Tag Archives: Marion Dane Bauer

The Time Will Come

Photo by Bekah Russom on Unsplash

The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome, And say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

A Disappointed Reader

Runt

Recently I received this email from a young reader.  It was, in fact, the fourth or fifth email Robert had sent me, each making the same point.

Dear,Marion Dane Bauer

 

I think I made it clear…we all want a sequel to Runt.If this can happen we will all smile.We will all laugh.We will all be happy and I think that you want us to be happy.However if you don’t then…I don’t know because that’s what I’ve always tried to do.I think that doing this would be the right choice.However I know how hard it is to write books.Ive tried I have but it takes a long time if this is a problem I kind of get it even though you have to put the time and effort to do that.I think anyone who has read Runt wants a sequel.Its obvious and I think that you should write a sequel many people think you should write a sequel.We don’t want to be left off with the sentence “Come, my dear ones!” He sang.”Come.the feast waits.”

 

Sincerely

Robert

 

Dear Robert,

I have often received letters from readers who want a sequel to Runt, but none of those writers has been as persistent as you are.  I appreciate your enthusiasm.  I really do.  But here’s the bottom line.  As you acknowledge, writing a book is hard.  It takes a long time and lots of effort.  And long ago I decided not to dedicate that time and effort to writing a sequel to Runt.

As I’ve explained, I considered writing a sequel.  I knew it would be called Singer and that the story would follow Runt/Singer as he leaves his family and would end with his finding a mate and with the birth of their first pups.

I had sorted some of what would happen along the way.  He was going to make friends with a coyote.  (Usually, wolves and coyotes stay clear of one another, but when I went back to my research about wolves in preparation for writing, I found a report of a coyote/wolf friendship, and I was going to draw on that.)

But here’s the problem.  I did return to that wolf research in preparation for writing the sequel you’re asking for, and as I read I found myself falling out of love with the idea of continuing Runt’s story.  My respect for the natural way wolves live and communicate grew to be so strong that I no longer wanted to play with the idea of giving these intelligent, independent creatures human speech.  Because however closely my story might adhere to the natural habits of wolves, giving them speech changes them in fundamental ways.

So you may go on pleading if it pleases you to do so, but my answer is firm.  I love Runt, as you do.  I’m glad I wrote it and glad that you love it, too.  But I have changed since I wrote that story, and I can no longer gather the energy needed to return to it . . . no matter how often you ask.

I appreciate your enthusiasm.  I appreciate your willingness to put that enthusiasm into words.  But you’re not going to change my mind.  What you might do instead of waiting for a sequel that isn’t going to happen would be to look up some of my other books.  A Bear Named Trouble or Little Dog, Lost or Little Cat’s Luck for other animal stories.  On My Honor for a totally different kind of story.

I wish you well, and I hope you find many books out there by many different authors that you love as much as you love Runt.  I know you will.

Fondly,

MDB

 

I WILL BE AS PERSISTENT AS POSSIBLE EVEN IF A SEQUEL NEVER COMES.#SEQUELTORUNT.

 

ROBERT

And how I love hearing from all the Roberts who demand more!

Even when I have to turn them down.

 

The Beauty of the Earth

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.


Rachel Carson

Credit: Beth-Alison Berggren

The Choices I Make

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

My daughter said it with me standing right there.  “My mother,” she said, “is not a cookie-baking, babysitting grandma.”

I was startled at the description of what I am not, but I couldn’t possibly take offense.  In the first place, she said it so cheerfully.  In the second, what she said is so true.

I was a bread-baking-from-scratch, hands-on-up-to-my-elbows mother.  But that was a long time ago.  And the first years of that kind of full-throttle commitment came before I went to work.  The work I’m referring to is my day after day, year after year commitment to writing.

Writing was only a guilty hobby until the aforementioned daughter, who was the younger of my children, started first grade.  But in the space her absence opened for me, I decided to make my writing my work.

In those years before my children’s books had garnered much notice, writing was an ideal career for a stay-at-home mom.  I was there, right there, every time my kids came through the door.  I might be at the typewriter—my early books were written on a manual, portable Smith Corona typewriter that had been my high school graduation gift in 1956—but I was there.

Sometimes, inevitably, my two children and my occasional foster children resented that typewriter, though they did come to appreciate its issue.

When Peter was in sixth or seventh grade, he said to me one day, “You know, Mom.  Kids at school talk to me all the time about your books.”

“What kids?” I asked.

“Oh”—and he ducked his head and blushed a bit—“girls.”

When Beth-Alison was very young, she accepted her mother-the-writer as she accepted the rest of the fabric of her life.  By the time she entered junior high, though, she was beginning to resent the time I spent off in storyland.

One day in response to her complaints I said, “Do you know what your life would be like if I weren’t writing?  You would be my job.  Every day when you got home from school I’d be at the door waiting for you.  ‘Tell me about your day.’ I’d say. ‘Tell me everything you did.’  And you would hate it!”

She grew up knowing she never wanted to be a writer.  In fact, having witnessed my long, slow process with so little result, she always said she couldn’t think of a worse job.  But she wanted very much to be a self-employed, working-out-of-her-home mother.  And she made that happen.

