. To notice beauty.
I’m sad that in just a few days we must return to oppressive heat and humidity of August in the city. Then again, NYC seems like might be the safest place in America right now. Really - from an English lass’s POV, I have to say, I think the rest of this country has gone totally bonkers. Or perhaps they were always bonkers. Or perhaps the pandemic has simply revealed the levels of bonkers-ness that was always lying dormant under the surface.
Really people. Just wear your chuffing mask!
Back to my life --
This year will be heavy handed. Not only will we be navigating NYC and part-time school/ life/family etc amidst the new Covid-19 norms, but we will also be in transition. We know that in June 2021 we will be relocating back to Europe. We have been away for fifteen years, but it’s time to head home. Maybe just for a season. We will see.
I’ve done this many times before – I know the practical and logistical challenges of moving a family of five across continents. I also know the heart journey. And this time it will be acutely harder for the kids. They are older, they will feel the losses more. The goodbye’s will cut more deeply.
But leave we must.
And we’ve adapted before. We will adapt again. Just like those wild-urban coyotes.
We are ten weeks into lockdown here in Manhattan.
It's been tough. Of course it's tough for everyone - no matter what each persons own unique circumstances are - but I can only speak from my own perspective. And NYC in lockdown, has been tough.
One of my greatest challenges is how to find the space - both physical and emotional - to write. The physical piece is challenging as we simply do not have enough rooms for five big human beings to work from home. The kids each need a private space for cyber schooling, husband needs a private space for all the zillions of zoom meetings he does each day, and Manhattan apartments aren't big, so that leaves me... the bathroom. And not the clean 'girl' bathroom because that one is an en-suite which means it's disturbing to daughter, as the door is too thin, but rather, I work in the 'boys' bathroom - and yes we do have 'girls bathroom' and 'boys bathroom' in our residence because boys are smelly and they sprinkle.
It apparently makes for a lot of humor when I'm on zoom calls.
Then, there's the emotional space.
For the first month or so, I was in editing mode and I found that the proof reading, and line-editing practice of working through a manuscript was actually quite cathartic in helping me focus. Especially on days when the fear and stress of being in the epicentre of the pandemic was enough to render me foetal on my bed.
But now that particular manuscript is going through a pro-editorial workshop, and so I've been turning my attention to other works which are either early drafts, problem drafts, or OMG embarassingly bad drafts.
And I've discovered that my creative output is zilch nada.
I'm suffering from a vast case of creative-quarantine-block.
I know - I'm supposed to go easy on myself. I'm encouraged to accept that though my output may be hindered, I can fully trust that my creative muse within is working away, concocting and building brilliant best selling concepts and plot-lines, subconciously developing voice and intuitive storytelling skills - even while I sip G&T and scroll through twitter for the seventy eighth time today.
But we creatives are notoriously hard on ourselves. Plus time seems not to be sticking to the usual schedule, right? I mean, how is April already three and half weeks ago? That makes absolutely no sense.
And so I have to admit, I've been feeling guilty. Like I'm letting myself down. Like my life is ticking by and I'm acheiving nothing. I'm frustrated all the time. I just want my head to work. I just want to feel that wonderful sublime sense of satisfaction that comes from having been lost in a creative blur for four hours or more - to have lost track due to absolute creative immersion, not just because the days have no structure and "oh, crap, I've been reading BBC news for 4 hours and now there's no dinner," kind of thing.
Anyway. I've decided to try something new this week. I've decided to switch gears and leave all projects that need my creative mind aside. Instead, I am going to engage that other side of my brain - the editorial one - and try research.
BTW I hate research. I hate it because for some reason it reminds me of maths. And I have no good feelings at all, about maths. But I have decided that if editing felt productive, then I should try moving beyond my math phobia, because research might also feel productive.
So this is my plan.
I've been wanting to figure out and learn the craft of writing PB biographies for some time now. So I've pulled out some great mentor texts and tomorrow I shall begin looking for primary sources on my subject. How easy that will be without access to the library I have absolutely no idea, but I figure even if nothing 'grows,' I'll be learning something new and hopefully will spend less time 'scrolling.'
Wish me luck.
Original post published in NomadicWonderings.com in October 2017.
Every day I ask myself, “What are we doing here?” Of course there are answers. Rational ones.
