It wasn’t easy deciding what lines from Blue Birds would work as a visual taste of the book. When I flipped through it with Annie’s art in mind, I was sure I would settle on words about friendship. That’s the heart of the story, after all. But it was these words instead that I returned to again and again:
How ordinary life is
without a bit of fancy,
without a pinch of daring
to fill our days.
The funny thing is, I can’t say I wholly agree with my character Alis. Here’s a twelve-year-old girl with an adventurous side who is surrounded by newness at every turn. An ordinary life would be dull in comparison. But my forty-one year old self isn’t so convinced there is an ordinary life. I’m pretty sure every life is extra-ordinary.
Here’s where I do track with her. Those bit of fancy/pinch of daring moments are the glimmers that can make us feel most alive. They can be small, unassuming things or enormous, life-changing events. They are those times we feel most content, most joyous, most brave.
As I was driving home from my run last Thursday morning, I caught Malcolm Gladwell on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. I might be botching exactly what he said, but it went something like this:
You’re never most alive as when your world is turned upside down.
That’s what fiction is all about, those life-turned-asunder moments. They propel characters toward the change that has to happen for a story to exist. For those of us who live outside the world of books (you know, as living, breathing human beings), those upside down moments aren’t always pleasant. While I love the idea of a new year and all the fresh potential it brings, I’m also firmly aware of the equal possibility for sorrow and disappointment. And you know something? That’s scary. Life in its glorious ordinariness sometimes takes a measure of bravery.
I only just realized that Alis’s words kind of echo one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite characters, Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Perhaps I subconsciously meant for it to be that way:
Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere — be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.
In the wonder and joy and even the sorrow, here’s to your own bits and pinches of the extraordinary.
This post is part of a week-long celebration in honor of Blue Birds. I’m giving away a downloadable PDF of this beautiful Blue Birds quote (created by Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios) for anyone who pre-orders the book from January 12-19. Simply click through to order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, IndieBound, or Powell’s, then email a copy of your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, January 19.
Join the Celebration!
Childhood, Best Friends, and Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: Kimberley Griffiths Little
Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: Melissa Sarno
MG Book Review — Blue Birds :: Akossiwa Ketoglo
A Celebration of Caroline Starr Rose’s Blue Birds: We Were the Fortunate Strangers :: Valerie Stein
Celebrating Blue Birds with an Interview with Caroline Starr Rose :: Faith Hough
Roanoke Lost Colony Imagined in Blue Birds :: Pragmatic Mom
Elana Johnson says
That quote by Malcolm Gladwell is absolutely true! And it IS what fiction is all about. I can’t wait to read your book!
Thank you, Elana. It’s a great way to think of fiction, isn’t it?
Joanne Fritz says
You picked a beautiful quote. I’m really looking forward to reading Blue Birds. And I always loved that part of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Thank you, Joanne. Doesn’t Francie feel like a friend?
Laurel Garver (@LaurelGarver) says
The Gladwell quote, and especially your reflection on it is really helpful for where I am in the writing process (not wimping out on making the climactic scene difficult for the protagonist).
Wishing you all the best with Blue Birds! It looks like something my daughter would love (another adventurous 12-yo). I’m off to visit some stops on your tour.
Isn’t interesting how words that might not have been meant in a certain way can still speak to us? I read a Tweet sent out by a librarian yesterday that I think had to do with changes in the library world and moving forward despite difficulty. It really worked for me as writing encouragement, though.
Margaret Simon says
Forgot to send you my link. The post will be up on Sunday. http://wp.me/p1gQxn-129