Feeling back into childhood


I’ve just returned from attending ILA16 and my mind is swimming with thoughts, impressions, fledgling ideas, etc. I have so much to process! I didn’t even realize that it was Tuesday until the Slice of Life e-mail popped up in my Inbox. Yikes! My Teachers Write effort will have to serve double duty today. It’s not precisely a slice but it does have some autobiographical roots.

imgresToday’s Teachers Write exercise comes from Megan Frazer Blakemore. (She is one busy woman, as I just enjoyed her great presentation at ILA16 on Saturday and know she was signing her newest book, The Firefly Code, there as well.) In her post she shared a wonderful quote from Charlotte Zolotow, “Many fine writers can write about children but are unable to write for them.… The writers writing about children are looking back. The writers writing for children are feeling back into childhood.” Ms. Blakemore invited us to feel back into our own childhoods and write a scene from a cafeteria, autobiographical or not. Who knew reminiscing about childhood cafeterias could pack an emotional whallop!?  Here’s my effort.

Jen stood in the hallway and looked into the sunlit cafeteria through the floor to ceiling windows. Groups of kids sat around large tables, eating and laughing. Occasionally someone opened a nearby door to enter or exit and lunchtime sounds spilled out –the clinks and clacks of trays and utensils, bursts of laughter, and a general roar of conversation. Then, as the door slowly closed, the scene muted again.

A group of girls brushed by her, bubbling with conversation, as they opened the door. “Oh,” said one of them casually as they passed her, “Hey, Jen.” Then the girl turned back to her group and they entered the cafeteria.

“Hi,” Jen whispered to the closing door.

Her stomach growled and she wrapped her arms about her waist. The straps of her bag dug into her thin shoulder. Come on, Jen,  she told herself, just go in and sit down. There’s plenty of room.  She eyed a table that held a mix of kids from her Lit class. There were a few seats there. She took a deep breath and stepped toward the door, her hand reaching out toward its handle. Inside the cafeteria the group of girls bee-lined toward the table she’d been eying, quickly filling those empty spaces. Jen’s hand fell.

She shrugged her bag further up onto her shoulder, feeling the sting of the groove worn by its weight. Turning quickly, she stepped away from the cafeteria and headed toward her favorite carrell in the library. I wanted to read anyway, she thought, ignoring the empty pit in her stomach and angrily blinking her eyes against the prickle of tears.


10 thoughts on “Feeling back into childhood

  1. I’m there with Jen! A young adult novel in your future? I’d love to see a blog about what goes on at ILA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Dan. I don’t think YA is in my future but this was an engaging and revealing exercise. I’m hoping to blog about ILA once I process it a bit more. It was quite an interesting experience. I’m glad I was able to go.


  2. Amy Warntz says:

    Perfect! I don’t need to reminisce to relate to Jen. I always adore your writing and it is refreshing to see a narrative, something I rarely dabble in myself. Kudos to you for participating in Teacher’s Write! And I have to admit, I am oh so jealous that you were at #ILA16. I was there vicariously through Twitter and blog posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Freeing, isn’t it, to write memoir as fiction? This is one of those experiences that feels personal but almost anyone can say- that was me! I agree with the commentor that recommended you try your hand at YA fiction. Start looking for your plot! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Fran. It was “freeing” to use my own memories as a starting point for this excerpt. I’m not sure it’s going anywhere, but I certainly learned from the exercise!


  4. Great post. I think we can all relate to Jen. The teens years…ahhh…they were the best of times and they were the worst of times…:) Good old Charles Dickens hit the nail on the head, didn’t he?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jarhartz says:

    What a wonderful post. Your effort bringing up the memories of the past was perfect. I was there with the shoulder strap digging in. Thank you for the quote from Megan Frazer Blakemore. That got us in the mood for your slice. Would love to hear more about your ILA experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Julieanne. I’m sorry you had to leave ILA early and hope everything’s ok. I plan to write about my experiences there when I get my thoughts in order — though who knows when that will be!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t have time yesterday to write to this prompt, but it stirred up a lot of memories in me, too. Your writing is pitch-perfect, Molly. And who knows about YA, or older middle grade. Never say never!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great writing, Molly. I could relate to those feelings. I hope to be the writer than feels being a kid instead of writing about them. Conferences are exciting and overwhelming. I didn’t get to one this year, and I’m sad about that.

    Liked by 1 person

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