We needed to find a consistantly stimulating and supportive educative situation for the kids. We wanted to let our kids experience living in a developed nation again. We wanted them to have more creative and academic opportunities. I needed to find my creative tribe. And to begin creating again with my creative tribe. We wanted to stay some place for a while. To not ‘need’ to move after three years. Maybe even feel at home.
Plus our choices were limited. Husband can mostly only work in war zones or countries where the conversation oscilates around famine and drought.
There are actually lots of really good rational reasons for us moving our family to NYC.
But day by day. Man, It feels hard.
And to those of you thinking “Gee Em get over yourself. You live in New York city.” I have this to say.
Try it. For more than two weeks. Really. Then kindly comment.
It was always going to be a discombobulating experience moving from Malawi to NYC. We knew that. And we knew that each of us would need to make our own journey, would have our own battleground to navigate through. We don’t get to always choose how our hearts respond. Not in the beginning anyways. We pull our hat down low, and our scarf up high and we plough into it. And it bites our skin and rattles our bones. A wild and unpredictable, elemental offensive. Onwards we go.
But nothing could prepare us for the transition between two such extremes.
The first weeks were almost comical. Not when we were in it – clearly, but in retrosect.
How do you take three kids from the bush of Africa where they climbed mango trees barefoot, and whittled sticks til dusk. Where they spent hour upon hour chasing gheko’s and picking worms out of guava’s, to a symphonic backdrop of crickets and bullfrogs…
How do you then drop them in the middle of an throbbing urban metroplis, where homeless people lay strewn across the sidewalks, discarded like trash (Esi’s question – Why are the white people sleeping in the streets mummy?) Where the subway roars like the very embodiment of rage, and they share the carriage with scantily clad women with rainbow afro’s and exposed nipple to nose, chain-linked peircings, drinking beer.
It has made for interesting conversations.
The children at school who have same sex parents – This was a new concept for our bush kids. The guys expressing themselves in womens clothing – This was confusing, to begin with. The beat box guys with their trousers slung low, breaking rules – They had to learn not to be intimidated. That creative expression is not intended as aggression.
We like those conversations. We like throwing back the question ‘Well what do you think?” or “How did it make you feel?”We like standing on the edges watching our kids wrestle to make sense of life. Of people.
These conversations help to remind me why we are here. They don’t make it easier, but they help me to remember.
Husband and I are commited to raising strong, resilient, kind, open minded and wholehearted children. Kids who will stand in the gap and say ‘Not on my watch’. Not on my watch, through conversation. Not on my watch, through debate. Not on my watch, through Art and creativity. Not on my watch through non-violent acts of resistance. Not on my watch through making hard personal choices for the sake of a bigger picture. Not on my watch through choosing kindness in the face of the mean.
We have chosen to show them the world in all its diversity, with its cracks and its astounding beauty. We want them to know that we can be smitten by the glory of an African sunset or lost in the sublimity of Moonlight Sonata – that these things are there for us, to inspire us, to lift us and to remind us of Love.
And that because of Love we don’t step over the broken people. Not ever.
Not. On. My. Watch.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to get political here. But I guess I just did. In my opinion, the only way to not have opinions about what is going on right now, politicaly, is to be, actually dead.
I don’t think that when we chose this transigent lifestyle, we chose an easy path. Maybe we didn’t choose it at all. Maybe life chooses us. Or maybe it is not the choosing that matters but rather our response that matters.
Whatever. Wherever. Perhaps.
I live in New York City. For now. And It feels hard.
Apartment living feels hard. The pace feels hard. The aggression feels hard. The competition feels hard. The lack of community feels hard. The communal laundry room in the basement of our building feels hard. The cold wind splitting down 1st avenue feels hard. Darn it, even the grocery shopping feels hard. And yes, the political atmosphere feels hard.
But this is my now. And I choose my response to my now, daily.
I struggle. I fight. At times I scream and pound. And then - I submit. We really don’t have a choice. And yet, in that submitting we do choose. Again and again. We choose to Love. Paradoxical really.
This is my now. Despite the daily toil, I believe it has purpose. I have things I must learn. I have growing to do that is assigned personally to me.
And so, I breath. I say “It’s okay’. And I tap into that small voice at the end of the day that says, I will try again tomorrow.