They were both interesting if not always useful critics of my work, too.

Beth-Alison used to beg me to write just one best seller.  “So our family will have some money.”  (Their dad is an Episcopal priest.  Not much money in that.)  “After that,” she always promised me, “you can go back to writing what you want.”

Peter once said, “Mom, when you write about sex, you write about it like it’s no big deal.  If you’d write about it like it was a big deal, every kid in school would read your books.”

I listened to them both and went on writing what is given to me to write.

By the time grandchildren arrived, my career had come to be a more complex entity.  I was teaching at Vermont College of Fine Arts, traveling back and forth from Minneapolis, and traveling frequently to lecture, too.

I missed the birth of my sole granddaughter in a gaggle of grandsons because I was in Vermont when she arrived.  And for their entire lives I have been, I’ll admit, a busy grandma.  If not always busy out there in the world, then busy at home pecking away at my computer.

Still, I did manage to gather them up—mostly the ones who were available to me by living close—and take them to the Children’s Theater and the Minnesota Orchestra and the Arboretum and the zoo and sometimes even to the indoor amusement park at the Mall of America.  (In case you have never experienced an indoor amusement park, I can tell you it fits my vision of hell perfectly.)

Marion and Grandchildren

When each grandchild, near or far, turned nine, we went on an intergenerational Elderhostel trip.

Do you hear a note of self-justification in my voice?

Usually, though, I’ll admit I’ve been here at my desk pecking away at a keyboard.

And aware every day that this is the choice I’m making.

The grandchildren are mostly grown now, in college or launched into the world, and I love them and am intrigued by them and proud of them and sometimes just a little sad about them, as well.  I know I missed a lot by not being a “cookie-baking, babysitting grandma.”

What brings up this reverie is a conversation I had recently with a writer friend who is caring for her infant grandchild a couple of days a week.  “Sometimes,” I said, “I regret I didn’t do more of that.”

“Sometimes,” she replied, “I regret that I didn’t take my writing more seriously sooner, that I don’t take it seriously enough now.”

And I thought, For every choice . . . a gain, a loss.

Am I sad about the choices I’ve made?  Not at all.  But wouldn’t it be fine if life allowed us to have it both ways?

WE WANT PEACE!

Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

I did not vote for our current president, and I take exception to his ideas and his manner in too many ways to count.  But occasionally, out of his barrage of verbiage, the man says something that I find myself sitting up and listening to.  Something that gives me a scrap of exceedingly cautious hope. (The caution earned by the fact that little of what he says ever holds.)

Some of what I pay attention to is this:

President Trump admitted that his initial instinct was to pull our troops out of Afghanistan.  Soon after, however, he announced a troop increase.

He talked about staving off “a major and uncontrollable arms race” and hinted at high-level talks with President Xi of China and President Putin of Russian, though those talks have yet to happen.

He called our defense spending, $716 billion this year, “crazy.”  Then he proposed boosting it to $750 billion.

Now he talks about withdrawing our troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and as of this writing, he hasn’t yet backed down on that one.  But what an uproar pushing him to back down from both sides of the aisle!

Clearly, as we proved in Vietnam, there is no good way to extricate ourselves from these kinds of military excursions.  And it’s also clear that Trump has no plan for performing these withdrawals with a minimum of confusion and harm.

But let’s remember that Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over Trump’s refusal to take his advice in this matter, had a nickname in the Marines.  It was “Mad Dog.”  Mad Dog once said about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, “It’s fun to shoot some people.  You know, it’s a hell of a hoot.”  This man, who is being referred to as “the only adult in the room,” also said, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

It’s just possible that the “adults in the room” have it wrong, entirely wrong.  It’s possible that the entire “war on terror” we have been sold since 9/11 isn’t a war on terror at all, but multiple wars with a very different purpose.

Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Syria, said, “Trump’s critics . . . will have the vapors about ‘losing ground to Russia,’ ‘making Iran’s day,’ and ‘abdicating influence,’ but their criticism is ill-founded.  Contrary to their apparent belief, the U.S. does not have a God-given right to send its forces anywhere on the planet it deems fit.  Withdrawal will see the U.S. in one respect at least follow the international rules-based system we are so fond of enjoining on others, and will therefore be a victory of sorts for upholders of international law.”

Do we know, do we want to know, that we have 170,000 troops stationed outside the U.S. in 150 countries?  That’s more than 800 overseas bases.  Then there are nearly 40,000 assigned to classified missions in undisclosed locations.  And all these men and women are “fighting for our freedom”!  Really?

Not my freedom I want to say, every time that phrase is trotted out.  Is it yours?

It’s hard to find hope in a man like Donald Trump, and I can’t pretend I do.  But few of our elected officials are as vulnerable to public approval as he is.  Just think what could happen if we stood up together, you and I and everyone we know who longs for a different world, and said, loudly and repeatedly, “President Trump, you are right!  Ignore the advisers taking you down a road we’ve been traveling far too long.  Listen to your own first instincts.  Listen to your country.  WE WANT PEACE!”

Because we do, don’t we?