My girls’ school sits on a hill across the street from Little Seneca Lake, a reservoir that was created to provide an emergency water supply to the metro DC area. It started out as a creek but swelled and deepened so that now people can fish for channel catfish and tiger muskie in it. Today, Hadley, Harper, and I head to the water, and while the girls play, I sit on a hollowed out log and watch the water lap onto the shore.
It seems though, that To Kill a Mockingbird is the sort of book that gives something to me every time I return to it. This year, it’s Bob Ewell I’m paying attention to, though I hadn’t planned on taking a closer look at him.
The first time I taught To Kill a Mockingbird to a group of 8th graders, I was student teaching at Stephen K. Hayt School on the North Side of Chicago, just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. Each morning, I drove down Lake Shore Drive towards my students, wondering if there would be a time when I’d tire of looking at the skyscrapers and the water.
When I sat down recently to start a short story, I wondered what kind of stuff I was bringing to the creation. Maybe I was over-analyzing my thought process, but I already had these images, ideas, and tones and had yet to create even a single character. If our stories are to have life-giving meaning and value, what do we start with? My hunch borders on love: love for our readers, love for our characters, love for language.
“Been doing any writing?” my sister asked me at Thanksgiving.
“How does that make you feel?”