Originally this post was published over at Nomadicwonderings.com. But when I read it today, I wanted to transplant it over here, to remind myself of how far I've come. Endings are still hard, but as I read this post I realise that each ending has actually been so much more than a fullstop/period. Each ending has also been a new beginning. An fresh opportunity. Another step revealed.
Anyway, I'm in danger of this turning into a blog post all of its own, so here is that post from four years ago;
Finishing is hard.
I definitely have an aversion to full stops. That is why I like these dot dot dot
You might have noticed I use them a lot… I like to leave things open. Open to possibility. Open to the winds of change. Open to mystery, a sense of sitting in the unknown and being okay with it…
It is one of the many contradictions of my life. Because equally I like maps and to know where I’m going next and how it’s going to look.
And I like to know that stuff in finely architectured, pedantic detail. But I don’t want to put a full stop on what went before…
I think we are all complicated like that. Different kinds of complicated. But all complicated.
As a child I couldn’t finish stories I wrote. My teachers would praise me on my aptitude and potential as a young writer, but would rebuke me for my inability to find an ending. Even today, most of the tatty stories I write have shabby and unsatisfactory endings.
I just struggle to tie things up in a cohesive manner and end with a period…
The past 12 weeks have been chaos.
Where did I read that before great change there is always great chaos? It sounds like something Elizabeth Gilbert would say. It probably was her, cos I actually love her, and if I were just fractionally more insane than I am, I would probably stalk her, just so I could listen to the incessant flow of truth and wisdom that comes out of her mouth.
Anyway. It has been a ‘batten down the hatches, get your head down, and plough into it’, kind of 12 weeks. Moving a family across continents takes a load of organizing.
And of course the good thing about chaos is you don’t get time to think much. Because it seems that with external chaos, internal chaos accompanies. At least for me it does. I am not a ‘ride the waves gracefully’ type. Not yet anyway.
But now it is all organized. It is all packed, paid for, sold or given away. And the chaos has vaporized. And we are waiting to leave...
No chaos = Simplicity = Space to think = Process = Urgh.
For the next 10 days, my only essential tasks are getting the kids to school on time, Picking them up on time, and filling their bellies with food. And the usual conflict resolution of course… But I am managing that with a new, highly successful strategy.
10 punctuation sentences per bicker, per child. Nice.
But I kind of want the chaos back, because how do you do a “full stop” Goodbye? I mean without the grief that surely must accompany?
And the truth is, some of these goodbyes are forever goodbyes. There are people in Malawi who we care for, who we will not see again. Some we will. Some we won’t. Malawi just isn’t a “passing through” kind of location. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of finance to get here.
Plus, most of those we are leaving behind, will likely be moving themselves to obscure corners of the world in the next year or two – Such is the life of the international community.
And just so we are clear; Social media is not the same as relationship. Social media is not the same as friendship. Saying “See you on facebook” does not appease the sadness and loss related to full stop goodbyes.
So here I am. Waking up each morning with a tangible desire to climb under a rock.
Because; I simply cannot face the full stop.
The full stop makes me cry. A lot.
Malawi has been a gift. Friends here have become sisters. Kindred souls. There are women here with whom I have shared sorrow and tragedy and deep belly laughter. Whose deepest fear and longings I have held in my hands and heart. With whom I have sat, shared silence, and said “me too”. Women who have shown up, at the exact right moment, and have been brave and selfless. Who have sat with me, held my hand, looked into my dark places and said ‘it’s okay’. Women to whom I am tethered, by the trusses of deep love and respect.
I say to the kids, “It’s not goodbye, it is merely ‘until next time.’” Because, what the heck, I just don’t have the capacity for their sadness as well.
Besides, it is not like I don’t want to leave. I know it is time. Feel it deep in my bones. We are all ready.
It is just the full stop I hate.
But then…going under a rock isn’t good either. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that grief and other unresolved history don’t go away. They hide and pretend they’re not there, and then pop their heads out from under that rock at the most inconvenient time. And then bite you hard.
So its not going to be pretty. But cry I will.
2nd June. NYC baby…
This is where I share snippets of my life. Some of it writing related, some of it just - life. It will be mostly ramblings, but if you too are a storyteller and are very lucky, you might occasionally find something useful :)